Our trip to explore the coffee business took us from Santo-Domingo, Dominican Republic to the border-town of Pedernales. Just across the border lay the Haitian town of Anse-a-Pitre, a sea-side, rural city bustling with life where curious onlookers greeted us with a smile and people addressed us in the Haitian Creole, “Bonjou” for “Good Morning!”
We are headed for the mountain town of Pichon where a celebration is in process honoring the Virgin Mary. The festivities of “Mount Carmel” attracts visitors, guests and worshippers from all over the region. We arrived in Pichon in late afternoon after a rugged four hour journey traversing approximately 30 miles on roads consisting of rocky gravel, dry riverbeds, flood plains, and steep inclines, often with a cliff on one side.
Once in Pichon we are driven directly to the site where local farmers wait to hear about exploring the coffee business during a talk about the “Coffee Farmer Association”. We were introduced to a room of about 50 individuals consisting of middle-aged men and women, young adults and mothers with small children in their arms. We briefly introduced ourselves and launched into the topic of exploring the coffee business. A lot of excitement was generated when Cindy explained the mechanics of the “Farmer Association.”
Partnering with JustHaiti
Return2Haiti proposes to partner with JustHaiti which is an organization that has worked since 2006 with Haitian coffee farmers to help them improve the quality and quantity of yield throughout rural Haiti. Return2Haiti will bear the cost of hiring a trained agronomist and transporting the beans to Port-au-Prince. JustHaiti will purchase the beans, ship them to the U.S. to be roasted, packaged, and sold, and return the profits to the farmers. The farmers will receive an additional 50% to 60% of the revenue made on the sale of the final product once the costs associated with the transaction have been deducted. In order to meet the quality standards of the U.S. market, the farmers will also be provided access to credit, technical support, and assistance to improve the quality of their crop.
Opportunity to Restore Economic Independence
The farmers were excited about exploring the coffee business because Pichon was once a coffee hub with a majority of its labor force invested in the agricultural sector. Environmental disasters have devastated the area in recent years. Today, the UN reports that only 2% of the tree-cover of a once thickly forested land remains in Haiti (www.un.org). This deforestation has led to flash floods, landslides, soil erosion and continued loss of biodiversity. Because the crop’s survival requires the presence of tree cover for shade and because of the high value of the Haitian blue coffee in the U.S., redevelopment of the coffee industry in Haiti will give local farmers the opportunity to re-build economic independence, as well as a chance to plant trees and reforest their land. The farmers in attendance that day exploring the coffee business are excited at the hope of a better future for the region.