Haitian Farmers Have Sold their Coffee at the Wrong Price. A Local Company is Changing That
sept 08, 2022 | Ayiti Demen
With funding support from FOKAL and Ayiti Demen in 2021, Café-Lux, a social enterprise, is able to offer thousands of Haitian farmers better prices for their coffee beans and training in farming techniques to grow quality products.
Credit photo: Reginald Louissaint
Beniton Magloire, a Haitian farmer in his sixties, has been immersed in coffee for as long as he can remember. Not only is it the drink that kicks off his day every morning, but coffee growing has also been his family’s main subsistence activity. “As a kid, I would go to the farm with my mom every June, and she taught me everything about coffee.”
So, it did not take Beniton long to figure out that he would become a coffee farmer. At only eighteen, he was already raising his crops. “Coffee is really what allowed me to get into business,” he says. He now harvests some 250 pounds of coffee beans a year on his own piece of land in Jacmel, one of the most forested parts of Haiti.
Coffee farming has historically played a vital role in the Haitian economy. In the mid-20th century, Haiti was the world’s third largest exporter of coffee, and thousands of Haitian families rely on it as their primary source of income. The mountainous configuration of the land offers ideal environmental conditions to grow arabica, the world’s best coffee quality, in Haiti.
Credit photo: Reginald Louissaint
However, despite their hard labor, small farmers like Beniton have long struggled to enjoy the full benefit of the coffee trade. When Haiti was forced to pay $560 million for the “independence debt” to France between 1825 and 1947, these funds largely came from charges imposed on coffee farmers. In addition, speculators often underprice their products and resell them at substantially higher prices in the international market. Baffled by this unfair practice –among other challenges, many farmers decide to replace coffee with vegetable crops, hoping to improve their economic opportunities.
"I wanted to create new opportunities for these farmers by purchasing their coffee beans at a better price so they can find decent revenues to provide education to their children and feed their families.''
– Remy Telfils, founder of Café-Lux
Remy Telfils, an agricultural engineer who also grew up in a coffee-growing family, thought he would change that. So, fresh out of college, he started in 2013 Café-Lux, a social enterprise that specializes in the production and marketing of roast coffee.
“I wanted to create new opportunities for these farmers by purchasing their coffee beans at a better price so they can find decent revenues to provide education to their children and feed their families,” Remy says. “So far, we are on the right path.”
Café-Lux operates with a network of more than 10,000 coffee growers of which Beniton has been a member for four years. The farmers receive an advance payment to sustain their needs during the production cycle, which can last up to five years.
But weather hazards are such a threat to coffee production in Haiti. When the tropical storm Grace hit the southeast of Haiti last year, Remy was a front-line witness to the devastation. “Many farms were destroyed, equipment was lost, and sites of farmers’ associations collapsed, he recounts. But we are building back now.”
With the money raised from their earthquake relief campaign last year, FOKAL and Ayiti Demen offered a grant to Café-Lux so the company and the farmers could resume their activities. That funding, Remy thinks, makes a world of difference. ”We bought a giant coffee grinder, coffee packages, and equipment to produce seedlings to distribute to the farmers,” he says
Last year, Café-Lux produced about 10,000 pounds of coffee, most of which was sold as ground coffee or beans to different stores in Port-a-Prince, according to Remy. The company has made its debut on the international market with some distribution in Canada and the United States and featured an exhibition sale in Germany.
Credit photo: Reginald Louissaint
With the funding provided by FOKAL and Haiti Demen in 2021, Café-Lux acquires a giant coffee grinder and other equipment. Its 2021 production was estimated at some 10,000 pounds of coffee.
But much more remains to be done. Remy says Cafe-Lux wants to repair the storage site and purchase an electronic coffee bean sorter to increase production capacity. “If coffee was used to pay the independence debt, that means it has a lot of value. Coffee can really bring money to the farmers and boost the country’s economy, but we need to give them [the farmers] resources so they can expand their production.”
"When we work together as farmers, we develop friendships, share ideas, and much more."
– Beniton Magloire, coffee farmer
It is, in fact, thanks to coffee growing that Beniton manages to raise a family of six children, some of whom are now college graduates. But more than just an economic activity, coffee growing, as he sees it, can also serve as a catalyst for social cohesion and strengthen communities. “When we work together as farmers, we develop friendships, share ideas, and much more.”
When we give, we give big
Haitian Filmmaker Gessica Généus Named as Ayiti Demen Ambassador
July 25, 2022 | Ayiti Demen
NEW YORK, NY. – Ayiti Demen’s board has selected acclaimed Haitian filmmaker Gessica Généus as the organization’s goodwill ambassador. In this role, Gessica will help communicate to people around the world the work Ayiti Demen is doing to improve lives in Haiti.
“Our work is more important than ever as the country is facing enormous problems. We need fresh voices carrying out new visions of the future,” says Michèle Pierre-Louis, Ayiti Demen’s board chairperson. “And Gessica is a shining example of what young Haitians can do to make things better. We are very proud that she joins our cause.”
