Given that some time had passed since the initial grant to Caribbean Harvest S.A. was made to increase production capacity, LEVE and Caribbean Harvest S.A. agreed to undertake an impact assessment that would go beyond simply capturing results, but more to measuring resiliency (as defined by the United States Agency for International Development) of the fish farmers. The initial grant was to increase both energy supply and the number of cages, which would lead to an overall increase in fish production by fish farmers. An increase in fish farming and subsequent revenues would be the basis for improved resiliency, showing conclusively that the LEVE grant was “worth more than the simple sum of the parts”. And if not, what lessons could be learned from this activity and applied to future activities of a similar nature.
A scope of work was developed, agreed upon by Caribbean Harvest S.A. and then a local firm – Socio-Dig S.A. – was awarded the contract to conduct the assessment. Socio-Dig has experience in both measuring impact and resiliency, and in fish culture and fisheries. Prior to starting the field work in September 2018, the concerned parties – Socio-Dig, Caribbean Harvest S.A. and LEVE – conducted meetings to ensure a complete understanding of the objectives and tasks.
Over 300 families residing in the 4 to 5 villages that were part of the fish farming program of Caribbean Harvest S.A. were interviewed, concentrating the work on Betel, the only village in which Caribbean Harvest S.A. is currently working. The research team from Socio-Dig worked with Caribbean Harvest S.A. technicians, but also visited other fish farming activities to vet findings. The team also conducted significant research via the internet and one-on-one communications. Non-governmental organizations working in the same geographic area around Lake Azuei were also interviewed to better understand the depth of their social programs, so as to be able to ascertain the impact of the Caribbean Harvest S.A. social programs, being implemented in cooperation with the Caribbean Harvest Foundation. This was critical to ascertaining the level of improved resiliency as a result of the LEVE intervention. To the extent possible, the findings presented herein are limited to the scope of work.
The findings were not what the team had expected. After doing extensive interviews among the majority of the families in the villages where Caribbean Harvest S.A. has been working, the research team was not able to identify sufficient fish farmer beneficiaries to construct a significant sample size to permit comparison of either impact or resiliency. To understand why, the research team extended their investigation into areas such as production practices, and non-governmental organization support activities.
The observations being presented to Caribbean Harvest and LEVE show that a very low number of fish farmers actually exist; that few fish farmers received more than one cage of fingerlings and feed; that the revenue per cage harvested was much smaller than the numbers that had been projected (based on actual numbers realized according to Caribbean Harvest); and that as a result, few, if any, fish farmers were continuing to farm fish. The conclusion is that the model is not working, and may never have been working.
Second, the observations showed that any impact upon resiliency was due to the work of other non- governmental organizations in the region, and that the linked activities of Caribbean Harvest S.A. and Caribbean Harvest Foundation were more limited than the activities of other organizations in this area. Given the fact that most people in this region are transitory, beneficiaries travel from one area to another where services and opportunities benefit them more.
This report is now being submitted to Caribbean Harvest S.A. for their input prior to being published for a broader audience.