We began our work in Moreau, Haiti in 2017 after Dr. Jeff Losier invited us to launch our vetiver fiber processing pilot in his home village. Dr. Jeff’s locally run non-profit had been employing young people to plant vetiver hedges around Moreau, to stop farm fields, roads, and river banks from eroding away. Since then, we have proudly partnered with Dr. Jeff, the Farmers’ Association of Moreau, and several other key organizations to promote community development in this Haitian village.
MIJABA and the farmers’ association in Moreau
Dr. Jeff Losier is a community leader and medical doctor from the village Moreau in the Bainet region of southeast Haiti. He founded MIJABA, a Haitian-run non-profit organization, to provide education, medical care, and economic opportunities to members of his community, with focus on sustainability and long-term solutions. He has overseen the construction of a K – 8 school in Moreau and encourages students to plant fruit trees around their homes — recognizing that both education and environmental stewardship are key to long-term development in the region.
Several years ago, Dr. Jeff noticed that heavy rains and hurricanes washed away roads in the mountainous region, making it difficult for farmers to travel, reach markets, and access services needed to grow their local economy and public infrastructure. This situation is made worse by the fact that farmers often have to cut down natural forests in the region to supplement their income — selling charcoal in local markets to compensate for reduced crop yields from soil erosion. Using vetiver, a grass with deep roots that grows in Haiti, he found a way to address both this environmental challenge and persistent poverty in the region: by paying local youth and farmers to plant vetiver along roads and farm fields, he could reduce wash-out on roads and erosion of valuable topsoil while providing an new source of income locally.
Dr. Jeff connected us with the local farmers’ association, which represents dozens of farming families around the village. By buying bundles of vetiver grass and gallons of bee products from this organization, we have invested in farmer-led sustainable agriculture — that supports their efforts to reduce soil erosion and deforestation in the region — while connecting them with new income opportunities. MIJABA and the farmers’ association have also identified key community development projects that we can support. In September 2019, they installed solar panels on the roof of the school in Moreau with funds we raised through our 2018 year-end report. Our partnership with these local organizations has also helped us explore options for improving access to clean water and investing in local beekeepers going forward.
Since 2017, we have partnered with SPAM FC — a Minnesota-based non-profit scholarship organization and soccer league dedicated to providing educational scholarships and other grants to players and teams around the world. Driven by this mission, SPAM FC has donated to the farmers’ association in Moreau to help them rent a soccer field near the village; this has allowed youth and young adults to play soccer, form community ties, and create economic opportunities locally. The organization has continued to support our community development projects over the last several years, with annual grants and donations of soccer jerseys, cleats, and balls to the soccer teams in Moreau.
At SPAM FC’s annual scholarship dinner in February 2020, our CEO, Jesse Abelson, spoke about the importance of youth soccer leagues in rural Haiti and was honored to share more about the partnership between our organizations. At the gala, the SPAM FC board announced an expansion of their grant program, assuring a continued partnership between our organizations for years to come. This commitment will allow us to invest in public infrastructure in Moreau, based on the needs identified by the Farmers’ Association.
Acara and the Institute on the Environment
Vetiver Solutions started as an entrepreneurship project through a Grand Challenge course at the University of Minnesota in 2016; Acara leads several public health and sustainability focused classes each semester, to provide University students with an environment to innovate and launch initiatives to solve complex global challenges.
Through the annual Acara Challenge, we were able to secure some of our first startup funding; the unending support of Fred Rose and Megan Voorhees, the leading professors and mentors for Acara programs, has been critical for growing Vetiver Solutions from a project to a growing public benefit corporation. Their support, and other resources through the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment also prepared us to compete at the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge and the Minnesota Cup. As we grow, we are grateful to still be connected with the organizations that helped us get started and to support the next classes of University students who are continuing to tackle global challenges.
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