Haitian entrepreneurs gain skills to build food businesses

Owners and operators of small food companies in Haiti say they face many challenges to get their products to market. There are shortages of raw materials, a scarcity of equipment, a lack of proper packaging and limited access to financing.

No wonder there was such a high demand among entrepreneurs for a recent two-day workshop on the fundamentals of starting and running a successful food-processing business in Haiti. The majority of the nearly 50 businesspeople, academicians and other professionals who attended were females, reflecting the increasing number of Haitian women who run small-scale food businesses.

The workshop was held by the Feed the Future Haïti Appui à la Recherche et au Développement Agricole (AREA), a project led by the University of Florida and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to help build the capacity of Haitians to reduce food insecurity and improve people’s quality of life.

Lemâne Delva, director of research for the AREA project, said it is important that the operators of small Haitian food processing companies increase their knowledge and skills so they can overcome the many hurdles they face to grow their businesses in a country with a scarcity of resources.

“Improved food processing and storage can help lessen Haiti’s food insecurity, create employment opportunities and improve livelihoods,” Delva said. He led the workshop with Antonio Antoine, AREA’s specialist in postharvest technology and food safety.

During the two-day event, the attendees learned the scientific principles of processing and storing food products, how to find and use market information, and postharvest processing and storage techniques.

We asked three women who attended the training about their businesses and the challenges they face. Below are excerpts of our conversations.

Mickerlange Dorvil, owner of Chokokap

Mickerlange Dorvil, owner of ChokokapQ: Tell us about Chokokap
A: The name of my enterprise is Chokokap, which specializes in producing natural chocolate that is better prepared and presented than the other chocolates that are available on the market. We’ve been operating since January 2017. We buy cocoa from local farmers and use it as raw material to produce the chocolate.

Q: What are the challenges that Chokokap is facing?
A: The biggest challenge is the availability of the raw material because farmers have other NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), which ordered the cocoa even before the harvest period, which makes it difficult for us to produce our chocolate to supply our customers on time.

Q: What motivated you to attend this two-day training on food processing?
A: Since we are small scale enterprise, we need to have more equipment to produce more. The title of the training drew my attention. It is important to train our staff. I think the different topics covered by the facilitators will be useful for our staff such as marketing and business plans, packaging, cleaning and many other things that we will duplicate with our staff. We rely on the help of the facilitators to continue helping us if we need any clarification.

Lyne Alexandre, owner of Pocona; she also runs a foundation called Jèn Mapou, whose mission is to promote the emergence of young leaders

Lyne Alexandre, owner of Pocona and also runs a Foundation called Jen Mapou, whose mission is to promote the emergence of young leadersQ: Tell us a little bit about Pocona.
A: Pocona is a candy production enterprise involved in the processing of cassava to create a product called “Royal Sandwich.” We have been operating for three years in the Northeast of Haiti. Our goal is to sell the product not only in Haiti but also in other countries. It is for us a way to export a part of the Haitian culture to other people.

Our goal is to be able to sell that product not only in Haiti but also in other countries. It is for us a way to export a part of the Haitian culture to other people.

Q: What are the challenges that your company is facing?
A: Our biggest challenge is the difficulty in obtaining the appropriate food-processing equipment that will help Pocona to operate at an industrial level.

Q: What motivated you to attend this two-day training on food processing?
A: As a head of an enterprise in food processing, it is very important to attend such training. Packaging is the topic that drew the most my attention. The information received will help us in making decisions on how our products will be presented in terms of recipes and packaging. We have learned a lot, and we hope to duplicate this training with other members of the staff.

Anne-Marie Eloi, owner of Nar-izi-fwi

Anne-Marie Eloi, owner of Nar-izi-fwiQ: Tell us a about Nar-izi-fwi.
A: We have been operating since 2016. Nar-izi-fwi is involved in the processing of fruits such as mango, pineapple, banana and others to create food for babies and children.

Q: What are the challenges that your company is facing?
A: Our main problem is funding and packaging because the interest rate is very high and the packages we use are imported from China.

Q: What motivated you to attend this two-day training on food processing?
A: It is very important to receive more training, which will help the enterprise to grow and solve technical issues that we may face. We will use other methods of preparation, recipes, hygiene. This is something new that I did now know before. My expectation is to receive visits from trainers so they can critique what we do to do things better. We would like to receive their help in order to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Commerce.

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Learn more about AREA’s Postharvest Loss Management and Food Safety research program.

One Comment on “Haitian entrepreneurs gain skills to build food businesses

  1. I find that’s a good idea. Haiti could face to the weak production if each other accepts to fight like this.

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