As both the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the second most densely populated, Haiti is especially vulnerable to natural disasters, climate shocks and disease. Access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food remains an issue for millions of Haitians. An estimated 38 percent of the population is hungry. Most children are raised on a skimpy diet of rice and beans. Lack of protein causes a variety of health and learning problems and is a major factor in perpetuating poverty. Three years ago, John Mitchell visited Operation Blessing’s Zanmi Beni Children’s Home in Haiti, and was touched by the need of this nation. On His Path invested in Operation Blessing’s Fish Farm and Hatchery at Zanmi Beni, an innovative project designed to provide sustainable ways to increase food availability for the population and help strengthen the economy.
Haitians love but cannot afford fish. Inland lakes are fished out and accessible inshore ocean waters have been ravished by generations of desperate fishermen. At first, the vision for the fish farm was to provide fresh fish for the children in the Zanmi Beni orphanage, and if successful, expand and build a hatchery to teach aspiring Haitians about fish farming. God granted favor, sent experts to help and multiplied the resources. Completed in 2011, Operation Blessing’s Fish Farm & Hatchery at Zanmi Beni children’s home produced 52,000 pounds of proteinrich tilapia for consumption and resale in 2012. This modern-day “loaves and fishes” effort not only helped feed children at Zanmi Beni, but also nearby orphanages, schools and hospitals. The remainder was sold to support the orphanage and fish farm.
The fish farm also provided technical advice and designed fish farms for local Haitians, so there are many small fish farms starting up around Haiti, including one on the campus of St. Damian’s/St. Luke’s Hospitals. Most importantly, Operation Blessing began “seeding” the lake and reservoirs of Haiti with tilapia. Operation Blessing’s Fish Farm and Hatchery is capable of producing 500,000 fingerlings (baby fish) that can then be seeded in ponds and reservoirs to help replenish the fish stock and be “ranched.”
Unlike the fish farming done at the hatchery, where fish are raised in tight quarters and fed high-protein food so they can grow as fast as possible, this program works in open ponds, lakes and reservoirs. This is a small but mighty solution with powerful returns. All you need are baby fish that cost ten cents each, a body of water and sunshine – God provides the rest. Massive numbers of baby tilapia are released into Haiti’s lakes and reservoirs to forage on their own. Tilapia are herbivores and thrive grazing on algae the same way that cattle or horses graze on grass. Baby fish that cost a dime can grow into fish worth $5 or more in less than a year.
OBI is pioneering fish ranching in Haiti, working with the Haitian Department of Agriculture as well as a faith-based local charity that builds lakes and reservoirs. With these partnerships, the fish farm has put over 1,000,000 fingerlings and fish fry into the lake to help jumpstart the fishing industry. The goal is to populate these and barren public waters all over Haiti with tilapia.
As they grow and mature, fishermen will catch many to feed their families and to sell for income, but many will survive, breed and multiply, expanding the population for years to come. A small but mighty way to fight poverty in a nation that desperately needs your help.
Submitted by: Ronda Sherman, OBI Executive Director of Philanthropy