Social Enterprise Model Creates a Sustainable Solution in Haiti

by Leah Feor August 18, 2016

Social Enterprise Blog Haiti

 

Two worlds collided when Hugh Locke and Timote Georges came together to plant seeds for a sustainable future in Haiti.  This small Caribbean island which at one time had as little as 2% of its forest left, has now received a big boost in an empowering way.

The Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) was founded as a Haitian non-profit, and operates using a social enterprise model.  Though the definition of social enterprise will vary country to country, the simplest way I can explain it is: offering a product or service that satisfies or meets the social need of a community in exchange for an economic return. 

“In Haiti, the farmers have not had any support to improve their agricultural system for generations. And then there's the lack of trees. So I asked the question, what if we took these two big issues, deforestation and a lack of support for agriculture and turned them into a small business?” 

~ Hugh Locke

SFA carries out their operations by establishing farmer cooperatives that reforest and feed Haiti, a country that faced a 98% deforestation rate.  This alliance also works at building export markets, creating rural farm businesses, and contributes to community development.

What’s great about this organization is that in using a social entrepreneurship model, they have a greater chance of economic survival.  Since a social enterprise is designed to bring something to market, they work to become self-sufficient, rather than reliant on continuous funding from external philanthropic agencies.

The SFA has seen admirable success, with approximately 5 million trees planted across the island.  I believe that it was a strong tri-alliance that enabled this to occur.  Timberland, an American shoe company partnered with a Haitian agronomist (Georges) and a former NGO leader (Locke) to make history in a country that has faced natural disasters on top of instability. 

Today’s outcome is uplifting, and can be a source of inspiration for positive change on a social level.  Though reforestation is a big part of the results, the ripple effect of planting has allowed approximately 13,520 farmers and family members to benefit directly from SFA’s efforts.  With a total of 3,200 farmer members, 46% of which are female – participants have seen an estimated average increase of 50% in household income.  

You might be wondering what makes this social enterprise a sustainable solution for a nation that has seen overwhelming environmental catastrophes in recent years.  In part it’s the diversity of programs that are offered through SFA, however it’s also a result of the alliance being built to last with strong principles.

Principles - via smallholderfarmersalliance.org

  • Exit Strategy Aid: agricultural projects that have not planned for their exit from the outset are doing a disservice to farmers by creating a dependency rather than building the capacity for self-reliance.
  • Trees as Bio-Currency: making trees more valuable in the ground than cut for charcoal by having farmer-members of the SFA cooperatives plant trees in order to earn the seed, tools and training required for higher crop quality and yields.
  • Supporting Women Farmers: equal but separate membership in the SFA for husband and wife farming partners, in addition to a micro-credit program that is exclusively for women farmers and includes leadership and business training.
  • Promoting Organic Agriculture: SFA the SFA uses an ecological production management system that builds good soil, enhances biodiversity and uses no chemical inputs.  

One Tree Planted is proud to work with SFA as a reforestation partner, contributing to their work and positive impact.  If you’d like to learn more about the efforts in Haiti, a film has been made to document the progress made over the course of 5 years.  You can watch the trailer here.

Though this non-profit organization uses a social enterprise model to sustain operations, additional assistance in the form of financial contributions allows them to move their mission forward even further.   




Leah Feor
Leah Feor

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