|AQUAPLUS Haiti: AVSI Partnership with Rotary International Addresses Food Security and Supports Local Economic Growth|
Les Cayes, Haiti – On May 16th a new research center established to transform local cassava root into unrefined flour and crackers under the AQUAPLUS Program was inaugurated in Les Cayes, Haiti at the Catholic University of Haiti “Université Notre-Dame d’Haiti” (UNDH). The center is part of the AQUAPLUS project carried out by a successful partnership between Rotary International, EXPO 2015, Unicredit Foundation, University of Milan, World Food Program, MLFM and the AVSI Foundation. The project aims to strengthen the Haitian supply chain in order to address food insecurity in the country and to create best practices for the World Expo to be held in Milan in 2015. The processing unit includes a workshop and an experimental production lab for students with milling and roasting facilities and test equipment to ensure quality and safety.
The ceremony took place at the UNDH, in Les Cayes, Municipality of Torbeck, in the presence of Cardinal Chibly Langlois, who blessed the processing unit.
During the inauguration, Mgr. Pierre-André Pierre, rector of the UNDH, announced that the center will allow the university to realize its dream: being at the service of the most marginalized communities of the country through the three pillars of its mission: learning, studying and serving. Moreover, Mgr. Pierre emphasized that the center will also help to increase the value of local products, especially those derived from cassava. He invited the Haitian people to start working to find proper solutions for a new Haiti. The rector praised the fruitful partnership between UNDH and the University of Milan for having helped expand UNDH’s horizons over the years.
Piermarco Romagnoli, AQUAPLUS project manager, reaffirmed the will of Rotary International to support Haitian economic development through its program. He also stressed the key role played by the participation and commitment of the local community to ensure efficiency and sustainability of project actions.
Alberto Piatti, President of AVSI Foundation, highlighted the importance of partnering with civil society organizations (CSOs) like AVSI in order cover what he calls the “last mile”. CBOs act as the necessary link between the social infrastructure providing goods and services (private or public) and the individual person, making sure they are actually reached and helped by the services provided. According to Piatti, the best way to make sure people are fed is by investing in their dignity. Moreover, Piatti affirmed that true stability is found when human beings are made aware of their conditions and of their value.
Gladys Mexil Guiteau, Commissioner General of Haiti for Expo Milano 2015, showed interest and approval in integrated projects like AQUAPLUS that help Haiti break the socio-economic impasse which continues to affect the country. She invited Haitian people to become protagonists of their future and took the occasion to announce that Haitian products will be showcased in a special pavilion during the EXPO 2015 in Milan.
Jean Jacques Débalio, Departmental Director for the South of the Ministry of Agriculture, encouraged the fight against food insecurity in the country. According to him, the liberalization of the Haitian market after 1986 (democratic “bamboche” by Henry Namphy) has led the country to an economic dependency that is without precedent.
Students and local farmers reached by the project expressed their satisfaction and thanked all the actors involved in the partnership who gave their support for the implementation of the different stages of the project.
AVSI’s presence in Haiti began in 1999 with a 5-year programme to support the newly created School of Agronomy at the Catholic University of Haiti (UNDH) in the southern city of Les Cayes.
In 2004, AVSI activities in Haiti expanded to the capital Port-au-Prince, specifically to two critical neighborhoods, Cité Soleil and Martissant, both shanty towns infamous for their poverty, violence and insecurity.
Today, AVSI is engaged with several projects in the fields of agriculture, nutrition, water, environment, education, psychosocial support and vocational training.