Haiti is regarded as being a predominantly agricultural country, as most of the people living there are involved in farming, which accounts for 25% of the GDP. However, farming generally relies on traditional methods, with hardly any financial or technical support. This situation is detrimental to the efficiency of production and, thus creates a barrier to the economic development of farmers. Thanks to the advent of the Agricultural Financing and Insurance System in Haiti (SYFAAH), this situation is undergoing a change for the better, particularly in the case of women farmers, who used to be more involved in marketing activities and common household tasks but now see new horizons opening up before them. Towards this end, a whole host of services is available to Haitian women farmers: farm credit, technical support, crop insurance and business development training courses. Particularly supportive is the provision of a Gender and Environment Adviser, Ms Maguélita Varin, an agricultural engineer.
A woman farmer from Artibonite Valley owes her socio-economic development to the provision of financial services combined with technical support, as a result of which her rice paddy yields have been given a tremendous boost.
Ms Varin stresses that this kind of impact is dependent upon a women's support strategy whose main components are:
- An inventory of women associations in targeted departments
- An investigation of the strengths and weaknesses of agricultural entrepreneurship/ credit requirements;
- Preparation of training modules geared to the weaknesses discovered and training instructors in over 20 areas in order to make a significant impact;
- Preparation of a list of potential customers suggested to partner financial institutions. This amounts to positive discrimination to attract women to non-traditional activities;
- Raising the awareness of farm credit officers so they are prepared to accept the inclusion of rural women in all the links of the agricultural value chain.
- This methodology for allowing women access to agricultural credit while boosting their capabilities has turned out to be a success story, going by the agricultural portfolio of the partner financial institutions: increasing from under 10% to over 33% for women agricultural entrepreneurs, within the space of no more than 18 months' of activities.Women farmers are still singing the system's praises and the following is an example of the comments we often hear from members of OFHKOV, a beneficiary organisation: "Prior to the advent of the SYFAAH, we farmed according to traditional methods.
The rather primitive practices are a legacy from our great grandparents, using poor techniques and, in particular, following the ups and downs of daily life, because the money required to pay for our farming activities is not always available on time on a daily basis, whereas we now have access to credit that is tailor-made for our activities. For the first time in our lives we do not have to seek out a money-lender for the resources we need to fund our activities. However, the most important thing is that our farming practices are based on an extraordinary level of expertise. People in the area refer to us as 'agricultural scientists, as a reflection of our increasing yields and zero waste. For one plot of land the usual requirements are 90 pounds of rice seed, 16 fertilizer bags (100 pounds per bag), lots of water and pesticides. Thanks to the training and the school garden we now use, for the same plot, 48 pounds of rice seed, 8 bags of fertilizer and fewer chemicals. These training sessions on agricultural entrepreneurship, gender issues and the environment have been a boon, enabling us to manage our marketing and domestic activities more effectively".
Women have been able to enjoy several types of training such as: farm management, chemical and pesticide management strategies, gender equality and rural development and women's loan management leadership. OFHKOV has even seen the creation of a mutual assistance association: "Women farmers' mutual assistance association".
This situation is now a reality and women are rapidly taking off in social and economic terms, like a wild animal kept in captivity for too long. They are now everywhere in the farm production chain. They are gradually investing in other very promising sectors, particularly in areas where they can make physical and intellectual investments, such as storage, agricultural and processing input stores.
Women agricultural entrepreneurs being underpinned by the SYFAAH project say they are now happy because as WOMEN they feel respected by their families, thanks to their financial contribution to the household income. They say they are "Making good progress towards a more fulfilled and emancipated family"!