A sense of pride and achievement was evident throughout the Communal Section of Desvarieux, Mirebalais. In the last week of July 2011, there was one main topic of discussion at all gatherings: COEPDA, the main farmer’s association in Mirebalais, had been awarded the 2011 certificate of “best quality” mangoes in Haiti. This award meant that Desvarieux farmers provided the market with the highest quality and fewest rejected mangoes within the Federation of Biological Mango Exporters, a national group of 12 associations that accounts for 27 percent of mango exports.
“This is an award all farmers of Desvarieux should be proud of, and we want to exclusively share it with (USAID’s Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources). It is thanks to the project’s support that we could reach such a high level of accepted mangoes,” said Fistel Cenobe, chairman of COEPDA, the 216-strong farmer association.
“Quality recognition is a nice thing, but what it really means is that I got more money out of my harvest!” added Jean Sauveur, a mango grower who doubled his revenue as he increased his percentage of accepted mangoes from 43 percent in 2010 to 92 percent in 2011. Upon learning that the project would focus on development of the mango value chain in the Mirebalais region, he said, “That was already good news. We, the farmers, are only asking for guidance. We’ll do our part.”
Before the support by the USAID-funded project, mango producers in Mirebalais had been losing 30 to 40 percent of their product during post-harvest handling due to lack of training and poor transportation infrastructure.
“Mangoes, contrary to appearances, are very fragile,” said COEPDA’s chairman. ”We would lose a large amount due to three main reasons: exposure to rain, bruising during transportation, and inappropriate storage.”
To help farmers lower their rates of rejected mangoes and increase the exportable quantities from their regular harvest, the project provided farmers in Mirebalais with 6,000 crates — 1,500 crates went to COEPDA alone. In addition, the project provided associations with 12 triangle tables and drums for washing the mangoes, improving handling, and reducing losses and damage. The project helped the associations establish mobile collection centers to sort and group mangoes before shipment to packinghouses, allowing them to negotiate higher prices with exporters.
Other farmers have their own reasons for celebration. The project provided post-harvest equipment to five farmer associations in the Mirebalais/Saut d’Eau region, leading to considerable increases in export-ready mangoes. More than 1,000 farmers earned increased revenue per mango tree. The success of RAPCOM, an association of 250 farmers in Saut d’Eau, is a perfect example. Thanks to the project’s post-harvest support, the farmers exported 7,500 dozen mangoes in 2011, up from 900 dozen in 2010, a remarkable improvement.