Sony, A Haitian Farmer

Factory FarmerSony Charles lives in Welsh, Haiti, a community of a few hundred small framers near the Dominican border. It is a very pretty area with rolling hills and mountains rising up to the central plateau. However, the area is poor and often farmers lose their entire harvests due to drought; it was hit extremely hard during the 2008 food crisis.

Sony is 32, married and has two young kids. His family runs a small bakery (very tasty peasant style bread) and farms, mostly peanuts. His mother and all of his brothers have their own peanut gardens. His wife, Roselyn, now works with the local women’s group that has started an artisanal peanut butter factory aiming to sell peanut butter to the Dominican market. Sony helped arrange for them to receive funding through the United Nations Development Program, but they are still having difficulty because the glass jars they need for packaging are unavailable in Haiti, and cost two times the value of the peanut butter when purchased in the Dominican Republic. Sony also helped the women’s group build a storage building for peanuts that allows them to keep seed through the dormancy period and resell it at a small profit. In addition, two years ago Sony helped organize a local group to fund the construction of a bridge across a river that previously would cut off the community entirely during the rainy season.

Though Sony probably makes most of his income as a mason, he has always been a person who grows peanuts and buys peanuts from all the surrounding farmers. In this capacity, he has really led the charge to work with Meds & Food for Kids. He has connected James Rhoads, MFK’s agriculture development specialist, with a local Oxfam-funded peanut and manioc (cassava) project, and has taken what he learned from MFK’s peanut training to ask this project for more help in improving their quality so that they can sell us more peanuts and not poison their children.  He has pushed the international funded projects in the area to accomplish something of lasting benefit for the community.  He gave James a piece of land to plant a small variety trial plot and has arranged to have it weeded and tended.  MFK gave him a bag of our US peanut seed and he gave all the growers around a little to try, and started a competition to see who would have the nicest garden.  Sony is motivated to create a vibrant community where he lives, and is now building a new house in Welsh, rather than on the better situated Dominican border.