There was once an episode of the hit TV series, The Waltons, where the family was approached by a contractor seeking a huge lumber order. The Walton family mill could not provide the order by itself. But by combining forces with other mills in their area, they could. Strength in numbers.
That is essentially what is starting to happen in Haiti with small dairy farms, except there is no John-Boy Walton.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) kicked off a project in which small Haitian dairy farmers, by combining forces, can provide milk for the country's school feeding program.
WFP's David Orr recently reported on the story of Jean Claude Belizaire, a dairy farmer with 10 cows outside Port-au-Prince. Belizaire collects milk from his own farm as well as others in his area. He brings it to a local dairy and before you know it, a sizable amount is available to supply schools.
The government of Brazil made a donation recently to allow WFP to purchase this milk from the farmers. The milk is then delivered by WFP to the schools. Right now 17,700 children in Haiti are receiving two bottles of milk a week at school, in addition to their regular meal.
Milk is now being added to the school feeding program in Haiti (WFP/David Orr)
Jean Claude says, “This is a great way for small producers like me to do business. It’s been a very hard year but at least dairy farmers around here have a secure market for their milk.”
This is the goal in Haiti: Help local producers and allow them to feed their country. In the case of school feeding, the next step is expansion, and David Orr reports there are plenty more dairy farmers available to get involved.
Produced by local dairy farms, this milk is sent fresh to schools on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince as part of WFP's school meals programme in Haiti. (WFP/David Orr)
It's obviously a great development for local producers in Haiti, but also critical for the education system. Having milk at the school strengthens the nutrition program and is vital for improving children's attendance and performance. That is what school feeding does and why every country needs a national program. You can see a ripple effect.
In Haiti, the World Food Programme is trying to help build that national school meal program in conjunction with the government. Right now, WFP is feeding about 800,000 children while the government and other aid agencies are reaching about 300,000 with school meals.