TERRIER ROUGE, HaitiTwo large U.N. helicopters swooped in last weekend to North Coast Development Corporation's farm in northeast Haiti for a visit by President Clinton and a delegation of executives key to agricultural development in Haiti, including Heifer's President and CEO Pierre Ferrari.
The farm is especially close to Heifer's heart as we work with operator Andy English and owner Ann Piper to offer Heifer training in beekeeping and animal health care. The farm will also build one of three purebred commercial goat breeding centers as part of Heifer Haiti's $18.7 million REACH project to strengthen the crop- and livestock-based livelihoods of more than 20,000 vulnerable farming families throughout the country.
"If you really want to change something in this country that currently has very poor quality animals, you have to invest long-term," said Country Director Hervil Cherubin. "We're developing our own high-quality centers to improve the quality of animals throughout Haiti and reduce imports from the Dominican Republic."
Ferrari agreed. "What we're doing is addressing the problem immediately and with scale. It's not just a pilot project. We're building a system that creates value for everyone in the chain.
"It's slow, you don't see it right away," Ferrari said. "But in 10 to 15 years, we can look back and measure the difference in quality and income and economic value created by this project. Many of the complaints about organizations working in Haiti is that they don't stay long enough to make any real change. Heifer has been here for more than 20 years, and we're investing in structural change and the long-term success of Haitian agriculture."
The Clinton Foundation noted that the weekend tours to farms and factories, and related dinners and conversations, were to highlight a variety of Haitian agricultural products and businesses and explore how the government, international community and private sector are finding new opportunities to foster growth and investment in the agricultural sector in Haiti. The foundation also announced more than $700,000 in grants to support small farmers.
In a wrap-up speech at the Heineken plant in Port au Prince that announced that company's $40 million investment and commitment to local sourcing of sorghum for the brewery, Clinton thanked Ferrari and Heifer International by name, in addition to others in the delegation, for their contributions in Haiti. He also reinforced the rallying cry of Haiti's President MIchel Martelly that "Haiti is open for business."
"This has been a great day," Clinton said in a press conference at the brewery. "One of the great debates that I hope to see favorably resolved while I'm still alive is whether the world population can go to 8 or 9 billion or wherever it's going, and we can deal with the challenges of climate change in a way that enhances and empowers smallholder farmers instead of throwing them off their lands with the pipe dream that large-scale mechanized farming can solve that problem. It will be a disaster if it happens.
"We wouldn't be in the fix we are in today if all the world's economic powers, including the international organizations, had not made a decision somewhere around 1980 to simply stop supporting smallholder farm agriculture in developing countries," Clinton said.
"We are trying in Haiti to establish a laboratory to prove that farmers are smart everywhere, they know how to protect their land and make the most of it and all they need is organization, inputs and support."