Village life in rural Haiti is difficult. In 1998, 25 women in Grand'Anse formed an organization, Fanm Lakay, to improve their livelihoods, yet they continued to struggle to feed their families. Those who did not grow food on their own farms walked for miles to access fresh farm produce, and only when they could afford it.
“One of the biggest problems is lack of rain, seeds to plant and storage facilities. Many women also don’t even have the smallest parcel of soil on which to plant, said Maguy Tanis, a member of the organization.
Today the group has more than 200 registered members, and they began working with Heifer International in 2013 as part of the Rural Entrepreneurs for Agricultural Cooperation in Haiti (REACH) project. Heifer partnered with Fanm Lakay to transform the women into enterprising smallholder farmers, helping them become self-sufficient. Through REACH, Heifer provides training in leadership, entrepreneurship, agroecology and livestock management, as well as gifts of seeds, seedlings, poultry, goats, water pumps and silos.
Tanis, who is in training to become a Community Animal Health Worker, said, “We have learned to care for our farms, to keep the seeds from what we produce. Heifer has trained us for hours on the importance of proper seed storage and self-reliance. We now have maize, peppers, bananas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, poultry and goats from which we are making a living.”
The women use most of the vegetables for household consumption, which greatly enhances their household food security and resilience. Many were unable to afford vegetables and fruit in the past and were more vulnerable in times when income was scarce or absent.
Some group members sell their surplus vegetables for extra income, making an average of $50 per month. They are happy because they no longer have to choose which children to take to school. The women now have equal opportunities within the community: with training, they are able to do what was once only viewed as men’s work.
“The women are putting all their effort into making the group sustainable. We are not only finding ways to improve our production and incomes, but also help each other face and overcome personal challenges, now and in the future.”