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Haiti : Alternative Means to Improve Peasant Production Methods

Wednesday 13th June 2007

By Menno Ernst

Gressier (Haiti), June 13 th 2007 [AlterPresse] --- At Ti Boukan, a locality of Gressier (at about 30 kilometers south of Port-au-Prince), on an undulating terrain with a surface of more than 8 Ha, is at the end of the 1970’s an experimental farm established, under the auspices of the non governmental organization named Institute of Technology and Animation (Iteca) (1), notices the online agency AlterPresse during a visit to the site.

The objectif of the production at the experimental farm of Ti Boukan is not, in the first place, animalizing the production or the earnings. It aims, on the contrary, to explore the possibilities for small farmers to improve their production methods in an ecological way by utilizing alternative means.

« The Institute hopes as well to stimulate the national production and to reduce the import of products, of which the country is dependant upon at present”, entrusts a staff member to AlterPresse.

Nowadays (May 2007), some 600 layer chickens lay eggs daily in two large adapted aviaries.

« Three times a day, we make a tour to gather the laid eggs. Meanwhile, we try to find the optimal conditions to obtain the highest possible productivity. In doing this, it is important to use only those means and methods that are also accessible to the average peasant, for example, and that don’t require electricity, nor too expensive aliments”, specifies the staff member interviewed by AlterPresse.

Until present the production is, with a percentage of 85 %, very satisfying, as it means that the daily mean egg-laying of the chickens is a little less than one egg.

The eggs are sold at the experimental farm of Ti Boukan, at prices almost equal to those of the market, which corresponds to the philosophy of the farm to satisfy as far as possible its own needs, without having to depend on external aid.

Searching Alternative Solutions

Though the project results are quite satisfying at the moment, there remain some problems that have to be sold.

The stocking of eggs presents some difficulties, since it is not evident to install cold chambers. Moreover, the price of poultry food is currently still too high to make the production of eggs profitable.
So, there is need to find other solutions. Cultivating maize oneself to feed the poultry could possibly be one option.

Opportunities of the Farm in Ti Boukan for Peasants

Apart from the layer chickens, the experimental farm of Ti Boukan also owns breeding pigs. The piglets are offered for sale to peasants of the neighbourhood at reasonable prices.

On the site of the farm of Iteca at Ti Boukan, there is also a training centre equipped with offices, an audio recording studio, a library and rooms that can lodge about a hundred people. (2)
Aside from specific hiring demands of other organizations, Iteca also organizes training sessions on the farm, or by itself, or in collaboration with other organisms.

The accent is explicitly put on concrete training sessions, accessible to anyone, insisting on the collaboration with peasants on the ground and centred on technology and information. Where the animation division tries to stimulate a new dynamic among the peasant groups, the technique division aims to promote the diffusion of new adapted agricultural techniques to develop local survival strategies.

Eligibility conditions for training sessions

Seen the difficulties to offer all peasants a formation directly, Iteca realizes prospectings by region, selecting persons who they think are capable and interested to participate. The training sessions are offered for free, including housing and meals at the farm.

Nevertheless, participation is submissive to strict conditions : at one hand, for practical reasons, people who want to participate have to be able to read and write ; at the other hand, they have to be motivated and commit themselves to transmit the acquired knowledge to others. This way, the institute hopes to widen the range of their forming sessions.

Those who followed the sessions are sometimes invited by local radio stations to come to talk about their experiences and to communicate their newly acquired knowledge, which makes it possible to reach a larger audience.

It should be noted that the selection of the candidates to the training courses is mainly made by the peasant partner organizations. To date, it remains very difficult to mobilize people who are not members of these organizations.

Growing perspectives of the experimental farm of Ti Boukan
Important extension works of the farm are in progress in June 2007, among which the construction of a bakery, a water purification tank and a workshop for the manufacturing of kerosene stoves. This last initiative should offer an ecological alternative to wood as an energy source for the preparation of meals.

In spite of efforts to obtain their own revenues by different means, Iteca continues to depend on donor assistance, mainly from European contributors.

Broederlijk Delen has placed a Belgian co-operator at the disposal of the institute. Dirk Wils, an agricultural engineer, manages the farm and is also present at the spot a few days a week to give technical support and to assist in the daily labour tasks. However, Iteca hopes to find in the long term a Haitian engineer-agronomist who could reside permanently on the farm and take care of the daily management.

The staff of the experimental farm of Ti Boukan at Gressier consists of guards, cooks and someone in charge of the daily care of the animals.

The farm generates employment in the surroundings by regularly hiring daily workmen for the small jobs on the site and in the neighbourhood. This for a wage of 150 gourds a day, equal to 3 euros.

Local institutional partnerships

Apart from the donor assistance, Iteca also collaborates with some Haitian organisations operative in more or less the same field.

Iteca, Sosyete animasyon kominikasyon sosyal (Saks), the Cultural Institute Karl Lévêque (Ickl) and the Platform of Integrated Development (PDI) form together a cupola, the "Four Institutes", which cooperate on the implementation of certain activities.

From the outside, it is not very easy to find information on the functioning of Iteca, since the organization does not have a proper internet site. Its target group - Haitian peasants - almost doesn’t use these media sources, so creating a site is not felt like a priority.

For the diffusion of information among peasants, the institute often calls upon the informal information network which they developed during the years. The distribution of mail, in particular for the advertisement of the training courses, generally passes via contact people, who personally deliver them to the recipients.

Every year, Iteca publishes a calendar that shows the important data for the peasant organizations as well as the data on which Iteca organizes special activities.

These calendars, 6000 in total, are distributed for free among the peasants and have an unquestionable success, especially because they’re one of the rare calendars to be published in Haitian Creole. [me rc apr 13/06/2007 8:00]

(1) Created in 1978 by Haitian monks and professionals, the Institute of technology and animation (Iteca) evolved to become an independent organization in 2007, devoting itself to the improvement of the living conditions and the production possibilities of the Haitian peasants.

On the one hand, Iteca is specialised in technological improvement and agricultural techniques. On the other hand, the institute intends to reinforce its organisational structure by animation and training.
In the field of technology, the interest is mainly related the natural resources and the environment, agriculture the livestock production, as well as the storage and the transformation the agricultural products.

The animation and formation section focuses on the organisational capacities and the structural reinforcement of the peasant groups and the animation techniques.

Iteca is active in 16 zones throughout the country, where it collaborates with groupings of local peasants. The aim is to collaborate in the reinforcement and the socioeconomic development of the peasant organizations, by taking into account the reality of their communities.

(2) At the end of 1970, not long after their foundation, the central administration of ITECA had its seat at Ti Boukan, but, particularly because of the explosive growth of Port-au-Prince and the problems of circulation which result from it, most of the administrative work is currently done at the head office in the centre of the city.