Haitian Farmers Increase Yields and Visibility

View of the set, “Agriculture, Business of the Future”.
On the set of “Agriculture, Business of the Future”
Feed the Future West
Radio/TV program helps to spread the word about new techniques
From 2009 until 2013, corn yields increased 448 percent, rice yields increased 139 percent, bean yields increased 94 percent, and plantain yields by 56 percent.

Michel Dorlean, a Haitian flower producer, grew up learning the family business by planting flowers on traditional hillside plots in the mountainous village of Furcy, near Port-au-Prince. But the hillside locations leave flowers vulnerable to excessive heat, wind, humidity and rain. Dorlean used to lose more than 8 percent of his yields to weather.

In 2011, however, his battered flower pots flourished into a profitable business thanks to an initiative by Feed the Future West (FTF West), a USAID project that started in 2009 under the U.S. Government’s flagship food security initiative, Feed the Future. Dorlean’s success was made possible by switching the planting location to greenhouses. The project, which introduced the new growing method to farmers in Furcy, also provides entrepreneurship training, which has allowed farmers to create trade connections and market their products more efficiently. 

Since June 2012, the FTF West project has also allowed beneficiaries and public-private partners to share their experiences with the general public on the radio-TV network Métropole. The program, “Agriculture, Business of the Future,” showcases agricultural techniques advocated by the project in collaboration with government entities and private sector partners. The station broadcasts from Port-au-Prince, the country's capital.

After appearing on the show, Dorlean received 75 phone calls and visits from people of various backgrounds, including businessmen and women, managers and owners of flower shops, farmers and farmer associations. He was also able to sell his entire greenhouse flower stock from the previous season.

“I remember that, after the program on technical innovations in June 2012, I was so surprised by the effect it had on people. We had so many visits, not to mention a rapid increase in sales,” he said.    

Emmanuel Pierre, director of the Champion Cooperative of Kenscoff/Petionville, a farmers’ cooperative that includes all area farmer associations, has also seen the benefits of appearing in an episode on marketing. 

“The opportunities we have today stem mainly from my participation on the project’s radio/television program. Now we are developing solid partnerships with entrepreneurs who contacted us after seeing the show.”

Pierre’s sales of agricultural products immediately increased by 15 percent for the farmers in the cooperative. And the cooperative recently signed a contract with Snack Fresh, a company that produces potato chips, for two tons of potatoes per week for $1,271 (55,000 gourdes) per ton.

“This program has had a huge impact on farmers," said Ronald Champagne, president of the Association of Progressive Citizens for the Development of Duvivier, an association of farmers producing mainly corn and beans. "Since our involvement on Radio Télé Métropole, many have expressed interest in joining our association. Many entrepreneurs have also called us to discuss potential collaboration opportunities."

As of January 2014, the “Agriculture, Business of the Future” show has aired 24 episodes on television and eight on the radio, with more than 60,000 viewers and 225,000 listeners.

USAID’s agriculture assistance through Feed the Future in Haiti has improved farmers’ crop yields significantly, increasing their incomes and improving their quality of life. From 2009 until 2013, corn yields increased 448 percent, rice yields increased 139 percent, bean yields increased 94 percent, and plantain yields by 56 percent.

Haiti has faced significant food security and nutrition challenges for several decades. Chronically high levels of poverty coupled with soil erosion, declining agricultural productivity, and high population growth combine to make obtaining adequate food a daily struggle for many Haitians. It is estimated that in some departments of the country, up to 30 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. 

FTF West, which ends in May 2014, promotes agricultural production, natural resource management, and a modern post-harvest and marketing system. In June 2013, USAID launched the Feed the Future North project, a five-year project designed to spur economic growth in promising agricultural areas in northern Haiti while developing local firms to be direct USAID partners.