Whatever one’s opinion of climate science, the effects of global warming are directly impacting Haitian farmers in a negative way. For the past three years, we have experienced long periods of drought even during seasons that have never known an issue with rainfall. In an ironic coincidence, the period of drought began in 2013 when the iF Foundation started its agricultural program in Northern Haiti. Having access to credit, better seed, land preparation and technical support was serendipitous for our farmers during this time of extreme hardship as these factors mitigated the impact of the sustained drought. However, reimbursement rates for the loans suffered as farmer success depends on weather conditions as well as crop choice and market conditions. Access to water is the primary contributor to agricultural success as this determines which crops farmers will be able to grow and how much their land will produce. As rainfall becomes less predictable (or absent), farmers cannot make informed crop choices and must fall back on traditional planting calendars. This increases risk factors in an already risky venture. In our catchment area, 75% of crop loss was directly attributable to drought conditions.
This spring, a team of five dedicated students from the Tuck School of Business committed to working with the iF Foundation through Tuck’s First-Year Project course. The First-Year Project course (FYP) offers Tuck students the opportunity to apply classroom learning to real world issues and complex business challenges. The Team of five students, chosen for their expertise and diversity of experience, focused on identifying market opportunities for the increased agricultural production of iF’s farmers. The market for crop production in Haiti is local and dominated by a network of middlemen who control pricing, as well as small women merchants who cannot absorb increased supply. In addition, Haiti does not have institutions that function as a commodity exchange either to set market prices or broker transactions. Production, distribution and sales channels are fragmented causing farmers to be resistant to produce more because of lack of demand and storage. With this knowledge, The Tuck Team set out to learn what market opportunities are available for iF to stimulate demand for its increased agricultural production both domestically and internationally, while working toward its goal of achieving financial sustainability.