Sweet Success: Rebuilding Haiti’s Cocoa Industry through PADF’s USAID-funded LEAD program
Life in the Haiti’s cocoa industry isn’t always sweet - just ask Patrick Leger whose chocolate business suffered major setbacks as a result of Haiti’s 2010 quake. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage was caused in seconds,” Leger explains. “At that moment, it was hard to imagine we would ever recover.”
But recover they did. Leger’s cocoa export business, SOGEPA, was also an employment-generating small and medium enterprise (SME), making it a perfect candidate for the Business Plan Competition, a matching grant program held under the Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investment (LEAD) project, which is implemented by PADF and funded by USAID. LEAD works to increase employment in Haiti and strengthen the capacity of SMEs to generate income. The Haitian cocoa industry supports approximately 20,000 small farm cacao growers and is part of a value chain that includes other SMEs involved in post-farm transport and processing for domestic consumption and export. It thus is an ideal sector to consider for achieving both of LEAD’s objectives. SOGEPA, which sources from over 450 Haitian cocoa producers, submitted a well-conceived business plan to LEAD to develop this industry and therefore was selected to receive a grant to match its own investment.
“LEAD came along when we needed them most,” Leger explains. “Not only did they allow us to re-build, but also they gave us the power to look towards the future. The cocoa industry in Haiti has so much potential. Currently we export raw beans but the possibilities of increasing in-country value are huge. Our next steps are to develop cocoa bean processing facilities in Haiti (to produce cocoa powder and chocolate) as well as seek fair-trade labeling.” He is using his funds from LEAD to purchase new equipment, such as electric dryers, and to upgrade SOGEPA’s existing facilities to increase the amount and value of cocoa the business is able to produce and export, as well as sell domestically.
The cocoa industry and SOGEPA are aiding Haitian female workers in particular. “This job saved me after the earthquake,” Regina Renaud, a 32 year old cocoa bean sorter, explained. “It is because of SOGEPA that I am able to send my kids to school and put food on the table.”
The second round of LEAD’s Business Plan Competition has been launched. If you are a Haitian or Haitian-diaspora business owner, go to www.leadinvestmentshaiti.info to see if your business qualifies for a matching grant today.