“Using my platform to promote an organization like Ayiti Demen aligns with what I stand for,” says Gessica. “That means leveraging my social media presence to highlight some excellent and honest work happening in Haiti. And Ayiti Demen is a particularly worthwhile initiative to me, and I am very comfortable endorsing it.”
Gessica’s collaboration with Ayiti Demen is not a new one. After a devastating earthquake hit the southern part of Haiti last year, she held a screening event for her film, Freda, and donated 50% of the proceeds to the FOKAL Haiti Relief Fund, a fundraising effort led by the Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty (FOKAL) and Ayiti Demen.
“Gessica embodies the vision of Haitian youth we are promoting at Ayiti Demen. She is dynamic, competent, and committed,” says Yvens Rumbold, Ayiti Demen’s executive director. “An important part of Ayiti Demen’s mission is to help globally change the narrative about Haiti to something that values the courage and dignity of its people. Gessica has long championed that cause, especially through her latest film Freda which has received a lot of publicity worldwide.”
Gessica Généus is an award-winning actress and filmmaker. She began her career at 17 years old, starring in many film roles in Haitian and foreign productions. She later attended film school in Paris and founded Ayizan Productions, a film production company. Her feature films The Day Will Dawn (2017) and Freda (2021) continue to be shown around the world.
Founded in 2007 to support FOKAL’s work, Ayiti Demen is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in the State of New York. Its mission is to improve lives in Haiti by empowering local communities and supporting FOKAL’s partners such as grassroots organizations working in education, art & culture, and sustainable development in Haiti.
When we give, we give big
How a Young Artist Finds her Way Through Painting at Le Centre d’Art in Haiti
July 08, 2022 | Ayiti Demen
Like many emerging artists in Haiti, Anaïse Hector relies on Le Centre d’Art’s free-of-charge resources and low-cost educational programs to hone her craft and build a career in visuals arts.
Photo by Yves-Osner Dorvil
Anaïse Hector, 21, is an artist at heart. She was exposed to art very early as her father used to make her watercolors full of magic. “I found the way he played with the colors fascinating,” she says. Her passion grew even more during high school years when she attended various drawing classes. But it was not until 2018 when she joined Le Centre d’Art –a vibrant hub of Haitian arts and artists located in the nation’s capital– that she became convinced of her creative potential. “I realized that art is not just a hobby for me but a form of expression, and that’s what I want to do. So I want to dedicate more time to my craft,” says Anaïse, also a psychology student. Her primary artistic activity is painting; at times, she can also get her hands on collage and sculpture. The dominant theme of her work is femininity, aiming “to free women’s body image from social norms.”
It is not easy to juggle school, art, and social life being so young, but Anaïse manages and stays focused. The biggest challenge, however, that comes her way is inadequate finances to procure painting supplies, which are very expensive for most emerging talents with low or no income. Le Centre d’Art, since its reopening in 2015, has offered a creative space, workshops, and art materials to more than 800 artists based in disciplines ranging from drawing, painting, sculpture, or even photography. “That helps me a lot when Le Centre d’Art gives me painting materials,” Anaïse says.
One of Anaïse’s favorite parts of being part of Le Centre d’Art is the opportunity to receive mentorship from some of Haiti’s elite artists like Mario Benjamin, Tessa Mars, and Pascale Monin. “Being around them and learning from them is a big deal and an honor for me,” she said. A highlight of her journey was the moment veteran Haitian sculptor Lionel St Eloi told her while working on a painting at Le Centre d’Art facilities, “You’ll become a great artist.” That is the kind of message of hope and confidence any young artist needs to hear.
"I used to be the only woman to participate in the art workshops, but that is no longer the case."
– Anaïse Hector
Despite the daily crises raging in the country in recent years, Anaïse is hopeful for the future. She is particularly excited to see a more significant feminine presence in the art landscape. “I used to be the only woman to participate in the art workshops, but that is no longer the case” she says. The recent all-female art exhibition, Vives, hosted by Le Centre d’Art in early 2022, brought her much motivation and inspiration. Ultimately, she wishes for “more growth in the art market in Haïti so that artists can make a living entirely from their artwork.
When we give, we give big
FOKAL won the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2022
APRIL 14, 2022 | Ayiti Demen
FOKAL’s work is “a shining example of implementing the principle of human fraternity,” noted one of the jury members.
This prestigious recognition provides further confidence that The Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty (FOKAL) “plays a vital role in shaping the lives of the local youth and supporting hard-working communities at the grassroots level,” read a statement from the organization behind the Zayed award.
“The prize came as a big surprise,” said Michèle Pierre-Louis, FOKAL’s president and Ayiti Demen’s board chair. In a video broadcast during the ceremony on Feb 28, 2022, she emphasizes FOKAL’s commitment to improving the lives of Haitians. “You can sense the solidarity that exists among them. You can sense also the precariousness in which they are living. And that’s why the support we give to those communities is so important to us.”
