The Fruits of Women’s Empowerment

By Daniella De Franco and Isaac Gardner
Like many women in Desvarieux, Haiti, Nadege Gabriel works hard to make ends meet. In a rural economy burdened by instability and poor market infrastructure, she struggles to maintain a steady income and worries about how to keep her young son and daughter in school.

A small grove of Francique mango trees is offering Nadege new hope and a sustainable source of income. A variety unique to Haiti, the Francique mango is prized on the export market for its sweet and spicy flavor. Yet for years farmers had little choice but to sell their mangoes through local traders at far below market value.

TechnoServe is transforming the industry through the Haiti Hope Project, a private-public partnership which is helping smallholder mango farmers increase their incomes and connect to international markets. We train farmers in the best ways to produce, handle and market better quality fruit, and we help them organize into producer business groups so they can sell directly to exporters at higher prices.

“Our mangoes have importance in our community now. We are learning how to manage our trees as valuable assets, ” says Nadege, whose mango income has grown 75 percent a year since joining the project in 2012.

Nearly half of the 27,000 farmers enrolled in Haiti Hope are women. As the poto mitan (“central pillar” in Haitian Creole) of the family and the economy, women play a vital role in the mango industry’s growth.

TechnoServe believes that supporting opportunities for women is critical to alleviating poverty. Projects like Haiti Hope demonstrate how we can create greater impact by engaging and benefiting both women and men.

From the outset, we responded to farmers’ needs and held trainings at times that fit women’s busy schedules. We facilitated access to credit for women at equal rates to men.

We worked to ensure that women are represented in leadership positions.

Initially, women performed tasks such as washing mangoes during the harvest; now they are also managing payment from the exporter and taking on key marketing responsibilities. TechnoServe has provided group leadership trainings that emphasize how men and women can create a stronger business when they work together and make collective decisions. Women now hold a third of the leadership roles in Haiti Hope’s producer business groups.

“It creates a supportive environment,” says Yasmine Joseph, a Haiti Hope farmer who serves as her group’s marketing agent. “We do not have to rely on men all the time to do the work involved in harvesting and selling mangoes.”

Soon after she joined the project, Nadege was elected treasurer of her 125-member-strong producer business group, which has turned a profit for over two years.

“We need to work actively to keep up the momentum,” Nadege says. She is planning for the future by planting more mango trees.

“I’m pursuing a better life for my family. I want my kids to stay in school,” she says.