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  • Emmet Murphy and Mike Field

Kabrit plizyè mèt mouri nan solèy: Understanding systems dynamics in the Haitian livestock sector

Updated: Feb 13

MSD Hub editor's note (Michael Field, Senior Systems Specialist, Vikāra Institute):

This blog provides a summary of how MSR analysis can provide important insights into local contexts that should shape how activities are designed and implemented. The case of Haiti is of particular interest in that the various forces and factors affecting how smallholders manage risks from shocks and stresses have had a profound effect on how they engage market systems. As the authors explain, the MSR analysis provided insights into how smallholders manage a portfolio of animals to cope with such a dynamic and uncertain context. The analysis also highlighted that there are likely to be considerations if a project pushes changes in market systems without understanding the ‘why’ smallholders engage markets in a certain way.


The Haitian proverb "a goat who has several masters will die under the sun" refers to the fact that if several people are responsible for a task, nothing will get done. It is rare to find a rural Haitian household that doesn’t have some livestock. Whether it’s a handful of chickens, goats, or perhaps a single cow, Haitians have long relied on livestock to bolster food security, income, and manage risk. Yet, turbulent environmental and political conditions, such as ongoing drought, natural disaster, animal disease, inflation, gas and food shortages, on top of the well-publicized criminal gang violence in Port au Prince, are collectively undermining the value of livestock for rural livelihoods.

Recognizing the importance of livestock to Haitian farmers, USAID/Haiti through Feed the Future launched the Programme d’Appui à la Rentabilisation de l’Elevage (PARE) in January 2023 to increase the productivity, sales, and resilience of smallholder livestock producers. To gain a better understanding of how market systems in Haiti's livestock sector respond to recurring shocks and stresses, PARE (managed by LandO’Lakes Venture37) contracted the Vikāra Institute to conduct a livestock market system resilience analysis between March and July 2023. The study assessed market system dynamics according to structural domains (connectivity, diversity, power dynamics, and rule of law) and behavioral domains (cooperation, competition, decision making, and business strategy) to better understand market dynamics and establish a baseline vision of market system resilience.

Developing the Baseline

The survey team started off with a desk review, then it developed questionnaires to gather information on key questions during key informant interviews and focus group discussions. The team also developed a separate guide for market observations for major livestock markets on main market days.

Ultimately, the data gathered from approximately 60 interviews, focus group discussions and market observations contributed to a market systems resilience index (MSRI) score of 1.62 out of 4. The low overall score of the livestock market system shows the fragility of market systems resilience, with competition being particularly weak due to negotiating practices that don’t benefit small producers.

Roosevelt Décimus, PARE DCOP collecting info at livestock market in les Cayes for the study.

The MSRI score indicates that Haiti’s livestock system is reactive with the structural and behavioral domains. This means that — in order to guarantee income and maintain savings — market actors will often default to strategies that avoid risk and investments. In a reactive market system, competitors seek to undermine each other compared to a proactive system in which competitors find ways to work together while still maximizing their profits and increasing markets.

Beyond establishing a resilience score, the study also established several useful findings that will inform the project’s programming over the next few years:

Producers avoid putting all their eggs in one basket. The study revealed that Haitian smallholder farmers manage near-term uncertainties by maintaining diverse animals. Each animal plays a different role from a coping strategy perspective. Poultry produces cash quickly and is easy to sell on a regular basis. Larger animals, like goats and sheep, hold value better than poultry, and also turn over faster than cattle, so they provide a level of consistent cash flow. Finally, cattle are the most stable way for smallholders to manage savings, as cattle provide the best store of value. At the same time, these coping strategies are starting to break down as migration, natural disasters, and political turmoil are making it harder for even basic market functions to remain stable.

Smallholders manage uncertainty by avoiding risk. The study found that communities, market actors, and market systems have evolved a no-risk/no-invest strategies and tactics to manage uncertainty and are not overly reliant on informal community coping mechanisms, government social safety net services, or donor programs. However, they do seem to be reliant on market mechanisms. The implication of this approach is that it has increasingly eroded livestock production, mortality and profitability.

Haiti’s markets rely heavily on socio-economic conditions in Port-au-Prince. The research also found that, especially in the South, the no-risk/no-investment approaches evolved in a landscape where power (i.e., both political and market) was centralized in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, but this has recently been impacted by insecurity. As a result, most inputs and end markets were in or linked via Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, in the North, where connections to the Dominican Republic provided some level of diversity in terms of access to input and end markets, actors have fared better than those the South. However, this dynamic is challenged given the recent Dominican Republic border closure, which has already significantly impacted commercial poultry producers, who rely on imported animal feed and day-old chicks.

Looking forward, the study revealed some opportunities for PARE to tackle challenges to build new and stronger connections to stimulate Haiti’s livestock markets. Using a market systems development approach, PARE will work with local market actors and organizations to convene and facilitate positive change, including through a co-investment grant fund. Some key entry points include: enhanced access to veterinary inputs, financial services, water, energy, operations of spot markets, pasture management for cattle and goats, support for butchers and slaughterhouses and opportunities to source inputs and trade with a range of countries.

As the Haitian proverb goes, now is the time for many key actors to collectively work toward addressing some of the systemic issues facing the livestock market system.


Emmet Murphy, Venture37

Mike Field, Vikāra Institute

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