There are signs of hope. Haiti has smart young professionals like Lutheran World Relief’s program manager, Wegbert Chery, an agronomist who received his master’s degree from Louisiana State under a scholarship from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Now he spends his days overseeing a cocoa project in southwest Haiti, a region that was heavily impacted by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Dame-Marie, the main town there, is a good 8 to 10-hour drive on bumpy dirt roads from Port-au-Prince. Wegbert and his team of two extension workers have trained 28 young adults as agriculture promoters who visit farms and teach farmers techniques for increasing production, such as proper pruning and fertilizing their cacao trees.
Much of what Lutheran World Relief is doing in Haiti borrows from our successful cocoa work in Central America. The cocoa toolkit we created with farmers in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, for example, has been translated to Creole and adapted for the Haitian context.
More than 980 farmers have been reached so far in this current project. But Wegbert emphasizes that in addition to the training his team provides, what the farmers express that they most appreciate is the time taken to treat them as people and not just project participants. That is indeed where Lutheran World Relief thrives around the world — in sitting down with farmers and understanding their struggles and working with them to improve their lives.