PORT-AU-PRINCE - I am no stranger to Haiti. In fact this is a country that is close to my heart. Following the 2010 earthquake I spent time working with the diplomatic corps to mobilize relief and reconstruction support. So, as we touched down in Port au Prince on Monday evening, I was anxious to see how much real progress had been made, and whether investments had really paid off.
It was a pleasant surprise to see my old friend, Dr. Michel Chancy, Minister of Agriculture, waiting for us at the entrance of Bon Repos Dairy. The dairy is one of more than a dozen that are associated with the ‘Lèt Agogo’ (Unlimited Milk) federation which Dr. Chancy founded in order to promote the development of Haiti’s dairy sector. With support from the Brazilian Government, WFP launched a pilot project that buys sterilized milk from Bon Repos and 12 other dairies belonging to the Lèt Agogo federation. This milk is then distributed to over 20,000 children in about 60 schools supported by Haiti’s National School Canteens Programme (PNCS).
The milk for the Bon Repos plant comes from a local network of 80 small farmers. These farmers manage the dairy through three producers’ associations – two youth farmers’ groups and one woman farmers’ group.
As I walked in to the dairy, there were rows of bottled milk stacked up in red crates alongside the wall. The bottles were passed through a small hatch after being tested for density to ensure the milk’s quality. The collector arrived on his motorbike, picked up three crates and left for the local school. As he left, I joined a group of farmers gathered in the courtyard waiting to talk to me. One was a woman who started by saying ‘thank you, now I can afford to send my child to school where my child gets milk and a hot meal.’
By buying milk from these farmers for our school feeding programmes, WFP is providing a market and a steady income for this woman and others like her in the area. Yet the smart part is that we buy only 40% of their product. The rest is sold to market, allowing them to really function as a business. When school is closed, the dairy produces delicious yoghurt, providing a year-round product and income.
This is truly a sustainable programme linking local purchase and school feeding. It not only helps to feed the children of Haiti, it helps families feed their own children. It’s the kind of programme that Haiti needs on its road to continued path to long-term self-sufficiency.
Photos by Alejandro Lopez Chicheri and Rebecca Richards For WFP