CHF Building Capacity of the Haitian Fishing Industry

Carpenters assemble a new 40-foot fishing boat for COPPA, members of which will be able to use the boat for expeditions in exchange for a portion of the profits.PHOTO: Carpenters assemble a new 40-foot fishing boat for COPPA, members of which will be able to use the boat for expeditions in exchange for a portion of the profits.

Christmas came early for fishermen in Cap-Haitien, as CHF delivered a shipment of supplies that will help members of a local cooperative move into large-scale seafood production.

The shipment of supplies - which includes surprisingly hard-to-find items like high-quality hooks, line, netting, and refrigeration units is the latest component of a comprehensive grant that is building the capacity of the Fisherman's Cooperative of Petite-Anse (COPPA, using the French acronym).

CHF Project Manager Jacques Cherfils notes that while the material received might not sound exciting, it offers a major improvement to locally-available materials, and gives them an extraordinary advantage. "Fishermen in Haiti work in a very rudimentary way," notes Cherfils. "It's not very technical. Even the Ministry of Agriculture, which controls fishing, doesn't have this type of material."

COPPA Secretary General Rodney Brutus agrees, saying that despite its extensive coastline and wealth of marine resources, "Fishing is a very neglected sector of the Haitian economy." And yet he has big ambitions for his 80-member collective. "Our objective is to become a registered company, not just to serve Haiti, but to export seafood internationally," says Brutus.

Using grant money, the cooperative built a 560 square-foot building that now serves as their office, meeting space, storage area, and classroom. At the new building, fishermen in the collective have already begun a 10-part training regimen designed to modernize the skills of their members. Over the next two months, members will receive expert training on subjects such as marine biology, maritime navigation, and modern fishing techniques. Brutus takes a long view of what the educational initiatives mean for COPPA: "We are currently training our members' sons and daughters in fishing, creating a large number of jobs, and are working to change our profession for the better."

Members of the COPPA fishermen cooperative receive training in emergency first aid as part of their 10-module curriculum designed to  help them improve their capacity and performance as fishermen.PHOTO: Members of the COPPA fishermen cooperative receive training in emergency first aid as part of their 10-module curriculum designed to help them improve their capacity and performance as fishermen.

In another major element of the grant to COPPA, CHF has provided funding for the construction of a new 40-foot boat that the cooperative will use for fishing trips by its members. As per COPPA's policy regarding its small fleet, members will be able to use the new boat for fishing expeditions in exchange for giving a portion of the eventual proceeds to the cooperative, which will allow COPPA to pay for new materials, repairs, training, and other activities.

COPPA President Geemps Severe beamed with pride about his organization's future, noting, "In terms of vision and capacity, we are close to realizing our dream."

CHF's grant to the fishermen of COPPA is part of its 4-year, USAID-funded job-creation project, KATA. During the life of KATA, CHF has completed similar fisheries projects in Gonaives, Saint Marc, and Port-au-Prince as a means of improving livelihoods in Haiti.