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Friday, May 30, 2014

New beginnings for farm families in Haiti

Historically, Haiti is a country rich in agriculture, but in recent years, natural disasters, soil erosion, droughts, and flooding have made life for farmers extremely difficult.

In just 15 years, Haiti has become one of the most food-insecure countries in the world.

Mother and farmer Jeannette Exarin knows what it means to live with chronic food shortages.

Jeannette and her four children live on a small piece of land she inherited from her grandparents. Of her four children, Jeanette can only afford to send one of her daughters to school. The other children stay home and work alongside their mother, trying to coax crops from the soil. Despite their best efforts, hardly anything grows.

In May of last year, however, life changed for Jeannette and her children when they joined a HOPE International Development Agency cooperative of more than 100 farming families.

The goal of the cooperative is to increase access to food, create sustainable and improved incomes for farmers, and provide ongoing access to quality, drought-resistant seeds.

Jeannette received seeds to grow nutritious vegetables such as carrots, Swiss chard, spinach, sweet corn, and beans. The seeds are drought resistant and have a much greater chance of surviving from planting to harvest. She also received agricultural training and tools for rehabilitating her land, making it much more fertile.

As a result, this season Jeannette and her children grew a bountiful harvest of vegetables and also earned more than $80 selling extra harvest at the market - money that she used to send her children to school, and buy 4 hens that now have 8 chicks each.

Jeanette and her family are an example of the transformation that happens when people come together around a common goal.

The farmers cooperatives, which range in size from 100 to 500 farmers not only provide physical support, they create a community where positive change takes place. They also enable farmers to exchange valuable information quickly, and provide a collective voice, rallying government for more investment in agriculture.