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Michel Chancy, determined to feed Haiti from Lt Agogo

  • June 4, 2024
  • 13 Min
  • 17
michel-chancy,-determined-to-feed-haiti-from-lt-agogo

“I am programmed and educated for Haiti. And I continue, for this country, to feel useful,” says entrepreneur and veterinary doctor Michel Chancy.

The sterilized milk processing company, Lèt Agogo, brings together more than 35 dairies across the country. Around 1,000 breeder families sell their produce to the company.

A breeder milks a cow in the town of Limonade in 2006.

In 2005, Veterimed, the structure responsible for the project, won the first prize for social innovation projects in Latin America and the Caribbean for Lèt Agogo.

The award, presented by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the WK Kellogg Foundation, recognized the team behind the initiative since its launch twenty-four years ago.

He also saluted the civic commitment and enthusiasm of its founder, veterinarian Michel Chancy.

Michel Chancy

Photo by Michel Chancy in The state of Atlanta in the USA in 2019. | © UniQ

Despite insecurity and the deep economic crisis, the former Secretary of State for Animal Production is banking on his country.

“Leaving is not an option,” Chancy insists, his features open and his temples graying.

The project was born after years of exile in the Canadian cold.

Chancy’s father, Max, and mother, Adelina Magloire, had to flee the country in the 1960s.

Trade unionists, his parents wanted to preserve the democratic gains that were threatened, but the dictator François Duvalier had no patience for union movements.

The jails of Fort-Dimanche systematically crushed the slightest pretensions to freedom of expression.

Letter of Agogo

A man working on behalf of Lèt Agogo in the Damiens dairy in 2018.

Max Chancy was imprisoned in 1963 for subversion.

Upon his release, the Chancy family, fearing the worst, emigrated to Canada in 1965. “I learned to love this country far from its lands,” proclaims Michel Chancy.

After the exile of Jean-Claude Duvalier on February 7, 1986, Michel Chancy decided to return to Haiti in November of the same year, after studying veterinary medicine and zootechnics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Aged 24 on his return, the young man cured his homesickness by rediscovering “the electricity pylons and the streets” of his childhood.

“I had a thirst for country,” Chancy recalls. Barely back, I started traveling to provincial towns to fill this lack of Haiti, of its newly rediscovered landscapes.

In Haiti, Chancy had his first work experience as a teacher in animal health and production at the Middle School of Development of Hinche, in January 1987.

Letter Agogo, Michel Chancy

Michel Chancy in a cow park in Vaudreuil, Cité Soleil, in 2021.

He is affected by the problem of Creole pigs exterminated in the Program for the Eradication of African Swine Fever and for the Development of Pig Breeding (PEPPADEP) during the 1980s.

Consequently, it integrates the Research Group for Development (GRD), made up of a group of agro-professionals sensitive to peasant development in rural areas of the country, as well as the non-governmental organization CARITAS.

Between 1987 and 1989, this NGO considered a program to introduce Jamaican pigs resembling the Creole pig herd into Haiti. This project never saw the light of day, however.

Letter of Agogo

A breeder in the town of Limonade milks a cow in 2005.

Until 1988, Chancy taught at the Middle School of Development in Hinche.

The National Council of Government (CNG) of Henry Namphy dismisses him because of a strike in the face of the autonomy deemed in danger of the Haitian University.

Since then, the question of breeding has become an apostolate for Chancy. “Livestock breeding is very important in the national economy,” he analyzes. “And I have always said to myself that peasant organizations should be better trained to solve the problems they face.”

It was to meet training needs that he created Veterimed in 1991. The non-governmental organization, made up of young agronomists specializing in animal health and production and a few veterinary nurses, aims to train veterinary agents in all the countries.

Michel Chancy, Letter of Agogo

A day of work in the Thomazeau dairy in 2017.

In 1991, under the presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Michel Chancy became Director of Animal Health at the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR). It continues its policy of massive training of veterinary agents.

The entrepreneur held this position for approximately five months, until the coup d’état against the priest-president on September 30, 1991. “Between 1991 and 2000, we trained more than 1,000 agents in all the communal sections of the country” , he emphasizes.

In 2000, Veterimed founded the “Lêt Agogo” brand.

Letter of Agogo

Crates of sterilized milk bottles in the Maïssade dairy in the Central Plateau in 2018. | © Veterimed

The initiative was born in a context where market liberalization in the 1980s disadvantaged the national dairy sector in favor of imports, and where processing plants were closed between 1995 and 2005.

Since then, Chancy has received numerous international awards, including that of “Humanitarian Leader” for Latin America and the Caribbean, at the 12th edition of the “Latin Trade Bravo Business Awards” in 2006.

Despite the accolades, Lèt Agogo does not cross a long, quiet river. Customs fees deemed “exorbitant” by Chancy do not favor national production.

Insecurity is also a challenge.

Of the 35 dairies in “Lèt Agogo”, 21 are still operating today.
Several dairies in areas of the metro area are “hard to access or controlled by gangs.”

Letter of Agogo

View of the Lèt Agogo dairy in the commune of Saint-Marc, in Artibonite. | © Veterimed

Most of these dairies are managed and supervised by “young people”. Some are former interns or students of Michel Chancy at the Faculty of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine (FAMV).

For example, Zacharie Fanfan, a former student from the 2014-2019 FAMV class, supervises the Saut-Mathurine dairy, in the south. The initiative, he told AyiboPost, allowed him to gain “maturity, professionally”.

In 2023, a load of Lèt Agogo leaving the Arcahaie dairy was sequestered for ransom and emptied in Canaan by heavily armed bandits, according to Chancy.

Financially, the institution is trying to stay afloat.

Lèt Agogo provides sterilized milk to 90 schools across the country thanks to a partnership signed in September 2023 with the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) and supported by the French Embassy in Haiti.

Letter of Agogo

Schoolchildren from the Lèt AgogoMENFP partnership program posing with a bottle of sterilized milk.

This agreement allows the company to keep its head above water “although the contractual conditions have become unfavorable due to the ups and downs of inflation”.

The insecurity hit the entrepreneur personally. Five members of his family have experienced the horrors of kidnapping, four of them in the last three years.

But his “Haitian dream” keeps him standing and accompanies him every day. “I am programmed and educated for Haiti,” he said. And I continue, for this country, to feel useful.”

Letter of Agogo

Schoolgirls from the lèt AgogoMENFP partnership program posing with a bottle of sterilized milk.

In Haiti, annual consumption of milk is 130,000 tonnes, with 45,000 tonnes produced locally. Potential production is 145,000 tonnes, but 100,000 tonnes of milk are wasted every year due to lack of adequate skills and infrastructure, according to an Oxfam report.

For Michel Chancy, the “sickness of Haiti” comes in part from an economic imbalance. “And self-happiness,” he continues, “cannot be envisaged without collective economic and social rescue.”

Letter of Agogo

Michel Chancy at Île de la Gonave in 2014.

Par Junior Legrand

Cover image: a farmer from the commune of Limonade transporting milk in 2001.


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author avatar
Junior Legrand