Haiti - Economy : Moringa and chocolate from Haiti on sale in the US
This story is also about helping to transform agriculture in Haiti by working with small-scale family farmers as micro businesses rather than charity recipients. Smallholder farm income goes up as a result of various combinations of organic agricultural training, better quality non-hybrid seed, access to financial services and direct market connections via two pioneers in this field. In the case of moringa, the pioneer is the non-profit Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA), with support from the Clinton Foundation. And for the cacao bean used to make chocolate, it is the for-profit company Produits des Iles, S.A. (PISA).
"We help connect Haitian farmers directly to export markets," said Hugh Locke, President of the SFA, "as well as providing services like improved seed, tools and training to help them better manage their farms in the face of increasing drought conditions. And these agricultural services are earned by farmers planting trees, which in turn helps address the severe deforestation that is one of the main causes of the country's ongoing drought."
The leaves of the Moringa oleifera tree have entered the pantheon of superfoods by virtue of exceptional amounts of protein along with 27 vitamins and 46 antioxidants. One of the most nutrient dense plants on earth, around 80,000 of these trees are being cultivated by smallholder farmers in Haiti. A network of women farmers' cooperatives clean and process the leaves, transforming them into the powder that is in high demand by both Haitian and U.S. consumers. Kuli Kuli incorporates the resulting powder into a Moringa Green Energy shot that is similar to a caffeinated green smoothie.
Cacao trees have long been cultivated in Haiti for their bean used in making chocolate, but with minimum benefit to the smallholder farmers who historically have been the primary growers. Taza Chocolate is changing this dynamic as the first U.S. 'bean to bar' chocolate maker to import organic, premium grade Haitian cacao. As part of its Direct Trade program, Taza pays more than twice the premium required by Fair Trade certification in exchange for specialty cacao grown by 1,500 smallholder farmers sustainably managing close to 2,000 acres of organic certified land.
"It is exciting that an energy shot and a chocolate bar are connecting Haitian smallholder farmers to the shelves at Whole Foods," said Haiti-born actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, who appears in NBC's Heroes Reborn and Arrow as well as the Oscar-nominated film Joy, "and that both products support the planting of more trees to help our country's recovery."
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