by Sebastian Africano, International Director
In late October 2014, I was able to travel to Haiti to meet with our partners at the Local Capacity Alliance (LOCAL), who have taken over all field activities for the Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT). Once at the project site, six hours northwest of Port-au-Prince, we launched into three days of visiting tree nurseries, reforestation sites, farm plots, and the Self Help Groups (SHGs) who will be supported by these Catapult funds throughout the coming year. Far from being the timid, poor victims on the margins of an economically challenged society, the women members of the Self Help Groups groups have taken charge of their development, and are dedicated to the notion of lifting themselves out of poverty. One testament to their success was a recent award received by LOCAL’s Self Help Group coordinator Remise Belizaire, recognized as Digicel’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the region – an honor bestowed on 10 outstanding leaders per year in Haiti.
Risks and challenges
As the Self Help Group program grows, it places increasing levels of responsibility on the members of each group to manage their growth, keep their leaders in check, and to deal cooperatively with problems. Some groups have had members withdraw from the group and take their capital with them, which destabilizes the rhythm of the group and shrinks the pot of money available for loans. Even though they can only leave with what they actually deposited, a new member recruited to replace the old does not deposit the same amount in replacement, so the group’s capital is reduced.
“The Self Help Groups are not only for us to make money, it has also shown us how to live together, to collaborate, and how to work in groups”
“Our husbands have begun to understand the benefits we’ve been gaining from our Self Help Group, and have asked LOCAL to help start groups for men following the example of the women.”
LOCAL has just hired two Haitian Agronomists to manage the program, and they are in the process of developing a strategic plan for 2015, including activities with the Self Help Groups. Initially they will focus on working with the them to improve agricultural productivity, increase the use of tree crops and orchards, and to produce Moringa powder, a locally grown superfood, for sale and local consumption.
To learn more about this project please visit Catapult.org!