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Hope for Haiti

Haiti produces some of the world’s best mangoes but around half of the crop is lost before it reaches markets. Only about 10 percent of the fruit is exported. And, paradoxically for a country with 10 million mango trees, Haiti imports mango juice.

In a bid to address some of the key problems affecting the Haitian mango value chain, the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and The Coca Cola Company are partnering in the Haiti Hope project, which was presented at the United Nations on the occasion of an international donors conference.

The $7.5 million, five-year project, to which The Coca Cola Company plans to contribute $3.5 million and MIF $3 million, will support the development of a sustainable mango juice industry in Haiti, aiming to double the incomes of some 25,000 farmers and their families.

At a launching ceremony for the project, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, commended MIF and The Coca Cola Company for their initiative, noting that it will help strengthen Haitian agriculture, the largest source of employment in the country. “This project is really important not only for what it will do but also for what it symbolizes,” President Clinton said. “This is an example of what we should be doing.”

Haiti Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said he hoped this project will become an example of what foreign and local companies can do to create more economic opportunities for the Haitian people. “Over the past three months I have been saying ‘thank you’ for the extraordinary outpouring of international assistance to my country,” he said. “I look forward to being able to use other English words more often, such as ‘jobs, GDP and development’.”

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno underscored the significance of The Coca Cola Company’s involvement in this project, which sends a powerful signal to other major corporations about what they could do help Haitians build a more prosperous future.

The Coca Cola Company’s chairman and CEO, Muhtar Kent, told participants at the UN event that the idea of the project came up in a conversation he had with Moreno in February, during a business conference in Switzerland. While discussing how the private sector could help Haiti recover after the earthquake, the IDB president noted that the country had strong potential as a producer of mangoes.

Seven weeks later, Odwalla, a subsidiary of The Coca Cola Company, was already shipping Haiti Hope Mango Lime-Aid to Whole Foods and Wal-Mart stores in the United States. All profits from sales of the new beverage will go to the project.

 As envisioned by MIF, the Haiti Hope project will bring benefits to the entire mango value chain, from farmers who own just a few trees to fruit exporters and, eventually, fruit processing firms.

The project will be carried out by TechnoServe, a U.S. non-profit organization specialized in fighting poverty by helping people in developing countries build businesses. TechnoServe, which will work in partnership with the Haitian government and local organizations, is also working with The Coca Cola Company on mango projects in Africa.

The project will train farmers to increase tree yields, hone their business skills and diversify their income-generating activities, so as to reduce the risk of depending on a single cash crop.  It will also provide assistance in establishing mango grower organizations to strengthen the bargaining power of individual growers and improve their access to markets.

All participants in the mango value chain will receive support to improve post-harvest handling, a stage during which much of the fruit is lost. Poor logistics and bad road conditions are also factors that hamper agricultural production and sales throughout Haiti, although in recent years the government has stepped up its investments in highways, secondary roads and rural roads.

The Haiti Hope project will also explore new uses for mango varieties not exported from Haiti (currently only the prized Francis variety is sold in the United States), such dehydrating or pureeing fruit, or processing it into juice.  

Ultimately, the IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund and The Coca Cola Company hope this project will make a difference in the lives of small growers throughout Haiti, said Julie T. Katzman, General Manager and Head of MIF. “Farmers who today own only four or five mango trees and receive just 10 percent of the export price should be able to capture more of the value added from their mangoes.  Next they’d own more trees, harvest more fruit, and perhaps one day even invest in a juice processing plant, transforming their families’ future,” she said.

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