Staring at goats.

On my first day in Haiti, I made the not-so-brilliant deduction that traveling with Heifer CEO Pierre Ferrari and his adorable wife Kimberly Youngblood; Heifer VP/Director of the Americas Oscar Castaneda; and Heifer Haiti Country Manager Hervil Cherubin, put me in a whole new league.

A band? Just for me??

Instead of sidling into town relatively unnoticed (except for being blindingly white), I was now part of fancy celebrations and major attention. Like our first stop: the opening of Heifer’s big new Goat Breeding Center in Montrouis (pronounced Mont-wee) on the beautiful northern coast of Haiti, which represents the first step in Heifer’s $18.7 million plan to ignite Haiti’s rural economic recovery.

When you’re trying to make some developmental headway in the confounding conundrum that is Haiti, the prospect can be so daunting, it’s hard to know where to start. But often, the most obvious place is staring you right in the face.And that is exactly where Heifer International is putting its stake in the ground: with the basic development tools of animals, food, and farms through its new REACH program (Rural Entrepreneurs for Agricultural Cooperation in Haiti). When you look at the numbers, it makes all the sense in the world. Out of about one million small farms in Haiti, 85% raise poultry, 65% have goats, 55% cattle, and 35% pigs. Yet, those efforts are not coordinated, the stock is poor, and markets are far-flung and inaccessible to farmers.

MST, Tet Kole & Heifer -- Heads Together!

So Heifer partnered with Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen (Heads Together Small Producers of Haiti), the oldest peasant group in Haiti born covertly in 1970 during the Duvalier dictatorship, and with MST Landless Workers’ Movement of Brazil, to build this 270- square meter, 180-goat breeding center and 10,000-chick poultry center, along with a water-capturing system from a source 5.5 kilometers away.

The Neutra House/Chicken Breeding Center

The centers are beautiful (built with recycled pallets!) but the really gorgeous thing is what they represent for the future: A better breed of goats and chickens that can incrementally improve livestock bloodlines. The coordinated training of Community Animal Health workers who can teach other farmers to grow forage crops, fruit trees, compost, and breed their animals in the healthiest, most productive way. And the development of value chains to bring farmers together to establish new markets and increase their incomes by 100%.

Heifer’s ambitious plan is to select the most successful and entrepreneurial farmers (at least 30% of them women) from these training programs and provide them with the animals and business acumen to start 100 goat and 50 pig breeding centers throughout Haiti, with an ultimate reach of improving the lives of 20,250 farming households. Now that’s reproduction at its finest!Still, there’s a long way to go before Haiti comes anywhere close to being able to feed itself. Even before the  $31 million of agricultural damage in the 2010 quake, and the 70% loss of its crops in the 2008 hurricane season, Haiti was importing 51% of its food, at a crushing expense to its 9 million people. Heifer needs to raise $13 million to make this program a reality, and then there are five years of hard rowing ahead.

Even feeding animals is a challenge in Haiti.

But to paraphrase Robert Frost & the Nine Inch Nails, the only way out is through.

As I was standing on the top of the Montrouis cliff overlooking the ocean, listening to the wind and hearing the bleating of goats, imagining the magic of water soon transforming dry grasses into crops, that prospect didn’t seem so bleak.

Women from Montrouis

Not really bleak at all.

Categories: Agriculture, Animals, Haiti, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

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27 thoughts on “Staring at goats.

  1. Hope in the face of a child.

  2. As usual Betty, I enjoyed your message, but I really liked the first photo of the Goat staring at us and the last photo of the spirited girl!

    • Thanks, Travel Spirit — coming from a truly impassioned photographer, I take those compliments to heart!! (what a country of beautiful faces Haiti is!!)

  3. Great post, Betty. I imagine you had a beautiful drive from PAP to Cap Haitian. I know what you mean about not being able to slip in unnoticed. I’m blonde and always stood out in Haiti. Plus, when we had Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter come to Vietnam, we all attracted lots more attention.

    Good to have your update!


  4. Ginger O'Neill

    Per usual Betty,

    Thanks for putting it all into perspective as it is easier to give-way to defeat. Telling these stories and informing us that although the road is long, it is utterly possible and your pictures harness insatiable hope.



  5. Beautiful post… I, too liked the goat at the beginning staring…I love the way you capture the spirit of the people and the hope that is in their eyes.
    Blessings to you on your journey.

    • Thanks, April — I do love putting together these stories and trying to capture what I saw and felt in this most challenging, yet captivating country!!

      • Holding you tight in prayer. How wonderful it is that you have answered a call to help the lives of others improve and receive encouragement through your works.

