The physical terrain of Central Haiti is quite similar to the agribusiness landscape: difficult to navigate, very few clear routes and lots of obstacles to overcome. The CLM+ team, myself included, really hoped that drip irrigation systems could help our female pepper producers significantly boost production. While we have yet to complete our empirical evaluation of the systems – this will have to wait until after this season’s harvest –limited access to water remains a major challenge to our members. Imagine walking for an hour in the hot sun on steep, narrow and rocky footpaths to a small creak, filling a five gallon bucket, and then retracing your long and hot journey with the full bucket (about 45 pounds or 20 kilos) on your head. Then repeat this process 11 more times...barefoot. It’s no wonder then that when visiting fields with our staff agronomist, we often find the irrigation drums empty.
Many of our members have a lot of problems with their piman (Kreyòl for peppers) gardens – they are a particularly tricky crop that Haitians say ou bezwen gade li kom yon ti bebe (you need to watch it like a little baby). Still, some of our members are already seeing results early in the harvest season. Our hope is that female sales agents who we have linked to the farmers will provide a more secure and stable market for their produce. We have also linked the sales agents to national producers of hot sauce, which should provide them with a steady and profitable demand for quality piman. The cost of transport to these processors is significant for the sales agents, so it if they are to sell to hot sauce producers, they have to see an advantage. Maybe this is a higher sale price, or maybe it’s the ability for them to sell their whole stock in a single transaction rather than searching for vendors at open air markets. Regardless of what they are, if these incentives aren’t there, then the value chain linkages that we envisioned have a sustainability problem. The hot sauce market in Haiti, however, is full of potential. Star Industries, one of the producers with whom we’re working with, is piloting a cheaper product to compete with imported ‘Louisiana Tabasco’ sauce that you can find in many open air markets. It would be great if locally-sourced hot sauce like Star’s product could be scaled up to the level of imported sauces – the price just has to be right.