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In my country, Haiti, the agricultural sector represents 25 percent of GDP and accounts for over 50 percent of jobs. However, agricultural occupations are extremely insecure and do not permit farmers and their families to live in a dignified manner. Over two-thirds of the inhabitants of rural regions are poor, and agriculture is their main source of income. (Source in French: Haitian Institute of Statistics and Information Technology )
Agriculture is a difficult occupation and is particularly vulnerable to weather-related events. Farmers face significant risks from natural disasters owing to the lack of mechanization and expertise and the difficulty of gaining access to markets for their produce.
If nothing changes, rural populations’ incomes will remain low and unstable, and poverty-related problems will only worsen.
How can agricultural cooperatives help?
I am confident that agricultural cooperatives have a crucial role to play in helping boost the productivity of the agricultural sector and improve the living conditions of rural populations in Haiti. They can contribute to the development of joint projects among farmers, for example to purchase agricultural equipment and vehicles to transport produce to buyers, as well as to provide training in new agricultural technologies, and so on.
By forming cooperatives, agricultural workers will be able to support each other and establish co-financing mechanisms and social safety nets  to protect their families. As has already been demonstrated in other countries in Latin America and in Africa, cooperatives can enhance food security, create jobs, and contribute to improving social integration in Haiti.
An international project  was recently launched by the Agence française de développement (AFD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to support Haitian coffee grower cooperatives. Through this project, Nestlé, one of the world’s largest food and nutrition companies, will provide the technical assistance and planting materials needed to help Haitian farmers rehabilitate their coffee trees.
‘Unity makes strength’
With the help of cooperatives, Haitian farmers would be able to more effectively manage their productive activities. Through the formation of groups, they will be able to purchase raw materials in bulk, that is, in greater quantities, which will be less expensive for them. Given that “unity makes strength,” they will become the preferred contacts for distributors and will thus have the opportunity to negotiate better terms for selling their products.
In addition, cooperatives can contribute to securing land rights. They are better placed to satisfy bankers’ requirements (in terms of guarantees and loan repayment capacities) than private individuals. Consequently, they help farmers obtain loans more easily to finance their investments and protect themselves against possible risks.
The Role of the Government
The Haitian government must work with commitment and conviction to promote agricultural cooperatives and agricultural entrepreneurship. Haiti possesses tremendous agricultural potential, but, without organization, the sector’s productivity will remain low.
To remedy this situation, the government must promote the development of optimal conditions in which agricultural cooperatives will thrive. It is therefore necessary to draft policies, laws, and programs that take into account the needs and concerns of Haitian small farmers.
I hope that the development of agricultural cooperatives will soon be regarded as a priority by the state, with a view to supporting the development of rural areas, given that a long-term solution is required in order to combat poverty and insecurity, particularly among youth.
Legend and photo credits. Thanks to the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) , several projects pertaining to cooperatives and the modernization of agricultural activities (in particular, through the processing and packaging of produce) have been made possible in Haiti. © All rights reserved by PADF.org