Haiti Local Enterprise and Value Chain Enhancement (LEVE)
Developing employment opportunities in high-potential industries for a stronger Haiti
Achieving economic and social stability in the face of natural disasters and other longstanding difficulties is a crucial challenge for Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and one in which more than two-thirds of workers do not have formal jobs.
In 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) chose RTI to lead a strategic enterprise and workforce development program for Haiti. This effort, known as Haiti Local Enterprise and Value Chain Enhancement, or Haiti LEVE, is designed to stimulate job creation by building up enterprises in three sectors:
- Apparel and textiles
By focusing on micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises in these sectors, each of which has its own opportunities and challenges, we hope to effect long-term changes that improve the lives of Haiti’s more than 10 million citizens.
Boosting Investment and Creating Jobs through Targeted Assistance in Key Industries
The overarching mission of Haiti LEVE is to spur private-sector investment that creates jobs in the targeted sectors. We conducted in-depth assessments of each sector, identifying value chains with the highest market potential, firms that could support program initiatives, and vocational schools ready to link their offerings more directly with market needs. Once we identify opportunities, LEVE provides a mix of technical assistance, capacity development, training and small grants to address constraints and produce results.
An outstanding example from the agribusiness sector is Caribbean Harvest, a social enterprise that enables residents in lakefront villages to earn income and improve their homes and communities by raising, processing, and selling tilapia. LEVE supported Caribbean Harvest’s expansion plans through a $250,000 grant to increase solar energy generation and to provide more cages to residents. As a result, Caribbean Harvest employs 318 new farmer-fishermen, and will double tilapia production in three years. Looking ahead, LEVE aims to help Caribbean Harvest extend its distribution chain to areas that currently do not have access to fresh fish.
In Haiti’s apparel export sector, there is high potential to create jobs in the short to medium term. Under LEVE, we are working with the industry to develop favorable policies, collaborating with individual firms to address strategic and production issues, advising training providers on specific needs for supervisory and skilled-trade positions, and consulting with several privately owned free trade zones to facilitate the entry of thousands of workers into the workforce over the next two years.
To tap into the potential for job creation within the construction sector, LEVE focuses on linking vocational training schools with private construction firms. Working with a US construction firm in northern Haiti, LEVE has helped more than 80 skilled tradespeople—including masons, plumbers, and carpenters—find work on three job sites. The firm provided on-the-job training and testing, and is advising a private vocational school on curriculum development. Parallel to this activity, LEVE is also helping vocational schools become job placement centers by building their links with alumni and the private sector.
Also, in 2015 LEVE sponsored Haiti’s first construction trade fair. The event brought together family-owned construction businesses to share ideas and build connections, and included a “Skills Olympiad” where vocational students demonstrated their construction talents. Working with SkillsUSA and other partners, we are planning an enhanced Skills Olympiad for 2017.
Building on Success through Innovation and a Focus on Sustainability
Since taking on Haiti LEVE, we have built connections and learned lessons that set the project on a path to success. The rising living standards of Caribbean Harvest participants are just one example of how the targeted approach of Haiti LEVE is leading to positive change for ordinary Haitians. This partnership and other successes in the first three years of the project led USAID to extend Haiti LEVE through December 2018, providing additional funding to support our work.
We are committed to continuing our efforts toward human and institutional capacity development in this historically troubled economy. In the years ahead, we will continue to seek out innovative ideas and practices that help build Haiti’s agribusiness, apparel, and construction enterprises into sustainable industries that provide steady employment for the Haitian people, while strengthening their country’s position in the international community.