CHF Haiti: CHF Builds Capacity of Cap Haitien Fisherman's Cooperative

CHF Haiti: CHF Builds Capacity of Cap Haitien Fisherman's Cooperative

fisherman's cooperative building

On March 29, CHF and the Fisherman's Cooperative of Petite-Anse celebrated completion of a livelihoods program in Cap Haitien that is already helping fishermen earn three times as much money as they did before.

The cooperative, better known by its French acronym, COPPA, worked with CHF to plan and implement a multifaceted eight-month program encompassing building construction, technical support, and capacity building.

COPPA President Geemps Severe expressed his gratitude for CHF's effort, noting "This project will permit the members of COPPA as well as neighboring fishermen to better manage their material and financial resources, and will improve the outlook for the fishing industry in Haiti."

COPPA has an 11-year history of working in Cap Haitien. As it transitions into a medium-sized, well-equipped, professionally run operation, it has proven to be resourceful in both management and fundraising. While the total value of the program was US$190,000, about 15% of that amount – just under US$30,000 – was raised by COPPA itself.

A critical first step of this livelihoods program was construction of a new building for COPPA. The resulting 560 square foot waterfront building was built and furnished by CHF. It is electrified both with a 16-kilowatt diesel generator and eight 135-watt solar panels, already a substantial advantage for any business in a country where most people do not have electricity.

The building itself has several sections and serves multiple purposes. It is an office space, and COPPA now uses it to centrally host its administrative and finance sections. Often, small businesses and organizations in Haiti are run from someone's home, backpack, or telephone rather than a dedicated office, something that risks loss of important documents, property, and other organizational resources.
The fact that COPPA now has a fixed office space – not to mention a computer, printer, and other material – sets the cooperative apart from its peers and keeps the atmosphere professional.

working with new netsThe building is also a warehouse. In addition to having space for simple fishing equipment, the building houses 100 cubic feet of freezer space that fishermen can use to store their products for future distribution. Too often, tropical heat spoils valuable seafood before fishermen can organize a sale, so refrigeration right at the water's edge will give COPPA a major advantage in safeguarding members' profits.

And the building is a classroom and conference space at which COPPA can provide continuing education to its members and hold general meetings. In fact, immediately after the building was complete, CHF used it to host a two-month, 10-seminar vocational training course for current and prospective members of COPPA. During the training sessions, 100 fishermen received 250 hours of classroom instruction and 350 hours of practical instruction on a variety of subjects including maritime navigation, fisheries law and environmental protection, marine biology, and small business management. The seminars were useful both in improving current members' existing capacity – and thus the cooperative's overall efficiency – as well in giving a "crash course" to a number of prospective or provisional members who will now be able to join COPPA and contribute from day one.

In addition to providing COPPA with a new building and advanced training, CHF also provided funding for the construction of a new 44-foot boat that cooperative members will soon begin using for group fishing trips. The new boat – several times larger than the typical rowboat or dugout canoe used by most Haitian fishermen – will allow COPPA fishermen to sail to deeper waters with less exploited fisheries, will allow fishermen to stay out at sea for longer durations, will increase the volume of fish that can be stored aboard, and will permit a greater number of colleagues aboard to use more complicated fishing techniques than a simple line or a small net. The flagship's maiden voyage is planned for this summer.

Finally, CHF provided COPPA with a wide variety of modern fishing equipment – a luxury in a country where the fishing industry is comprised primarily of single fishermen, sometimes in a dugout canoe, and almost only ever using a basic spear or shoddy net. With new supplies including basic sonar, GPS units, and reams of nylon netting, COPPA members admit that they are now better-equipped than even the Government of Haiti.

The new material supplied by CHF has already made a tremendous impact for the income of COPPA members. Cooperative members who use COPPA's resources for a fishing expedition agree to set aside half of any eventual sales profits to COPPA to cover operational costs, equipment maintenance, and general member support, then keep the other half for themselves. In previous expeditions, and with the limited equipment that COPPA could afford, profits were meager.

That changed dramatically with the most recent expedition in late March, when COPPA employed the new CHF-provided equipment such as sonar and nets, but not the new flagship. During their most recent trip, fishermen hauled back more than 200 pounds of high-quality fish worth 3 times as much as previous catches! When COPPA launches its new 44-foot flagship as a platform for their new fishing equipment, that number is likely to increase even more.

"Completing a project of this scale was a dream," explained Jean-Louis Tertilus, COPPA Technical Adviser. He stressed the importance of the fishing sector for his family, noting, "It is thanks to fishing that my son was able to say his first words and has had an opportunity to continue his education."

CHF's grant to the fishermen of COPPA is part of its four-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.