THE TALIA FARMS COOPERATIVES:
Economic Development Based on Socially Conscious Ethos and Farmers’ Equity
Eradicating extreme poverty is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, and the focus of EWI’s work. Haitian farmers contribute 25% of the country’s GDP, yet they are the poorest. They are undernourished and live in abject conditions. No matter what group we aim to help: children, women, or youth, or which sector we want to improve: healthcare, education or the environment, the connective tissue to achieve our goals is our partners’ ability to earn a living wage. Without it, nothing succeeds long-term.
We form long-term partnerships with local communities and build upon their expressed needs, aspirations, skills, capacity and achievements and we add our expertise, resources, technology and innovation. We also offer our partner-communities opportunities they may not have been exposed to until now.
This is how we arrived at the Talia Farms Cooperatives Program. Among farmers expressed needs, the one non-negotiable point was their determination to remain independent producers. Farming is not a job, it is their way of life, no matter how hard it is to work in harsh conditions and on a small plot of land.
WHAT IS A COOPERATIVE
A cooperative is a business that is owned by its members. It functions on a democratic system of one member, one vote. As any business, it focuses on being profitable. But, it also provides goods and services that are not available to farmers working in isolation. A cooperative, then, will be owned and controlled by farmers for the benefit of farmers.
WHAT WE DO
Over the past decade, Ecoworks International has been partnering with rural communities in Haiti’s Lake Azueï region to improve agricultural methods and, ultimately, to develop agricultural cooperatives. Nestled between Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic to the east and the outskirts of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince to the west, the overwhelming majority of this area’s 250,000 residents are smallholder farmers subsisting on $2 a day. These farmers know that with careful planning and organization they can harness the region’s human and natural resources to transform the area into a thriving economic hub.
Agricultural cooperatives are one of the best ways to achieve results because they allow small-scale, subsistence farmers to remain independent producers, while gaining a high level of autonomy, accessing goods and services which support their work, and create a strong entity that will serve them and generations to come.
EWI TALIA FARMS COOPERATIVES PROGRAM
In 2016, EWI established Talia Farms Cooperatives, as a network of five 100-member agricultural cooperatives representing 500 families, or a total of 2,500 people. Together, these cooperatives will produce 5000 metric tons of organic vegetables a year for community consumption and sales on the domestic and international markets.
Examples of Services That Cooperatives Can Offer:
- Access to extension services and training in best agricultural practices, especially in permaculture, a low-cost, low-maintenance method aimed at repairing ecosystems, enriching the soil, conserving water, and producing organic crops.
- Help improve yields and produce’s quality, diversify crops
- Offer crop insurance, and a reliable loan program
- Open a plant nursery to control seed quality, traceability, and production costs
- Aggregate production in order to meet the demands of national and global wholesale buyers who offer higher margins.
- Promote key agribusiness concepts of market demand, financial planning, and management
- Open new domestic markets and establish an export program
- Establish professionally run sales delivery services to give farmers more time to farm
- Establish a brand known for quality and social responsibility, organic produce, and fair trade.
- Help farmers develop the bargaining power needed to promote public policies that truly represent their needs.
The Talia Farms cooperative will also serve as an anchor to further local economic growth by creating opportunities for small business entrepreneurs to provide goods and services to the cooperative.
While it is vital to focus on economic growth and security, it is also important to improve the community’s quality of life. Programs co-op members may choose to focus on can range from access to healthcare and education to establishing rainwater harvesting systems and solar power.