New Feasibility Study Sponsored by Timberland Makes Compelling Case for Bringing Cotton Farming Back to Haiti
Integrating cotton farming, tree planting and food security with a new enterprise model has potential to connect Haitian smallholder farmers to the global economy
NEW YORK, NY, November 9, 2016 – Today, the nonprofit Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) announced two breakthrough innovations being proposed for agriculture in Haiti. The announcement was made at the Haiti Funders Conference in New York City, the third annual gathering of donors and investors focused on the goal of achieving sustainability in Haiti, a country still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in early October.
The catalyst for this announcement is the release today of a new feasibility study entitled “Cotton: Export Market Potential for Smallholder Farmers in Haiti.” Commissioned by nonprofit Impact Farming and sponsored by SFA and global outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland, this study makes a compelling case for reintroducing a crop that was once the country’s fourth largest agricultural export, but which collapsed nearly 30 years ago due to a combination of politics and policies, and provides a new model to connect small-scale Haitian farmers to the global economy.
Key factors outlined in the study in support of cotton’s return to Haiti include ideal growing conditions, considerable farmer interest and the availability of the next generation of agricultural best practices gleaned from smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia. The study recommends that cotton be reintroduced along with a comprehensive support system and range of services that were not in place when cotton previously failed. By positioning cotton as a rotational crop in mixed farms that include vegetables, grain and livestock, the resulting agricultural benefits will extend far beyond a single crop. And by utilizing the SFA system of having farmers access this support system and services by planting trees, the benefits further extend to combatting climate change.
The impetus for the study was the five-year partnership between Timberland and SFA in creating a model whereby farmers in Haiti voluntarily tend to a network of nurseries that produce up to one million trees annually. In return for their efforts, farmers receive training, crop seeds, seedlings and tools that help restore tree cover and increase the farmers’ own crop yields – a mutually beneficial and sustainable cycle. To date, this self-sustaining business model has resulted in the planting of nearly six million trees and helped 3,200 farmers increase productivity on their farmlands by an average of 40 percent, resulting in increased household income of 50 percent, on average. The program has also resulted in increased access to education and healthcare, including an estimated 3,400 additional children of SFA members placed in school.
“Over the past five years, we’ve been proud to partner with SFA to turn a simple tree-planting initiative into a sustainable business model for smallholder farmers,” said Colleen Vien, director of sustainability for Timberland. “Our hope in sponsoring this study, is that we can take steps to transition from being an early supporter of smallholder farmers in Haiti, to potentially being a customer, purchasing cotton for our own supply chain.”
The cotton study also uncovered the need to help connect smallholder farmers growing export crops with overseas markets, setting the stage for Impact Farming and SFA’s plans to launch a new for-profit export, marketing and finance company dedicated to smallholder exports. The resulting public/private partnership, called the “Haiti Impact Alliance (HIA),” is being developed with the Initiative for Smallholder Finance to replace the traditional agricultural supply chain with a wholesale export operation that will emerge as a new type of smallholder social enterprise with implications beyond the borders of Haiti.
“Smallholder farmers hold the key to achieving food security and combatting climate change in Haiti, and we see cotton as central to unleashing their potential,” said Hugh Locke, President of the SFA and Impact Farming, “In addition to resulting in significant numbers of trees being planted, the new Haiti Impact Alliance will provide farmers with first stage processing capacity, improved infrastructure, increased export and marketing opportunities, efficient data management, access to farm financing and specialized agricultural research in cotton and other export crops.”
For more information and to read the full cotton feasibility study, visit smallholderfarmersalliance.org. To learn more about the five-year partnership between Timberland and SFA, and download the powerful documentary film chronicling their journey, visit kombitfilm.com.
About Smallholder Farmers Alliance
The Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) applies business solutions to help feed and reforest a renewed Haiti by establishing market-based farmer cooperatives, building agricultural export markets, creating rural farm businesses and contributing to community development. This approach recognizes Haiti as an agrarian nation whose short and long-term recovery is irrevocably linked to the fate of its one million smallholder farm families, each with land holdings of less than 2 hectares (5 acres). The SFA recently launched the Haiti Smallholder Recovery Operation to help targeted farm families recover from damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.
About Impact Farming
Impact Farming works with smallholder farmers internationally to scale business solutions that integrate sustainable food production with increased tree cover and self-financed community development. Impact Farming also supports the work of the Haiti-based Smallholder Farmers Alliance.
Timberland is a global leader in the design, manufacturing and marketing of premium footwear, apparel and accessories for the outdoor lifestyle. Best known for its original yellow boot introduced in 1973, Timberland today outfits consumers from toe-to-head, with versatile collections that reflect the brand’s rich heritage of craftsmanship, function and style. Timberland markets lifestyle products under the Timberland® and Timberland Boot Company® brands, and industrial footwear and workwear under the Timberland PRO® brand. Its products are sold throughout the world in leading department and specialty stores as well as company-owned retail locations and online. Timberland’s dedication to making quality products is matched by an unwavering commitment to environmental and social responsibility – to make things better for its products, the outdoors, and communities around the globe. To learn more about Timberland, a brand of VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC), please visit timberland.com or follow us along the modern trail @timberland.
About The Initiative for Smallholder Finance
The Initiative for Smallholder Finance (ISF) is a multi-donor and investor platform for the development of financial services for the smallholder farmer market. ISF engagement is most useful in developing high-potential, yet nascent financial structures, that lack either an “anchor” investor or funder or whose development sits between a set of organizations.