> THE TIMOTHY SCHWARTZ ARCHIVE

“Right to Livelihoods in Haiti” FINN CHURCH AID (FCA). Final Report Phase #1

  • This report focuses on egg production in Haiti with an emphasis on popular class rural household livelihood strategies.
  • Data is drawn from a review of the literature and contact with farmers, entrepreneurs, merchants, cooperative leaders, and two surveys: a 382 household “Chicken Survey” and a follow-up telephone sub-survey of 91 of the original respondents.
  • Current value of the Haitian egg market is 36 million USD per annum (MARNDR 2014). That translates to 41.2 million eggs per month; 6.45 million are produced in agro-industrial facilities in Haiti; several hundred thousand are produced on small farms, where reside some 50% of the Haitian population, and in peri-urban environs where ~30% of the population lives; all the remainder are imported from the Dominican Republic (more than 90% in 2012) and, to a far lesser extent, from the United States (~4% in 2012).
  • Egg production in Haiti fell in the 1980s and 1990s, all but completely disappearing in 1998. During the same time Dominican egg production and imports grew dramatically.
  • Alleging a breakout of bird flu, the Haitian government embargoed Dominican eggs in 2012, something that it had done in 2008 and in fact never formally rescinded. There was, and still is, a massive effort to take advantage of the break in imports to promote national production. Nevertheless, imports have once again informally resurged.
  • The prospect of Haiti becoming self-sufficient in egg production is still remote. Poor transport, expensive and unreliable electricity, and extremely poor extension service and government support are significant impediments. But the greatest constraint is feed, which is 80% of the cost of egg production. Taking into consideration feed-to-egg conversion ratios, the cost of feed for an egg in Haiti is currently 11 US cents, about the same as the cost of an egg purchased at the border.
  • For those investors interested in poultry, a far more attractive investment is production of broilers. However, eggs have an advantage over production of chickens for meat in that they can be stored more easily, at no cost in feed, and they are far more marketable in rural areas.
  • Constraints to egg production at the level of rural household has to do first with the strategies that farmers utilize to survive. Most depend on a mixture of technologically simple livelihood strategies exercised under the tenet of “minimum investment and minimum risk.” For poultry this means free ranging the birds, feeding them only enough that they stay near the homestead, not vaccinating, providing any supplements or treating the birds when ill. Consequently disease and predators take a heavy toll on flocks: 81% had lost their flock within the past year.
  • A limitation on flock size inherent in free-ranging in ecological carrying capacity, i.e. the limited number of bugs and edible plants per unit area.
  • Constraints on egg production within the free ranging system include the pecking order. Chickens do not readily accept other birds not reared with the flock and protected by a mother hen. This puts a premium on “brooding,” 77% of respondents preferred hens that are broody vs good layers. When hens brood they stop laying eggs. Because of these constraints, free-ranged chickens annually produce only 14 eggs per hen per year in Haiti, most of which are not destined for the market. In comparison, an industrial layer can produce 300 eggs per year.
  • Only 13% of farmers cited egg production as a primary reason for raising chickens.
  • Most poultry and egg projects in rural Haiti have failed. Those that succeed appear to be heavily subsidized by NGOs, church congregations, or obscure state investors. Others are arguably more about getting donations and support than about producing for the market.