Haiti’s Cacao Farmers Eliminate Middlemen, Double Incomes

Dieula Rosembert, a grandmother and cacao farmer in Haiti, is participating in USAID agricultural program.
Dieula Rosembert has banded together with other cacao farmers to sell directly to Haiti’s biggest cacao exporter.
Joanna Stavropoulos, USAID AVANSE
Sellers band together to get fair market price
“I always thought I could sell my cacao elsewhere for a better price, but I did not know where.”

August 2016—Dieula Rosembert, a grandmother of five, has been selling cacao for as long as she can remember. But the middlemen in Haiti who bought her cacao paid her so little “you could not even buy a loaf of bread with the money!” she exclaimed.  

“We did not really know the true price of a pound of cacao—they took my cacao for a pittance,” said Anne-Marie Severe, another grandmother growing and selling cacao in the same area of Haiti as Rosembert. She adds that the speculating brokers “would not consider the quality of the cacao given to them. It's one price for everyone.” 

This has all changed with the help of USAID’s AVANSE project. Funded through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, the project is working in northern Haiti to help farmers improve their income.

The project has organized smallholder cacao farmers into seller groups that then sell directly to Novella, Haiti’s biggest cacao exporter. As of June 2016, 280 seller groups have formed, 118 of which have already signed direct trading agreements with Novella.

USAID has trained two delegates from each group how to weigh and log each farmer’s cacao input as well as issue receipts. Novella pays for the cacao’s transport to its office in the port city of Cap-Haïtien, where delegates are paid according to the quality of their cacao. This season, the price ranged from 73 cents to 90 cents (45 gourdes to 55 gourdes) per pound.

When they sold the same cacao to middlemen before, these farmers were paid about half of that, no more than 40 cents (25 gourdes) per pound. 

“Now that I am a member of a group, I know nobody can do this to me anymore,” said Severe. 

For grandmothers like Rosembert and Severe, and for many other smallholder farmers, going directly to a big exporter was once inconceivable—the system of intermediaries had been in place for such a long time.

“I always thought I could sell my cacao elsewhere for a better price, but I did not know where,” says Angelita Pierre, a mother of eight, and grandmother of 18. 

Pierre has an estimated 2,000 cacao trees—more than most smallholder farmers in the area. This past May, she sold 1,922 pounds of cacao directly to Novella and earned $1,395 (86,490 gourdes)—a significant increase over the $600 (30,000 gourdes) she would have received from selling to the middlemen.

This new level of income has expanded her opportunities. “My dream is to build a small shop to sell chocolate,” she said.

Rosembert is also optimistic about the future.  “We must keep cultivating cacao,” she said. “We must think about tomorrow.”

The AVANSE project runs from 2013-2018 and aims to increase agricultural incomes in Haiti’s Northern Corridor for more than 20,000 rural households. It focuses its investments on the value chain of three key crops: rice, plantain and cocoa. The program also supports complementary investments in irrigation and natural resource management. So far, AVANSE has worked with over 6,000 cacao growers to increase crop productivity.  

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Last updated: August 08, 2016

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