This post is adapted from Partners of the Americas’ Agriculture and Food Security blog.
I began volunteering in Haiti through Partners’ Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program ten years ago. My initial work involving meat rabbit production eventually evolved into food security and meat quality assurance. My most recent trip, which took place this past November, was my first assignment specific to meat goat production and management. This assignment was expected to help producers 1) evaluate/assess their current system of goat production management including feeding, reproduction, and overall maintenance (shade, ventilation, aeration, heat, etc.); and 2) identify and reinforce best practices to improve the quality of their product.
Recently, the meat goat industry in Haiti has experienced significant advancement. Farmers and hosts have easier access to supplies including fencing wire, veterinary medicines and supplies, and feeds, and the number of goat farmers and goat inventories have increased.
Hoof trimming demonstration
In return, there is a need to educate farmers about some of the advancements. For example, veterinary medicines are more readily available, since is now possible for farmers to travel to the Dominican Republic to pick them up. In return, farmers need to be taught usage, dosage, disposal, and withdrawal for meat and milk.
Excessive rains and flooding seriously constrained my assignment – Haiti received over 36 inches of rain during the two-week stay. For the first five days, other F2F volunteers and myself had limited access to areas beyond the hotel, and our in-country colleagues were unable to access us. However, we made the best of our situation. My colleague on the trip, F2F volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, and I stayed positive and used the time we were holed up to develop relevant training documents and detailed presentation that we would utilize during trainings the remainder of the two-week period.
Flooding at end of first week
On the sixth day the rain let up, and trainings began. Myriam and I alternated days between lectures and hands-on practicums, optimizing training for each group of farmers, technicians, and students in the various villages. This strategy allowed us to better serve more groups with the same information. I provided training for three different groups; one for field technicians from Makouti Agro Enterprises, “a diversified agriculture business and marketing cooperative owned and operated in Haiti,” in Cap Haitien, one for farmers and students in Ferrier, and another for technicians and farmers in Robillard.
Technician looking into microscope to assess fecal-egg count
Both the lecture and hands-on training covered detailed information on nutrition, selection, production, management, reproduction, parasitism, FAMACHA, health, disease, shelter, confirmation, kidding, body-condition scoring, estimating body weights using a measuring tape, hoof trimming, castration, injection sites, ear tag application, and deworming.
My current and past volunteer trips have shown me that a strong interest in improving quality of individual animals and herds, providing adequate nutrition including water, and quality of animal husbandry, is needed in Haiti. While many Haitian farmers sincerely enjoy raising goats, they fail to take the initiative to improve various aspects of production quality. I have observed this for years with all types of livestock production in Haiti, and it is also a common problem in the United States among novice livestock producers.