With 58 per cent of its people living below the poverty line, Haiti is known to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In January 2010, Haiti was devastated by a large earthquake, which killed as many as 316,000 people. Unfortunately, Haitians are still suffering from its impacts, both financially and emotionally. As 80 per cent of the population continues to live in extreme poverty, it comes as no surprise that the unemployment rate remains increasingly high, with 40 per cent of the population out of work.
These obstacles, compounded by other common issues affecting low-income countries, such as limited education and limited access to technology, make it extraordinarily difficult for men and women to make ends meet, let alone grow their businesses and thrive. This has become increasingly more challenging for Haitians over the last year, as COVID-19 has introduced a whole new plethora of threats to their business aspirations and communities at large. The pandemic has drastically impacted Haitians, who were largely unprepared medically and financially to keep their businesses afloat during government lockdowns.
In partnership with the Government of Canada, FINCA Canada is working diligently to support and educate the Haitian people, especially women, in order to help them recover from the pandemic, pull themselves out of poverty and raise their standard of living.
Providing ongoing support
FINCA Haiti works continuously to help support small and startup micro-enterprises, enabling Haitians to create their own sources of income. In 2018, FINCA launched the Financial Inclusion Project, a five-year partnership with the Government of Canada with the goal to increase economic prosperity for low-income individuals – primarily women. By helping them grow their small businesses and increase their income, the project works to create access to financial services for 575,000 low-income individuals and entrepreneurs, including 363,000 women, in Haiti and the Dominican Republic of Congo (DRC).
FINCA Haiti supports clients and aspiring entrepreneurs in both rural and peri-urban areas of Haiti through Village Banking, individual, agricultural, local currency loans and money transfer services. With farming being one of the largest industries in Haiti, FINCA Haiti provides agricultural financial services and technical assistance for business development, natural resource management and climate change adaptation to 1,400 agricultural entrepreneurs, including 840 women.
Haiti remains resilient
Since the beginning of the pandemic, female entrepreneurs in Haiti have disproportionately faced ongoing threats to their business, including quarantine restrictions, increased risk of getting sick, limited daily operations and loss of essential cashflow. This was experienced firsthand by Masciana Kernizan, who turned her house into a butcher shop on a weekly basis to sell fresh goat meat. Prior to the pandemic, Masciana would travel to rural areas like Chantal and Camp-Perrin to purchase the goats. Unfortunately, travel restrictions and safety regulations dramatically impeded her ability to do this, and many of her customers could no longer afford to purchase goat meat.
To solve this problem and adapt to the evolving needs of the community, Masciana decided to shift to producing and selling peanut butter. This is a more affordable option for her to produce and for people to purchase, and this meant she would be able to successfully pivot her business to provide a new necessity for her village.
FINCA Canada’s commitment
FINCA Canada is dedicated to undergoing research, conducting assessments and providing new offerings to better advance the financial inclusion of clients in Haiti. Within the last few years alone, FINCA Canada has successfully eliminated the need to submit collateral to access agricultural loan services to better encourage women – traditionally having few assets – to become involved in these life-changing offers. Today, 75 per cent of clients leveraging FINCA Canada’s agricultural loans are women. FINCA Canada is committed to continuing to ensure these necessary and impactful financial solutions are progressively more accessible.
Due to the extreme challenges presented by dire economic conditions, natural disasters and now the realities of a global pandemic, Haitians are struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families. With the help of FINCA Canada, Haiti is being supported through innovative ways of growing businesses, having access to banking services for both men and women, increased technological advancements that create new avenues of opportunity and financial education to assist Haiti’s essential growth success.
This year, we are devoted to helping 120,000 women in Haiti and the DRC through FINCA Canada’s OppHERtunity Campaign, supporting the economic recovery of women. With the support from FINCA Canada, Haitians will be able to overcome adversity and provide a more prosperous life for themselves and their families. FINCA Canada remains committed to bettering the lives of Haitian people through their progressive work of accelerating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
To highlight the battle for a more robust and inclusive economy in Haiti, we are pleased to have been included in a Madan Sara film, released earlier this month. This film, centered around the story of Madan Sara’s, females who specialize in commerce, explains the narratives of the indefatigable Haitian women who work tirelessly within the margins to help make Haiti’s economy run. These women break down the barriers of social stigma to build a living of their own, help put their children through school, house their families and ensure a better life for generations to come.