Last Monday it was as if a bank was operating in the remote farming community of Sarrasin in Haiti’s Central Plateau. But instead of 11 new accounts being opened with cash deposits, 11 members of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) each received a goat. Livestock is important for milk production, but to smallholders it is also the equivalent of a bank account that can be cashed out to cover major family expenses.
For SFA farmers, livestock has an additional role as the basis of our “passing gift” program. It began in Sarrasin last summer when 20 farmers – a balance of women and men selected by community consensus – each received a goat they will own only after gifting two offspring to other farmers on the community list. That is what Monday’s ceremony was about: the first offspring from the original 20 goats were presented to 11 farmers on that list. These latest recipients will in turn own their goats after giving away two offspring. Having been set in motion with this passing gift tradition built in, the program is completely owned and managed by the community and will continue to build prosperity and solidarity in Sarrasin for years.
Goats were distributed at a ceremony in which each farmer signed a contract pledging to pass on two offspring before owning their goat. Click photo or here to play video.
Our first passing gift livestock program began in 2013 when SFA farmers in our Gonaive branch received a gift of 19 cows (and one bull) from Heifer International. Since then there have been 36 offspring from that original gift, and the program is still going strong. The only long-term cost to the SFA for this and other locations where the program currently operates is sponsoring a veterinarian to visit regularly.
Sarrasin is the newest of the SFA’s seven branches, and in all of them farmer members plant trees to earn credits they exchange for crop seed, hand tools and agricultural training. In several locations, tree planting also earns them participation in the passing gift livestock program.
There are more than 2,000 farmers who benefit from the SFA agricultural services in Sarrasin, while 850 are full members and operate the core agroforestry program. This translates to managing two nurseries that last year produced 53,000 trees.
The same day the goats arrived in Sarrasin, local farmer Kenol Joseph (standing in photo right) reported on progress since the SFA arrived in mid-2019. “As we watch the problems facing other farmers in this area,” said Kenol, “we are grateful that the SFA has helped us improve our yields and become better farmers. It has been a great success not just for each one of us, but also for our community.”