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Portrait of a Haitian Woman Farmer 

Mercilie Romeus, a member of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance in Haiti, in
front of her home.
“My life situation has shifted for the better,” says Mercilie Romeus, adding proudly, “I now have a dream and I know how to protect that dream.” She spoke recently of her success both as a woman farmer and as a leader within the farming community of Mapou, located a few miles north of the Haitian city of Gonaives.

Mercilie was among the first farmers in her area to sign on when the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) began building a cooperative in the Gonaives area in early 2010. Like most small-scale farmers in Haiti, she and her family had been struggling to make ends meet when SFA made an offer to farmers in the area: by volunteering to grow and transplant trees, they could earn high-yield crop seed, good tools and agricultural training. And from day one, it would be the farmers themselves managing the operation.

“SFA provided seed, tools and taught me new agricultural practices,” explained Mercilie, “and the result was that our family farm began producing enough maize [corn], eggplant and beans to feed my kids and I could sell the remaining in the market.” 

But it was not just increased crop yields that changed Mercilie’s life: “The training sessions and motivation of SFA created a sense of community. We now work together for the common good, and I now care about the community as I care about my family.”

In September of 2012, Mercilie took on the role of deputy director of SFA’s micro-credit program for women farmers. “We give loans between 2,000 and 10,000 gourdes [approximately US$50 and $250] that help women market farm products and set up small businesses. And now there are 98 women receiving loans. With my own first loan last year, I was able to start a business selling food and I purchased some chickens and goats for the farm.”  

Mercilie’s sense of community found a particular outlet in the micro-credit program. She began inviting outside speakers to talk to the women loan recipients about their needs and issues. Out of this has emerged a new sense of solidarity among the women farmers of SFA. “We have a support system now,” said Mercilie, “and we share news about women in need and figure out how to help. For example, when a woman is pregnant we share her workload. We never did this before.”

Investing in the women farmers of Haiti is essential if smallholder farmers are going to take the lead in feeding and reforesting the nation.

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Reader Comments (1)

nice pos

June 30, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersabun herbal hawa

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