This report describes baseline data collected to help assess Root Capital’s impact on coffee production in one of its target regions of Haiti. The survey focused on farmers in the Savannette-Baptiste area of the Departement du Centre. Most of the respondents were members of cooperatives working with Root Capital (n=151); some were not (n=52). The data offers a comprehensive picture of production levels, income from coffee, preferred tree varieties, tree planting and maintenance, inputs, and other key coffee-growing practices of coop members. Responses from Non-Members provide a basis of comparison that is critical to establishing meaningful baseline performance indicators. These indicators will allow Root Capital to evaluate changes in cultivation, harvesting, and processing practices, as well as income and other factors, in follow-up and online surveys.
Coffee has long been one of the most prized cash crops for peasant farmers in Haiti’s mountains. Haiti was once far and away from the world’s leading producer. It provided 60 per cent of the world’s coffee at the end of the colonial period in the late 18th century and remained a major producer for much of the 19th century. In 1949 Haiti ranked as the world’s third-largest coffee exporter, thanks to a short-lived comeback.
Income from coffee sales continues to help alleviate poverty in many of Haiti’s mountainous communities where the plants grow, often making these areas significantly better off than nearby farming areas where conditions are not conducive to coffee cultivation. Coffee plants and the shade trees around them also serve as one of the last defences against the deforestation and erosion that have devastated farming communities across Haiti for generations. Coffee farms account for roughly half of Haiti’s remaining forest cover – estimated at just two per cent of the country’s land.
Haitian coffee production is vulnerable to a host of threats. Coffee rust kills trees; erosion eats away at mountain gardens; smallholder farmers lack access to training and international markets; multiple layers of intermediaries siphon off profits; the advanced age of most coffee trees (two-thirds of the country’s stands are well past peak production years) limits yields; growers lack access to capital, and road access is poor. These and other economic pressures deprive farmers of financial incentive to invest in their coffee plants resulting in a decline in income and even inducing growers to pull up plants and replace them with other crops. Due to these and other factors, Haiti’s coffee exports have been in freefall for decades; production is half what it was 30 years ago.