  6. Martha Radatz

    Just wanted you to know I am really enjoying your posts! As you said, it makes all the sense in the world. Hooray for Heifer!

  7. Anonymous

    Dear Betty,

    Who else but you would quote Rob’t Frost AND the Nine Inch Nails in the same sentence? So great to hear of all the brilliant work being done with Heifer. Thank you for another great post.

    Today, my Heifer magazing the ARK arrived in the mail and I sat in my car and read it cover to cover.

    I had hoped to find an article about your globe trotting blog on their behalf this year and was surprised to find nary a jot. I think if they pointed people to your blog this year, they could engage a larger audience and the monthly posts would sustain and engage their membership.

    Speaking for myself, it has certainly engaged ME in what Heifer’s doing By bringing more people to your site, they can then share with their friends (as I do) and the whole beautiful Heifer message goes viral!

    Keep up the good work! How exciting!

    • Oh, I love when people are loyal on my behalf! The fabulous editor of World Ark is putting together an article/interview on Heifer 12 x 12 and it should be out soon … how FUN! I am having such an amazing time in this journey, but I have to say , it just blows my mind the work that is being done .. and I am quite seriously dying to share it with everyone … so YEAH, tell everybody you know! THANKS xoxoxo b

  8. sarah

    I found this sentence really shocking – in fact it’s shocking me into action:

    “Even before the $31 million of agricultural damage in the 2010 quake, and the 70% loss of its crops in the 2008 hurricane season, Haiti was importing 51% of its food, at a crushing expense to its 9 million people.”

    Heifer’s approach is beautifully thought through, and aiming for the long term. Perhaps they could teach the US and UK governments a thing or two?

    • Dearest Sarah — I am trying not to get too statistic-crazed … but it IS completely shocking when you learn how hard-hit the country has been. For instance, the Japanese tsunami killed “only” 1/10th of the people that the Haiti earthquake did — plus, Haiti had previously been devastated by 4 hurricanes in a row during the 2008 season. Then of course, our stupid trade policies in the 1990s crushed the sugar and rice industries, so now the country imports most of its rice from the USA …That’s why Heifer is so focused on building back the agricultural sector: because if the country could feed itself, decentralize aid to the rural areas, encourage people to move out of Port au Prince and back to their local communities (which many want to do anyhow) with jobs, technical ag support and schools for the children … then perhaps the reconstruction would prove to be a new beginning for the country. I really really hope so!!

  9. The spirit of the farmers at Montrouis was amazing. Thanks Betty for capturing that

  10. Deb Morrow Palmer

    Wonderful as always.

  11. Mollie Papan


    Since being introduced to your blog by a fellow employee, I eagerly await each posting as you so beatifully translate the desperate need for us to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. Your musing and photographs of the people served by Heifer’s projects are touching as well as inspiring. Each day I am reminded how humbling it is to work for Heifer International and I look forward to seeing the rewards of the dedicated and passionate staff we have here at headquarters and across the globe.

    Thank you for what you are doing to help Heifer’s mission by lending your voice to our work.

  12. Anonymous

    Your concise writing and close up photos- amazing and challenging to us all to get off the couch, write a grant for Heifer, share your insights with others!

    Louise Berry

  13. Amazing goat and chicken houses! How very practical.

    On a long flight from DFW this past Saturday when, from the aisle, I glanced papers with the words ‘Heifer International.’ I quickly looked at the woman reading these documents to see if her face was familiar. Not unless you’ve changed your hair color. I imagined she was a board member reviewing applications, or a staffer on a working vacation. In baggage claim, when I saw her bag with the Heifer Intl logo, the organization became even more real. Don’t know why I was worried about being caught looking over her shoulder, when I really wanted to enthuse, Do you know Betty? I read Betty! I’ve given once already, and full expect to again before the year is up. With aloha for the good work you’re doing.

    • Dear KKB — why didn’t I read your comment before?? I am SO touched that you were looking for me in DFW; how totally FUN would it have been if we had run into each other?? I LOVE your blog, and feel certain that somewhere along the road, we’ll run into each other before the year’s end!! Or better stlll, come meet me along the road this year .. and we’ll have a phenomenal Heifer experience together!
      ALOHA to you … b

  14. I’m obliged for the blog.Truly thank you! Much obliged.

  15. You are most welcome, indeed, Reid .. thanks for reading!!

  16. Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my
    blog shine. Please let me know where you got your theme.
    With thanks

    • Emily, I did customize my blog — my friend Liz designed my header and I chose a background of burlap … and pay for custom typography as well. The Theme is Adventure Travel I believe — and I’m so glad you like it!!

  17. Hello to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more from this
    site, and your views are good designed for new people.

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