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Haiti: Marie Michel, a courageous farmer in the midst of an economic crisis

02 Aug 2019


Photo: OCHA/Christian Cricboom

You need a strong will to ascend the long, stony and steep path to Belle-Anse, a town nestled in the heights of southeastern Haiti just over 80 kilometres from the capital Port-au-Prince. But the trip is an opportunity to discover not only a fresh, green landscape lined with ancient stones but above all to meet courageous farmers like Marie Michel. These farmers work hard to make ends meet in a town that has almost nothing.

Marie Michel stands out among the hopeful people who live in Marre-Briole in Belle-Anse urban area. Like many other women in the region, land is the only source of livelihood and support for her children. For years, it was hard for Marie Michel to cope because she had neither the financial nor the technical resources to develop the land. Drought often ruined the crops before harvest time. Until a local organization came in to support her family.

"It used to be very hard for me,” says Marie Michel, looking at one of her flowering gardens with relief. “I often lost a large part of my tubers and legumes. The little harvest was barely enough to feed my family."

Today, the 46-year-old mother of six sees better days ahead thanks to the support from Action for Sustainable Development (ACDED). The local organization has helped Marie Michel and her husband to upgrade the plot of land on which they plant millet, potatoes, leeks and carrots.

"For more than a year, we have had better harvests," Marie Michel says, rejoicing and thanking ACDED for its assistance. Today, she sells her harvest in the local markets and in the capital. With two trips a month to Port-au-Prince to sell her products, profits can amount to 20,000 gourdes a month (about US$210). This money enables Marie Michel to pay for school for five of her children and the university in Port-au-Prince for her eldest son.

Haiti is currently going through an unprecedented economic crisis. Business activity is a vital source of livelihood for women like Marie Michel and their families, and support from ACDED has been key. Unfortunately, ACDED is the only organization that has so far intervened in Marre-Briole and its surroundings; an area that lacks road infrastructure, drinking water and hospitals. Worse still, the support, which was a real lifeline for the women of Belle-Anse, will end in September 2019.