Haiti: How Can I Help? Tips for Donors One Year Later – Part 2

If Haiti is to move beyond the current devastation and dependence on aid, its people have to be able to make a living. We continue to highlight approaches that are already working in Haiti that need to be strengthened and scaled-up. Here are two models that target livelihoods:

  1. The Graduation Model, which helps ultra-poor women move out of extreme poverty by generating a steady income.
  2. The Sustainable Agriculture Model, which improves farmer incomes while preserving the environment.

By supporting these models, you can give Haitians the opportunity to work towards a better life. More in-depth analysis of these can be found in our guide Haiti: How Can I Help? Models for Donors Seeking Long-Term Impact.

Opportunity 2 – Livelihoods: Enabling Households to Provide for Themselves

The earthquake has disrupted jobs, and as households earn less, families buy less, thereby contracting the local economy.

The Graduation Model targets the poorest of the poor, helping them to create jobs for themselves and gradually integrate into the economy. Unlike microfinance models which target people who have a source of income, the graduation model works with those who have no income or assets. It helps them generate a source of revenue, readying them for microfinance in the future. The Haitian organization Fonkoze has successfully piloted this approach and is ready to bring the model to other communities in Haiti.

The Sustainable Agriculture Model targets farmers, enabling them to grow enough food for their families, sell produce for income, and contribute to regenerating land that has been severely degraded due to deforestation and natural disasters. Catholic Relief Services is one organization that has been using this approach in their programs in Haiti.

For donors interested in supporting these models in Haiti or in other parts of the world, here are tips on what to look for in order to have the most potential for impact.

Tips to Assess Livelihood Promotion Projects

The best programs will do the following:

  • Strengthen local economies. The poor can earn an income only if local markets support their goods and services. Look for models that make local economies grow rather than shrink. For example, seed fairs should consciously seek to promote sales of local seeds by local farmers, instead of importing seeds from outside the area or country. This keeps cash circulating within the local economy, promoting its growth.
  • Increase people’s income. There are many ways to increase income: by increasing productivity, aggregating demand and products, or decreasing expenditure. Check to see how a model does any or all of these things. For example, grouping bamboo basket weavers together aggregates their demand for bamboo, which means they can buy cheaply at wholesale prices. Fair trade practices aim to increase income.
  • Look beyond financial capital. People’s ability to support themselves and their families depends not only on their financial capital, but also on their skills, their networks, and their tools.  While microfinance provides financial capital, there are many other services that can complement a microfinance loan and allow people to better leverage it. Without these other services, microfinance will not always be successful in moving people out of poverty.
  • Increase people’s assets. Assets are as important as income. Productive assets like farm tools, goats, or a weaving loom increase the ability of people to generate an income. Non-productive assets like shelter mitigate risks and improve the ability of people to recover from economic shocks. Consider supporting models that develop people’s existing assets—assets people already know how to use—since those are assets that will be best utilized. In models that distribute assets, check that there are enough different types of assets being given out so that the value of one asset does not collapse. For example, if all participants of a program are being given goats, the price of goat milk and meat will decrease.
  • Promote productive agriculture. Make sure the model promotes farming practices that conserve soil and water, considering both upstream and downstream effects of soil and water usage.

In the next posts, we will highlight effective models in education in Haiti, as well as provide a summary of the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI)  anniversary event, Haiti: Ongoing and Future Needs.