FOKAL is a private foundation established in 1995 in Haiti. It has several programs in education, development, and arts and culture, which it runs cooperatively with the local organizations. Our fundraising efforts at Ayiti Demen provide much-needed financial support to many of the FOKAL’s programs.
By receiving the 2022 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, shared with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, FOKAL joins the shortlist of outstanding recipients such as Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, and Antonio Gúterres, the Secretary-general of the United Nations. A monetary prize of $1 million dollars is given to the awardees.
When we give, we give big
on the field
Bringing water back to farmer’s communities
Bringing water back to farmers’ communities in the South
For more than a month after the August 14, 2021, earthquake, farming
communities dependent on the most important irrigation canal in the
commune of Camp-Perrin had no access to water for their plantations.
Landslides caused by the earthquake prevented the flow of water.
Thanks to the intervention of the Association of Avezac Canal Residents,
supported by FOKAL as part of its post-earthquake solidarity program,
water has been circulating in this canal, which dates to the colonial era in
1759. A team from FOKAL and Ayiti Demen visited the site.
The earthquake of August 14 surprised Eval Sylnéus, a user of the
Avezac Canal, with one of his sons in his garden. Since 1970, Eval has
been using the water from the canal for his crops. This septuagenarian
grows legumes, tubers, and market garden products that he sells to local
consumers in Camp-Perrin and Les Cayes. Since the earthquake and the
lack of water in the Canal, Eval had stopped his activities. The canal, an
important agricultural infrastructure in the region, irrigates some 3,500
hectares in the plains of Camp-Perrin and Les Cayes and supports
between 6,000 and 7,000 families like Eval's. Water is used not only to
irrigate the land and water the animals, but also for laundry and in some
places, after treatment, to quench their thirst.
"The canal is a common good. It is a success for the community.
Many young people have become agronomists, secretaries, engineers…
It is thanks to this canal because it has allowed us to pay for their
education. When we can't use it, it's a great loss for all of us," explains
the farmer, sitting on his porch with his wife, shelling corn.
The intervention in the canal in the aftermath of the earthquake
To better understand the operation of the canal and observe the
points of crack caused by the earthquake and the work done, the team
walked more than two kilometers along the canal, from the point of
collection of water from the river to the point of separation of the
secondary branches: the branch of Laborde, 14 kilometers long and that
of Pemel, 12 kilometers long. Twenty-six (26) secondary canals are
attached to it. For this visit, the Association of irrigators of the Avezac
Canal (AIDA) designated its president, Mr. Esio Charles. The association
had contacted FOKAL to support the first works of clearing the Canal
obstructed by landslides at seven different points.
"We started the initial work with about 70 volunteers from the city. We
motivated community members for this effort. But given the extent of the
damage, we needed support. Thanks to the support of FOKAL and the
South Departmental Directorate of Public Works, we were able to clear
the canal and bring back the water one month after the earthquake,"
explains Esio, showing piles of earth removed from the canal. The
landslides had not only blocked the flow of water from the point of
capture, but the river could not feed the canal and parts of the retaining
wall were cracked or destroyed. We can see up close the risks of a new
silting up if it is not repaired, because the destroyed places are at the foot
of small mountains.
To carry out the work, the foundation's financial support created
dozens of temporary jobs, provided food for the volunteers who were
mobilized for long hours, rented heavy equipment such as an excavator
and a dump truck, and rented tools such as shovels, wheelbarrows, and
"This canal is particularly important to the region. It allows users to
grow up to four crops a year. The crops do not just stay in Cayes and
Camp Perrin, they go all over the country. People really counted on this
work for the continuity of their economic activities," adds Esio Charles,
former mayor of the town of Camp-Perrin. Masonry work is needed to
repair cracked areas, reinforce retaining walls or build sections.
A saved planting campaign, but greater autonomy desired
With the water that has returned to the Canal, the winter legume
planting campaign was no longer in danger. This campaign starts every
year in November. However, the users of the canal would like the
association to have its own equipment in the future to strengthen their
ability to act quickly in the event of such events. "One of our greatest
needs within the Association is to have our own equipment on site to
bring water back into the Canal as soon as there is a problem, […]
because often after a heavy rain, the gully can deviate from its bed,
which diverts the water from the catchment point. If we could have our
own excavator or backhoe loader, to clean the canal regularly, it would
be much better for us," says Esio Charles.
For Eval Sylnéus, this is more than necessary: "We would like this canal
not to have any failures. The materials are extremely important. This
channel is our soul, our two eyes.”
About AIDA and the Avezac Canal
AIDA is made up of a network of 180 members and governed by an
executive committee of 9 members. To consider the needs of all users,
the Association has created Canal Sub-Committees (CSCs), which are
responsible for the secondary canals of several communities connected
to the Avezac Canal, as well as Users' Groups (UGs) of each of the
secondary canals. These groups are responsible for the cleaning of each
of the branches corresponding to their locality.
It took Pierre Valentin d'Avezac six years, between 1759 and 1765, to
complete the construction of the Avezac Canal. Numerous subsequent
interventions have taken place to maintain the Canal since its creation.