Haiti: Exporting coffee while protecting biodiversity
By revamping coffee cultivation, producers are reforesting land and improving their living conditions.
Francisque Dubois, also known as "Papa café” among the people of Dondon, in northern Haiti, is one of two founding members of the coffee cooperative COOPACVOD, established in 1976 by 34 producers. Today the cooperative has 680 members and produces an organic coffee sold in Europe and North America.
"With bio certification, a pound of coffee sells for 3.5 US dollars. Before, our pound of coffee was selling for less than two US dollars. With this added value, the producers understand that they have to be more rigorous and professional in cultivating their coffee," explains Francisque.
A crop that benefits land conservation
- With UNDP-GEF support, three nurseries were able to grow 200,000 coffee plants and 12,000 shade trees.
- The cooperative has 680 members and employs 300 people part time.
- With organic certification, a pound of coffee sells for US$3.5 compared to US$2 in the past.
- MFP supports 49 projects in Haiti, with more than 50% dedicated to preserving biodiversity.
Located about 390 meters above sea level and protected from hurricanes and storms, the Dondon region has suitable weather conditions for coffee production. Given that the coffee must be grown in the shade, tree cutting is not the norm in the commune. During heavy rain, the water first hits the tree canopy before reaching the leaves of the coffee plants, which protects the soil from erosion.
With the support of UNDP’s micro-financing programme (MFP), funded in the amount of US$50,000 by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the cooperative was able to set up two ‘decentralized' nurseries and strengthen its central nursery. These three nurseries have produced 200,000 coffee plants and 12,000 shade trees.
Mature seedlings are distributed to cooperative members who plant them following the practices necessary to produce an exportable organic coffee. With the support of the cooperative, farmers have access to more profitable markets and can sell their produce at competitive prices.
COOPACVOD was able to submit its coffee for certification by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO), an international quality control organization. "If our coffee had not met the international standards to be certified as organic, we would have lost US$ 5,000. And for a cooperative like ours, this sum weighs heavily in the balance," Francisque says.
Each year, IMO inspectors visit the cooperative's facilities to collect samples that they transport to Europe for testing. Based on the results obtained, certification is regularly renewed for five years. This attests to the rigor of the cooperative in its production methods.
“Since obtaining this certification, farmers no longer use chemicals on their coffee fields. They choose to use manure and compost," Francisque says.
"Every day we make greater efforts to keep this certification, because without it, we automatically lose the markets we have already conquered and would be unable to attract new ones," says the sexagenarian.
Increasing production for greater revenue
The cooperative, which currently employs 300 people part time, is far from reaching its maximum capacity. According to some commune residents, Dondon has capacity for over 20,000 hectares of coffee plantations.
Several years ago, the cooperative begun producing "Blue Mountain” coffee, a variety with a strong reputation, making it one of the most expensive and most sought-after coffees in the world.
The cooperative plans to set aside over 40 hectares for “Blue Mountain” coffee to be enjoyed in the Haitian, North American and European markets, where it is prized for its distinctive taste and aroma.
To this end, the cooperative is seeking out smart and profitable investments in the coffee sector.
“For over 30 years, we have kept our standards very high. Today, we expect investors to come to Dondon, a commune recognized as having sound experience in coffee production,” Francisque concludes.
Since 2007, the MFP has funded 49 small projects to protect and rehabilitate the environment in Haiti; 51% of the portfolio is dedicated to biodiversity, 30% to land degradation and the rest to climate change adaptation and mitigation.