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David Orr is based in Nairobi as a WFP spokesman for East and Southern Africa.
A group of Haitian dairy farmers is now supplying Port-au-Prince schools with fresh milk, thanks to a pilot project launched by WFP. The scheme helps farmers gain a foothold in their local market while providing kids who eat WFP school meals with a precious source of vitamins and minerals.
PORT-AU-PRINCE—Jean Claude Belizaire is the kind of man WFP sees as central to its support for local production. He's a dairy farmer with ten cows and a smallholding on the outskirts of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
It is because of producers like him that WFP has been able to introduce a pilot scheme, adding milk to the school meals programme it runs as part of the Government’s Programme Nationale de Cantines Scolaire.
Buying milk from local dairy farmers like Jean Claude Belizaire is part of WFP's longstanding policy to purchase food as close to where it is needed as possible. Find out more
Trading in milk
In addition to the milk from his own herd, Jean Claude collects the milk from neighbouring farms and brings it in plastic containers to the local dairy at Bon Repos. This is one of 13 dairies that belong to Haiti’s Lèt Agogo co-operative of small producers. Farmers receive 75 gourdes (around US $2.00) per gallon.
“This is a great way for small producers like me to do business,” says Jean Claude who gets paid extra for being a collector. “It’s been a very hard year but at least dairy farmers around here have a secure market for their milk.”
Thanks to a donation from Brazil, WFP has been able to buy 676,000 bottles of milk from Lèt Agogo (in Creole: Milk Aplenty).
This has meant that, on top of the daily hot meal they receive under the national school meals programme, some 17,700 children from 48 schools have also been getting two bottles of milk per week.
Benefits at home
Since his farmhouse was badly damaged in the earthquake, Jean Claude and his family have preferred to sleep on the floor of an outhouse.
Four of his seven children go to the nearby St. Jean Bosco where, along with their classmates, they have been drinking bottles of Lèt Agogo school milk – some of it, perhaps, milk from their very own cows.
“It’s a system that works well,” says Clergé René of the Bon Repos dairy. “Each herd yields only a few gallons per day but, with 150 dairy farmers selling to us, we can produce anywhere between 60 – 120 gallons per day. And we also produce yoghurt.”
Milk is an important staple of the Haitian diet but many Haitians have no choice but to buy expensive imported varieties – or go without. With an estimated half a million cows in Haiti, there is huge scope for increased domestic production and it is farmers like Jean Claude Belizaire who are showing the way.