Haiti Note formatted - USAid


Haiti Note formatted - USAid


Fighting Poverty with Handicrafts

USAID revitalizes the

craft market in the least

developed country in the

Western Hemisphere

A Haitian artisan creates hand made art work

for export from recycled oil drums.

“USAID-supported Aid to Artisans has

successfully created market linkages

between Haitian microenterprises and

large-scale buyers such as Pier 1, resulting

in more than 2,500 long-term

jobs and 11,000 short-term jobs.”

John Berry, USAID/MD

John Berry, of USAID’s Microenterprise Development Team’s (MD)

Financial Services (FS) staff submitted this Note on the success of a

USAID-supported project aimed at reducing poverty through microenterprise

development in the least developed country in the western


Mr. Berry’s story describes how the innovative, USAID/Haiti supported

NGO Aid to Artisans (ATA) provided vital assistance to a

struggling industry with great development potential in a povertystricken,

politically unstable country. ATA’s work with Haitian handcraft

artisans holds important lessons for poverty alleviation and

economic growth through microenterprise development, both in

Haiti and in other developing countries. Some highlights:

“As Haiti celebrates its 200th year of independence, a greater percentage

of Haitians live in poverty than in any other country in the

western hemisphere. Recurring crises in political leadership, natural

disasters, rampant poverty, and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS have

reached alarming proportions. Economic growth overall is declining

and more than 80 percent of the population lives in abject poverty.

The volatility of the current emergency threatens to set back advances

made through development efforts in the recent past and further

destabilize an already fragile economy.

Haitian handcraft export nearly disappeared because of the ec o-

nomic sanctions that followed the 1991 coup. As political and economic

security have begun to return to Haiti, the craft sector, which

counts 400,000 artisans in its skilled labor force, could quickly scale

up production, creating jobs b oth for Small and Medium Enterprises

(SMEs) and for the many microenterprises to which they subcontract.

“In 1999, USAID/Haiti awarded a

$650,000 grant to ATA, a U.S.-

based NGO that creates ec onomic

opportunities for artisans though

craft-based enterprise development.

Designed to rev italize Haiti’s

handcraft industry and promote

economic development, the SHAPE

(Supporting Haitian Artisans in Private

Enterprise) Program has generated

employment and income,

despite periodic political and economic

crises. Working on two

fronts—in foreign markets to revive

buyer interest in Haitian products,

and in Haiti to design new

products, rebuild production c a­

pacity, and create networks needed

to sustain trade growth—the program

has made significant progress

toward its goal, establishing the

foundation for trade relationships

and industry structures to support

continued growth.

“Working with more than 3,000

artisans—the majority of them living

in the poorest communities

across Haiti—the program stimulated

markets for Haitian crafts in

the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean,

and Haiti through innovative product

design, and has provided business

training to enable

entrepreneurs to manage and grow

profitable businesses. Since every

job created in Haiti supports as

many as 3 to 6 additional people,

ATA estimates that the business

generated supports as many as

15,000 people.

“As a result of SHAPE, more than a

half dozen prominent U.S. retail

chains are now purchasing products

in Haiti. In addition, prominent

U.S. wholesalers now carry Haitian

products and market them collectively

to more than 6,000 retail

stores. SHAPE has also worked to

stimulate the once-stagnant local

craft retail market.

“In 2003, USAID/Haiti provided

$200,000 in follow-on funding to

support Haiti’s participation in the

Smithsonian Folklife Festival in

Washington, DC. ATA was instrumental

in supporting the Haitian

delegation, which presented crafts

demonstrations, lectured on Haitian

culture and craft tradition, and

launched publication of Artisans of

Haiti, a full-color book on Haitian


“Also in 2003, USAID/Haiti and

MD provided a $120,000 grant to

the Haiti Mission to support ATA’s

Material Supply Initiative (MSI),

which links microenterprises with

larger companies and materials importers.

Project planning called for

creating sustainable commercial

linkages between artisans and importers

of metal sheets and drums,

beads, paints and other inputs.

ATA planned to foster commercial

relationships by having artisans pay

an increasing proportion of the

cost of sourcing these inputs, but

as a result of the crisis has postponed

these plans. This experience

raises interesting questions about

the challenges of using subsidies to

create market linkages, while attempting

to avoid market distortions,

in a context of political and

economic crisis. It also highlights

potential future challenges in creating

commercial linkages as millions

of dollars of donor subsidies flood

the country.

Haiti’s microenterprise sector has

been making slow but steady gains,

due in part to USAID’s investment.

Yet despite recent successes, much

remains to be done to ensure the

sustainability of these efforts and

the commercial viability of the Haitian

handcraft industry as a longterm

source of employment, income,

and economic growth.”


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