In Haiti? Yes, in Haiti
Haiti does not have the reputation of a paradise tropical island. Western governments warn their inhabitants against travelling to Haiti; Trump calls the country a shithole and what happened with the aid money after the last hurricane anyway?
People normally start to laugh when I tell them I am born in Cap-Haitiën. Are you joking? The main conversation I end up in, after I explain that I was born there because my family moved along with my father’s projects as an agricultural engineer, is often about poverty or hurricanes or corruption. Not a good reputation.
This reputation does not help for economic development. If you constantly think of someone as in need of help, instead of as someone that is creative and entrepreneurial, you miss potential. I strongly believe that we need a different frame when we think of Haiti. Last December I had the opportunity to re-visit the country and found out that focusing on the private sector can offer a different frame and a different outcome.
The Private Sector in Haiti
Foreign aid is not invested in Haitian businesses. Of the around 6 billion USD official aid that has been disbursed to Haiti after the earthquake, only 9 Million went to Haitian companies. 75% of this amount went to three companies alone. For the country to grow out of poverty, enterprises are essential and need to be supported.
In Haiti no more than 10% of employment is in the formal private sector. That does not mean that there is no business: informal vendors are everywhere. Starting a formal business and an official small or medium enterprise is however difficult. On the ‘for ease of starting a business’, Haiti ranks 180 of 183 on the World Bank’s Doing Business Database.
One way of improving starting a business is by learning and relying on business that are successful. Successful companies can become the hub to support other companies and provide services to surrounding businesses. One of those companies to become a hub is Taino Aqua Ferme.
Taino Aqua Ferme
Taino Aqua Ferme (TAF), a Haitian company producing tilapia, shows that Haiti is more than a ‘Band Aid’ advertisement. The company produces high-quality tilapia on Lake Azui. The company consists of a hatchery, a nursery, they grow their fish in cages, process and sell their tilapia. TAF distributes to supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and informal markets. They employ 56 people and are growing.
TAF takes their employees seriously, they don’t treat them as people that need help, but as potential leaders. And they invest their heart into the company. But there are still hurdles to overcome before they can become the cornerstone of Haitian aquaculture, which is why IDH is involved.
IDH is proud to partner with Taino to develop a sustainable aquaculture sector in Haiti. IDH helps the company to improve their health management, by for example piloting vaccinations. We support them to become more efficient producers: if less fish die because of diseases, less (expensive and imported) feed is needed and the production costs decrease. This has a positive impact on the environment, on Taino’s profits and on jobs for man and woman.
IDH also supports TAF in professionalizing their distribution channels, so that more high quality and affordable fish can reach markets in Haiti. The distribution is difficult in Haiti, as ice is and energy for cooling is not readily available. However, by applying lessons from other geographies and by engaging the right partners, we believe we can help Taino in reaching more markets.
The company has the potential to become a hub for SMEs and outgrowers to also farm fish, whereby TAF can provide high-quality fingerlings, high-quality feed, training on how to farm fish, process the fish and offer smallholders access to markets. The company and has the potential of creating 11000 direct and indirect jobs in Haiti and can become key in creating a more self-reliant food system in Haiti.
We believe that the private sector can make a difference in Haiti. In Haiti? Yes, in Haiti.