Friday, February 11, 2011

Growing Haiti's future one partnership at a time

By Sam Usem, CTI Volunteer, Haiti

Judging from the temperatures back in Minnesota we picked a great time to head down to Haiti. Of course the need for quality professional volunteers in the aid field in Haiti is never truly fulfilled, so our timing seems apt no matter the temperature. 

It has been a very busy few days for us in the area around Cap-Haitien. You probably wouldn't guess is it, but much of our work down here is spent going from meeting to meeting. It's not something that sounds very glamorous at first, but let me explain.

Volunteer Sam Usem meets with the RAFAVAL women's co-op in Limonade, Haiti
Our morning yesterday started with a meeting at the offices of USAID (United States Association for International Development). For the 13 months since the earthquake struck Port Au Prince there has been something called the HRI (Haiti Recovery Initiative). Much of the money that the U.S. Gov't donated at the time of the quake is still being handed out, and we along with some of our partners have applied for some of the funds to start projects that will get people back to work quickly.

It is with this backdrop that we spent 3 hours with Ragine, a development officer from USAID, to put together proposals for 4 different grants that all revolve around
Sonje Ayiti's agricultural activities. These activities range from cocoa processing using CTI’s Ewing Grinders to exporting sorghum flour--which will also utilize CTI equipment.

From there we headed out to the town of Limonade where Sonje Ayiti works to visit one of our most successful projects in Haiti. Sonje Ayiti has been supporting a women’s co-op called RAFAVAL that has over 400 members in and around the community. Immediately following the quake, CTI
donated two Ewing grinders to the co-op so that their cocoa factory could jump-start production. With the added income the women were able to pay for much needed food to support survivors of the quake staying with them.

A year later, the start-up business that CTI equipment enabled has provided close to full-time jobs for many of the women. They now boast of being able to send their children to school and being able to pay for it without the help of others. Simple things that many of us take for granted, like being able to pay for the funeral of a loved one, was out of reach for many members of the co-op before the cocoa project. With two Ewing grinders helping to make the co-op business idea a reality, they now have the credibility to apply for and receive a grant worth $100,000 from USAID. The funds will be put toward building a small factory, upgrading their current CTI equipment, and purchasing new equipment. Without the first donation of CTI equipment, this project wouldn't have happened.

We spent most of the afternoon talking with the RAFAVAL members about what has worked and what hasn't as their business moves along. Only by taking the time to listen to our end users can we further innovate and develop our technologies so that we may reach more people and reach them faster.

From there we headed back towards Cap-Haitian and met with
MFK, (Meds and Food for Kids), the partner we have been with the longest in Haiti. MFK is a St. Louis based NGO that works in the field of child malnutrition and produces Medika Mamba, or RUTF (Ready to Use Therapeutic Food), a peanut paste that is fed to malnourished children to bring them back to weight. Over the years CTI has helped to build the original equipment used in the RUTF factory, and as the years have gone on and MFK has grown, we have continued to consult on equipment scale-ups. Recently, CTI has provided MFK with customized equipment and consulting services, which has allowed them to dramatically increase the production of their life-saving peanut paste medicine.

Both of these projects in Haiti showcase one very important theme and that is the importance of staying with partners as they grow. CTI technologies can be implemented quickly but also allow for a great business idea to take root and grow.

Thanks for sticking with us as we work in Haiti. Each day we are meeting with more partners to develop projects that put CTI equipment into the hands of those that need it most.

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