Empowering Haitian Rice Farmers

Maryse Jumelle and her husband Charles are passionate entrepreneurs who have revived a rice mill in the Artibonite region in Haiti. Charles’ family had been in the rice production business for generations. It was his wife, Maryse, who convinced him to restart operations.

Known as the rice basin of Haiti, Artibonite is a rich, fertile region fed by seasonal rains and the Artibonite river. When Maryse first moved there with her husband, she didn’t know anyone in the area besides her in-laws. It is a traditional community and local farmers are afraid of modernization, she says. “But, when I arrived in the plains of Artibonite, in Pont Sonde, I found a small house—a cottage—and I said to Charles: ‘I love this place, I would really like to settle here and work in rice production.’” The couple stayed and launched Moulin Nan Noté, an enterprise that produces rice and purchases it from local farmers. They operate a rice mill and sell Haitian rice domestically. After 10 years in business, they are now looking to export as well.

Rice cultivation is typically dominated by women in Artibonite and Maryse has also been instrumental in organizing a women’s association of rice producers and laborers in Saint-Marc. The association is called Fanm Plantez Renal-Preval and has over 400 members. Moulin Nan Noté’s location is extremely convenient for local farmers.  It offers local producers an alternative to walking many kilometers to find a mill. Moulin Nan Noté has also built shelters to protect their rice farmers from the blazing sun while they parboil their crop.

Moulin Nan Noté buys rice from local farmers, while also allowing them to use the mill for a small fee, if they wish to sell their rice directly. With funds from the Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments (LEAD) program, Moulin Lanoté was able to purchase equipment to modernize its operations, including cultivation, storage and packaging for sale in supermarket.  

LEAD was launched in 2011 by USAID to provide support for small- and medium-sized enterprises in Haiti. The program is implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation, which provides technical assistance. To date, the program has supported 31 Haitian enterprises.

“It is because of the LEAD grant that I could buy modern appliances such as a bagging machine, sealers, and scales,” says Maryse.  “I would not have been able to market at this level without using LEAD, if I did not participate in the business plan competitions and win!”

The company also used its own capital to match the LEAD grant and was able to purchase important equipment such as tillers and a silo.  LEAD has facilitated consultations with international and local agronomists who will help Maryse and Charles to triple their production.

Moulin Nan Noté sells many varieties of Haitian rice—white, parboiled, high-fiber—which they process and bag in their location in Port-au-Prince. Their product is available under the brand name Délice in 2.5, 5, 10, 25 and even 100-pound bags at supermarkets and wholesalers in Port-au-Prince. Recently, their rice was sent to a lab in Canada for testing and they are now able to add a nutrition label to their bags.

Maryse and Charles credit the LEAD program for helping them run a more professional business. "The training on accounting and finance that LEAD offered us has allowed us to formalize our business,” says Maryse. “Now we have an operating manual that covers all our procedures; we use financial software; we generate timely reports that help us make good decisions. Now Moulin Nan Noté is a modern business.”

The business makes a big impact on local farmers. Before this enterprise restarted the mill, rice producer Lillianne Alexis walked very far, carrying her rice on donkeys or by motorcycle to mill it and resell it. Her rice lost value when it was broken instead of milled. Now, she says, “the machines at Nan Noté are excellent!” The proximity of the mill is also a plus for farmers as they don’t have to spend their money on transportation.

Maryse and Charles are not done dreaming. After modernizing their operations, they hope to join the export market. Parboiled rice, which is beloved in Haiti, is characterized by a strong odor. Further, its processing is often done using firewood, which is a strain on local forests. Moulin Nan Noté will benefit from another USAID program called LEVE, which will help the company purchase an electric steamer and dryer. This will help farmers standardize the color and quality of the rice and reduce the odor. Moulin Nan Noté will export this rice throughout the Caribbean as well as to North America.

And after that? Maryse and Charles are passionate entrepreneurs who have set their sights on expanding into rice flour production and brown rice. LEAD is proud of the achievements of these two future leaders in the Haitian rice industry and looks forward to their continued success.

About LEAD
USAID’s Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments (LEAD) project aims to attract investments in Haitian SMEs and increase the development impact of remittances. LEAD operates in the three development corridors: Cap-Haïtien, Saint-Marc, and Port-au-Prince. The project is implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).