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Interview: Michel Chancy

The director of the NGO Veterimed from Haiti talks about Milk Agogo project, first place in the Experiences in Social Innovation Award | Cycle 2004-2005

A veterinary doctor, aged 44, Michel Chancy was born in Haiti, although he grew up in Canada. His parents, both teachers, were exiled for their opposition to the government of Jean Claude Duvalier.

Chancy studied veterinary medicine in Mexico and returned to his country in 1986 after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship. He was 25 at the time and one of the only five veterinarians in all Haiti – the other four were high-ranking officials in the government.

In 1991, he served as head of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Animal Health Service. He coordinated
the first vaccinations against anthrax, although he stepped down after only five months following a coup d’etat. He then founded Veterimed, an NGO specialized in animal production and health that runs Lèt Agogo (Milk Agogo), the project that came first in the Experiences in Social Innovation Award, organized by ECLAC with the support of the Kellogg Foundation. Given the shortage of electric power, Haiti is compelled to import large quantities of long-life and powdered milk. In this interview, he talks about the winning project.

What is the experience of the Milk Agogo project based on?
Animal health is the source of all the other problems facing the livestock sector. Given all our years of experience in the field working with peasant farmers, we were able to identify some sectors with greater potential. Milk is a highly consumed food in Haiti. But demand is only met with large quantities of imports – milk is the second most imported foodstuff in Haiti after rice. However, there is an unexploited local production potential. This potential lies in the hands of poor peasant families who own cows.This type of family agriculture can be profitable and it produces a fairer social distribution of the wealth that is generated. Moreover, it is an alternative to agricultural cultivation that is damaging to the environment. The main obstacle to the development of national production is the inexistence of milk processing factories. Milk Agogo is a program that supports the production, processing and sale of dairy products. It has developed a technical model that is catered to the lack of electric power and that requires a high level of farmer participation.

Did the project need support to learn how to manage a business?
Our technical team has people with training and experience in business and market management. It is their job to train the rest of our NGO’s technical staff.

What is the main difficulty faced by the project?
The challenge of marketing, together with the capacity to grow in an organized manner.

How will the award advance the work of the NGO Veterimed?
In the short term, it will serve as a tremendous publicity campaign for our products in Haiti. It will open doors to new financing and we hope that more investors will take an interest in the sector. This recognition will also demand greater rigor and quality from our work.

Why did you decide to become a veterinarian?
I like animals, but I am even more concerned about people’s problems. If they have an animal working for them, it can help improve their lives.

Published in Interaction nº 13 

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