Under our partnership with FIDA/pcH, we acknowledge the below pillars as key to successful development of rural communities:
A cooperative is an association of people who voluntarily cooperate for mutual economic and often social benefit. Cooperatives are a business, in essence, but are structured in a way that the people that are “shareholders” are both owners and producing members. Cooperatives pose a vital vehicle to economic sustainability for the rural poor because by pooling resources cooperatively, each member can achieve much more than he/she could as an individual. Cooperatives also emphasize cooperation in a way that farmers share ideas and best practices, rather than competing against one another for personal gain. On a social component, a cooperatives fosters trust, unity, management practices that spills over into the community to enhance the well-being of that community.
For a country to grow economically, it must (put simply) be able to feed itself. Haiti suffers from historical policy decisions that allowed for low tariffs on imported U.S. food crops (primarily rice) that are still persistent. And so highly subsidized U.S. food crops have and continue to flood the market while Haitian farmers struggle to keep up. The result is overall higher food prices and an agricultural sector that cannot compete against imports. What’s more, deforestation practices were prevalent in Haiti in the 90s in order to create charcoal and fuel in urban areas. These practices have since been curbed but much of Haiti’s land is now arid and unable to be farmed.
These challenges underscore the need for focus on agriculture, particularly in rural areas that have yet to develop industry and technology services – farming is the primary occupation and something people have done for generations. But in order to succeed, it takes attention to metholody in the stewardship of the land, seed varieties, and market practices (all part of FIDA/pcHs model for working in a community).
We take for granted the ability to read and write. Illiteracy is extremely high in rural areas, often with levels above 50 percent of the population. Literacy training is vital to giving rural farmers fundamental educational building blocks and the confidence to negotiate in the marketplace for contracts and increased business. Self-confidence is an intangible. It leads men and women to take action to improve their own lives and be more proactive in addressing correct a social injustice.
All cooperative members have the opportunity to participate in reading, writing, and basic math classes. This program enables women and men to share and work together on a regular basis, build confidence in themselves, and trust in each other.