About 65% of the Haitian population lives in rural areas and practices traditional small-scale livestock farming, such as raising cattle (about 700,000 families). However, the country lacks milk, which is Haiti’s second most imported food, after rice. The Haitian milk sector faces many challenges: milk is a highly perishable product and needs to be processed in order to be preserved longer, however, Haiti lacks the capital and infrastructure to do so; periods of surplus and shortage alternate back and forth in a market dominated by imported powdered milk and in which the livestock farmers are very poorly paid; livestock farmers have little training and few of them belong to an organization.
Despite this difficult context, VETERIMED (a Haitian NGO) has been pursuing an innovative and promising activity since 2000 for the development of the local milk sector in Haiti. The project seeks to create groups of livestock farmers and a network of mini dairies to organize the production, processing, and marketing of sterilized bottled milk, pasteurized bag milk, and yogurt under the ”Lèt Agogo” label (which means ”Milk in Abundance”). After ten years, the Lèt Agogo network now includes 16 associated dairies with about 700 small livestock farmers each. Each livestock farmer has between one and eight cows. Currently, the average daily production of all the mini dairies combined is 2,300 liters. These dairy products are distributed to small shops and convenience stores throughout the country. Since 2007, the Lèt Agogo network has been supplying about 50 rural schools thanks to its partnership with the Haitian government within the framework of the National School Cafeteria Program.
Since 2004, AVSF has been supporting both VETERIMED and the Lèt Agogo network in the following ways: building two dairies in the southeastern part of the country; implementing a management tool that is specifically adapted to each dairy; providing direct assistance in marketing and sales processes; training livestock farmers in livestock-farming management and how to strengthen the livestock-farming network; establishing a better definition of the ”Lèt Agogo label” and drawing up the corresponding specifications; providing support for dairies after the destruction left by the terrible January 10, 2010 earthquake; and facilitating exchanges with small French cheesemakers to encourage the development of new products. This work will now be expanded to the Plateau Central region.
This project has had undeniable impacts on rural employment, the country’s food sovereignty, and the incomes of extremely poor smallholder families. Over the past ten years, the average price paid to producers has increased fivefold, from about 0.08 euros per liter to 0.38 euros per liter. Small dairies currently employ more than 70 people. Lèt Agogo products are more accessible, since the yogurt and the locally produced sterilized flavored milk cost half as much as the imported products. A National Federation of Haitian Milk Producers (FENAPWOLA) has been established to encourage people to consume Haitian milk and to advocate for higher customs duties on imported milk products.
Finally, AVSF, VETERIMED, and Collectif Haïti de France have been working together since 2004 on a campaign called: "Solidaires des éleveurs haïtiens" ["Standing with Haitian Livestock Farmers”] (Manman Bèf). The campaign was inspired by a traditional caretaking system (whereby a a small-scale livestock farmer cares for another person’s animals in return for a very low price; the ”caretaker” has usufruct rights to the animals). Through this campaign, solidarity-focused investors in France can invest in cows that will be raised by Haitian smallholders. Since 2004, more than 350 cows have been distributed, mainly to women.
This activity is supported by the Agence Française de Développement, Fondation de France, Fondation Bel, the Fondation Frères de nos frères [Frères de Nos Frères foundation], the Conseil général du Val de Marne [General Council of the Val-de-Marne department], the Region of Bretagne [Brittany], and the Rhône-Alpes Region