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Lèt Agogo: quality milk produced in Haiti for Haiti

18/11/2013 – Read the latest updates of the project supported by Brazil that is revitalizing the milk production chain in Haiti and has benefited more than 80,000 children through school feeding.

The project Lèt Agogo (“milk in abundance” in Creole) is still under implementation in Haiti, strengthening the supply chain for the distribution of milk in school canteens. The project, which is scheduled to end in December 2014, has been underway since 2011 with US$5.5 million funding from the Brazilian government. The project, the result of a partnership between the Brazilian government, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development of Haiti arrives in 2013 with a mark of more than 84 000 students receiving locally produced milk in their school lunches – about 4.5 million bottles of milk from the start of the project – and 710 milk producers supported with extension. It is expected that by the end of the project next year three more dairy associations will receive project investments, benefiting over 165 producers.

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The milk production in Haiti was largely demobilized by the liberalization of the economy in the 90s. Milk is the second largest imported product in the country, especially in the form of milk powder, which shows the great interest of the population in the product. Imports come from the Dominican Republic or the United States. At the same time, recent and recurrent socio-environmental disasters facing the country had enormous effect on food insecurity in Haiti, which requires investments to find solutions for a sustainable and resilient food production, which enables a stable supply of quality products at affordable prices. Local purchases from family farmers may have a central role in these efforts, and it is in this context that Lèt Agogo comes in.

Because of the difficulties that the local production chain of milk has found in Haiti, Brazil opted for strengthening production with emphasis on organic and agro ecological production, for their benefits in terms of health and nutritional sustainability, and also because these products present a highly valued differential in the markets in the region. Thus, FAO provides productive support to dairies benefited, by offering technical assistance, support in strengthening infrastructure (with renovations and equipment maintenance) and purchase of animals to strengthen existing herds.

Once produced, the milk is almost entirely acquired by the World Food Programme to be part of their school feeding programme in the country. As pointed out, the food security situation in Haiti was severely affected by the recent crisis, and school feeding has been an important tool for social protection to ensure that children in school enjoy at least one balanced meal a day. Today WFP buys about 70% of the production from the dairies supported by Lèt Agogo, and with the possibility that these dairies transition to produce organically, there is an expectation that the demand in other markets will grow increasingly. This would close the cycle of institutional purchases that Brazil supports, inspired by his own Food Purchase Programme; on the one hand, the farmers receive support to improve the quality and quantity of production and on the other, they count on guaranteed demand at the end of the production cycle, which encourages them to invest in their production, increasingly offering healthy food to their communities.

Many challenges remain for local purchases of milk to advance further in Haiti, especially related to the institutional difficulties still present in the country, some technology gaps, the growing need for extension and ensuring the participation of social movements and civil society in the debate about the importance of buying locally.  Nevertheless, Lèt Agogo shows that by exploring the productive possibilities of a country, even in conditions of high vulnerability, it is possible to find ways for farmers to feed their own communities and countries.

Watch the documentary “Lèt Agogo”, which describes the development of the project, directed by Brazilian reporter and film maker Celso Maldos.