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PMIL Meetings continue in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research and Peanut Productivity and Mycotoxin Control (Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab, PMIL) conducted its Annual Research Meeting on June 15-18th in Cap-Haitian.

The meeting began on the 15th, discussing a number of administrative and program-wide issues. On the next day, all research projects presented their results from last year and plans for the next year. There was also a presentation by Meds & Food for Kids (MFK) founder Pat Wolff about their organization and the collaborative roles that PMIL and MFK play in supporting local agriculture by creating jobs and training workers.

The following day, June 17th, PMIL hosted a tour to several peanut fields of farmers participating in the Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation program and an Acceso depot near Ouanaminthe, Haiti. This was followed by lunch and a tour of the Meds & Food for Kids RUTF factory and research farms in Quartier Morin, Haiti.

For participating farmers, Acceso depots serve as a both a resource and education point. Acceso supplies credit and inputs, such as low-cost seed and appropriate fertilizer, and after harvest, serves as a buying point for their peanuts. As appropriate varieties are identified, Acceso will supply seed of high-yielding, drought-tolerant varieties, including those developed by PMIL scientists.

They also provide initial aggregation, sorting and aflatoxin testing that creates field-to-farm traceability for larger, quality-sensitive buyers, such as MFK. All of this is managed using a novel cloud-based software called Farmforce that collects real-time data input through tablets by local depot managers.

MFK will then use these peanuts to make Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) used in the treatment of malnourished children. RUTF’s are purchased by humanitarian organizations, such as UNICEF, which provide these at no cost to needy children in Haiti and other developing countries.

It was apparent to all participants that the Haiti Groundnut Value Chain project and their in-country partners are linking up along each part of the process, from the researchers to farmers to processors and back to the community. 

“It has been really rewarding to reflect on the progress we have made over the past 6 years in Haiti and validating to see others interested in learning from our efforts,” said PMIL Assistant Director Jamie Rhoads, who was previously the in-country coordinator for the Peanut CRSP project.

On the last morning, the PMIL External Advisory Panel (EAP) met to discuss its observations on the projects and especially the work in Haiti. Overall, the EAP saw good progress since the meeting last year, although still stressed the need to continued acceleration to meet the stated objectives by the end of the current phase in mid-2017. The EAP also emphasized the need to research how to best transfer this same successful connection and in-country partnerships seen in Haiti to other value chain projects in Ghana and Southern Africa.

Those not involved in the EAP meeting, met and discussed how to better integrate all research into the value chain projects and some ideas for future research needs. Much of these discussions capped off a full week of informal interactions among all participants that identified a number of areas for enhanced collaborations.

To end a very successful week, the participants made a trip to the Sans-Souci Palace and Citadel near Cap Haitian, site of King Henri Christophe’s castle and fortress built in the early 1800’s. A local guide provided an excellent overview of the sites and the early history of Haiti. An invigorating 2.5 km hike up to the Citadel allowed many to work off some pent up energy from sitting in meetings most of the week.

“It was great to have our African partners present and for some of them to see their peanut varieties being evaluated in Haiti. Also, the meeting gave a great opportunity for the entire PMIL team to discuss how advances in their own project could be implemented across the PMIL program. Lots of great ideas were exchanged; a major reason for such meetings, “ said PMIL Director Dave Hoisington.

Published June 18, 2015