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PÉTIONVILLE, Haiti — The Feed the Future Haiti Appui à la Recherche et au Développement Agricole (AREA project) hosted a research forum on Wednesday, Jan. 22 to showcase the accomplishments of 19 Master of Science graduates who are returning to Haiti to apply what they learned to improve Haiti’s agricultural sector.
The Haitian scholars recently graduated from the University of Florida (UF) and Louisiana State University and they possess advanced degrees in virtually every field of agricultural sciences, including horticulture, biological engineering, and entomology. They are an integral part of a special project funded by the U.S. government and managed by the University of Florida to build partnerships with governmental and educational institutions and build Haiti’s capacity to improve its agricultural sector.
The daylong forum at Karibe Convention Center spotlighted the scholars and their research on important aspects of Haiti agriculture, ranging from cultivating higher-yielding crops to better managing plant diseases and improving Haiti’s soils. They also participated in panels to discuss how they hope to apply what they learned and collaborate with Haitian institutions and businesses to improve sustainable agriculture practices and agricultural education.
Among those who spoke at the event were USAID Feed the Future Agreement Officer Reginald Touissaint, Haiti Minister of Agriculture Jobert C. Angrand, officials with the Faculté d’Agronomie et de Médecine Vétérinaire (FAMV) and the American University of the Caribbean (AUC), and representatives of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The event comes after 19 of the 25 students in the program graduated from UF and LSU and returned to Haiti; six others are on track to graduate later this year. Collectively, the scholars represent one of the largest cohorts of international students to graduate with master’s degrees supported by USAID Haiti in at least a quarter century.
“We are proud to have helped support these talented and dedicated professionals,” said Rose Koenig, Ph.D., principal investigator of the multifaceted AREA project. “We are confident that their expertise and research skills will help address major food production challenges in Haiti and lead to improved household food security and livelihoods.”
Watch video of AREA-supported Master of Science graduate Christelle Calixte responds (in Creole) to a question from a reporter with Radio Tele Ginen about what she learned during her graduate studies at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and her research into Haiti agricultural technical schools. Christelle, who graduated from the University of Florida in December 2018, serves as a gender specialist for the Feed the Future Haiti AREA project. Read her thesis by following the link on the publication page of AREA's website.
During their graduate studies, the students worked on research projects in the field throughout Haiti, at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, and in numerous laboratories and research facilities in Haiti and on the campuses of UF and LSU. Each student studied closely with professors at UF and LSU, as well as with Haitian research professionals who served on their graduate committees, and many of them had opportunities to present their research results at academic conferences, and work with agricultural leaders and farmers across Haiti.
Graduating students said they are eager to help address a long list of agricultural challenges faced by Haiti, such as: improving the fertility of degraded soils, educating the next generation of students, developing higher-yielding varieties of crops, managing crop-destroying pests and plant diseases, and improving agricultural policies and the management of precious water resources.
Riphine Mainviel, who graduated from UF with a master’s in horticultural sciences, said she intends to work as a plant breeder so she can continue her research to develop new lines of beans that are higher yielding that the varieties grown in Haiti. “After my studies I am returning home with a perspective on a new culture, a new language and a great education, which are very important assets to my career,” she said.
Rédjino Mompremier, who graduated from UF with a master’s in agricultural biological engineering, said, “I’ll advocate for a program to collect long-term weather and water-flow measurement data to help Haitians better manage watersheds and improve agricultural productivity.”
Liliane Poinçon, whose UF master’s thesis focused on how Haiti’s important farmer’s associations serve women, said: “I want to work for youth and women’s empowerment for many reasons, mainly to improve their access to education and to support entrepreneurship.” While earning her degree Poinçon won two scholarship awards and presented four presentations at academic conferences across the U.S. and Canada.
Lemâne Delva, a Haitian native who possesses a Ph.D. from UF and serves as director of research for the AREA project, said Haiti desperately needs professionals with advanced degrees to fill leadership roles and provide expertise to tackle pressing food shortages and nutrition challenges.
“No matter where they end up working, their research and expertise is going to have a significant impact on the agricultural sector in Haiti,” Delva said.