Growing a Better Future for Cocoa Farmers in Haiti
The Societe Genérale de Production Agroindustrielle (SOGEPA), an organic cocoa exporter, is located in the remote town of Dame-Marie, nine hours from Port-au-Prince along rugged roads. SOGEPA is firmly rooted in in the community, offering social and environmental benefits to its producers and local communities. SOGEPA’s success is contributing to better incomes and opportunities for cocoa farmers while increasing tree cover in a country with only one and a half percent of forest tracts remaining.
Client Profile: SOGEPA
Founded in 2007, SOGEPA is based in southwest Haiti, a neglected area with few roads and scant local infrastructure. SOGEPA sources from more than 450 cocoa producers. In addition to paying premium prices, the company provides technical assistance to producer members throughout the production and harvesting processes.
SOGEPA is committed to providing social and environmental benefits to the community. During Haiti’s post-earthquake cholera outbreak in 2010, SOGEPA helped build a medical center to house a full-time nurse who treated locals in the deeply affected area. Additionally, the company financed latrines in the region, which has reduced the incidence of cholera cases.
By cultivating high quality shade-grown cocoa, SOGEPA is also helping farmers reap the economic benefits of specialty markets while preserving and growing Haiti’s forests. Last year, the company planted 10,000 trees to ensure sufficient forest cover for cocoa seedlings. SOGEPA offers a free environmental education program to Dame-Marie youth and plans to plant 100,000 trees by 2015.
In 2011, Root Capital loaned SOGEPA $105,000. “After the 2010 earthquake, our financial capacity was severely affected,” says Patrick Jean Leger, SOGEPA’s director of administration and finance. “Thanks to Root Capital’s loan, we were able to salvage the situation and purchase about 110,000 pounds of cocoa while adhering to our philosophy of practicing fair trade.” With access to financial capital, SOGEPA has been able to purchase high-quality cocoa from farmers and grow its business, ensuring better livelihoods for hundreds of rural families in Haiti.