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Investor Tank selects three winners, gives 450K for Haiti business projects

The Investor Tank pitch competition chose three winners on Nov. 9 during its final live-streamed event. Each of the winners will receive $150,000 to support their work in agribusiness, health and shelter.

CariBBrew won for agribusiness, H.O.P. E. — short for Haiti Outreach Pwoje Espwa — won in health, while Friends of Matènwa won in the shelter.

“The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to be buying the land,” said Juliette Low Fleury, a former student of Matènwa Community Center. “[We] can build those terraces so that this land that we’ve deemed undesirable before will be fit for use so that people can start building their homes and their gardens on it.”

The Diaspora Partnership Accelerator (DPA) Investor Tank is a pilot project funded by USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) and implemented by Haiti Renewal Alliance (HRA). It aims to “better identify and prioritize the humanitarian needs affecting vulnerable communities in Haiti, design and implement better solutions to those problems, and test an innovative partnership model with new and non-traditional actors,” according to USAID. 

The month-long competition featured many businesses pitching their work in Agribusiness, Health and Shelter. A panel of judges voted for each, as did members of the Haitian diaspora online. 

Beverly Malbranche, founder and CEO of CariBBrew, expressed her happiness and thanked the judges and the people who voted for her business. She said the first thing her organization will do is fund its cooperative so it can start exporting its coffee, which is currently being harvested.

CariBBrew’s project plans to address the lack of large-scale coffee farming in Haiti, which shows the decline of coffee exports since the 1900s and the increased competition from Latin American producers. Some of those solutions are to create demand for Haitian coffee and cacao internationally, contract with farming cooperatives and pay workers, and plant more coffee and cacao trees.

The Friends of Matènwa project aims to alleviate inequitable housing on the island of Lagonav. Some of the solutions are increasing access to land and home ownership by procuring land and building disaster resilient homes made out of eco bricks, and offering flexible payment terms to low-to-mid income families who need them.

The H.O.P.E. project proposes to tackle the problem of remote, isolated communities that lack access to health care. It wants to bring mobile clinics, mobile health screenings, and peer education and support groups to people in the commune of Borgne. 

Toni Eyssallenne, advisory board member of H.O.P.E., said that the Investor Tank funds will be used to invest in staff, hire [nurses] and expand mobile clinics. 

“It’s not just the places that are easy to get to. It’s to get into the community that’s hard to reach,” she said.

The Nov. 9 event marks the closing of phase one. Daniela Villacres, of the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, said in phase two, Miyamoto International will oversee the implementation of the projects and will provide customized mentorship and capacity building support to the winners. Haiti Renewal Alliance will continue its engagement and provide advisory support during that phase.

Firmin Backer, president of Haiti Renewal Alliance, said success also depends on implementing those projects and on whether the winners have the capacity to implement them.

“So they will have to show that they do have the capacity and that they can do small projects like that, just in case in the future USAID is looking at bigger projects they can tap into,” he said. “That’s the overall vision.”

Backer said HRA will conduct a survey to learn what the public thinks of the whole idea of USAID funding diaspora projects. 

“We have to improve on what we did,” Backer said. “What are the lessons to be learned and how we can make this competition much better for the people who want to participate.”

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