Empowering Haitian Farmers with Inputs
From MFK Agriculture Research and Extension Program Specialist, Ryan Welby:
MFK works with 180 farmers annually to teach them how to plant their crops in a more efficient manner. We advise farmers on various topics including proper seed spacing, irrigation techniques, and storage. Our program model is rooted in a core understanding of the obstacles that farmers face in order to maximize their crop yields and earnings. At the core of our program model is an understanding of the obstacles that farmers face in order to maximize their crop yields and earnings One of the challenges that we see most frequently is a lack of access to farming inputs. Farming inputs are any resources used in farm production such as chemical, equipment, feed, seed and energy. Fertilizer and enhanced seeds have the ability to increase crop yields by more than 66%; however local farmers often do not have the financial resources to afford these products. Thankfully there are organizations who recognize this challenge and are trying to make a difference.
Accesso, a partner organization of MFK, supplies farmers with inputs. This program eliminates the first barrier to attaining these enhanced farming inputs. MFK then works with farmers to conduct agricultural trainings on how to use inputs in addition to other best practices to maximize crop yields such as seed spacing and the timing of planting season.
After the harvest, our farmers are faced with the challenge of selling their crops in local low paying markets. There are very few high paying markets in Haiti and for most farmers they are entirely inaccessible. Farmers are therefore forced to sell their excess crops in local low paying markets. Many of the farmers we work with drive their crops to Cap-Haitian, where MFK is located, or the surrounding cities to take advantage of higher prices than they could find in their more local markets. This increases the financial risk to the farmers as they incur the cost of time and money to travel several hours to reach these towns, where they may or may not have a successful day of vending, while exposing their crops to the risk of being damaged during transportation. However, more often than not, farmers find the risk outweighs the reward of selling their yield in their local markets.
Haitian farmers typically plant one or two crops. This lack of crop diversity often leaves farmers prone to crop failure due to inclement weather or pests. We help farmers understand the importance of diversifying their crops through our farmer trainings. Crops are often times susceptible to different maladies so planting crops that have dissimilar weaknesses reduces the threat of losing all of their crops to one scourge. Crop diversification can also lead to improved household nutrition because it can give access to macro/micro nutrients that they typically do not have access to.