In Haiti there exists a unique way in which agricultural products from rural gardens informally arrive at urban markets, namely through Madam Saras. These women ( named after a local bird) play an essential intermediary role in Haitian informal markets. They are seen as heroines of Haiti’s economy, a poto mitan (pillar of the economy) which many families depend upon. Due to the informal environment they operate in, these women often remain invisible.
On the request of Cordaid, anthropologist Talitha Stam conducted an 8-week field study into the entrepreneurial strategies of these market women. The study is part of Cordaid’s participation in the IS Academy Human Security in Fragile States, a collaborative research program between the Disaster Studies Chair at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Wageningen University, the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cordaid.
“Cordaid would like to focus on local food chains in Haiti. The study of Madam Saras gives Cordaid insight in the social and economic role that these female intermediaries play within the local food chains. We use these insigths to respond to the local food chains, and make them more efficient.” Ron Delnoije Cordaid’s Programme Manager Food Security.
Madam Saras operate in fragile, insecure and dangerous circumstances. Most of the time their work is performed out of necessity to compensate the lack of formal employment. These ordinary rural women are hoping to earn some money. For some of these women, their hopes have become reality as they make more money than Haiti’s average.
These successful entrepreneurial strategies, but also the struggles and dangers are vividly described in the report “From Gardens to Markets”.