The technological revolutions that have shaped the modern world have thus far all taken root in rich countries. Today, a new disruptive technology is breaking that mold – blockchain. Nowhere is this plainer than Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and home to a blossoming range of projects using blockchain technologies to solve problems in ordinary people’s lives.
As a developing economy, Haiti faces unique challenges — the country is more traditionally associated with earthquakes than with tech innovation. Haiti today is a hotbed of applied blockchain projects, projects that are expanding our understanding of the technology’s potential.
In agriculture, an empowering initiative called AgriLedger founded by Haitian entrepreneur Genevieve Leveille and rolling out in Haiti this year is set to transform the food supply chain landscape. A custom-built platform powered by blockchain allows international buyers to scan a QR code and immediately access data on produce origin, transport, and costs in each step in the supply chain. Logistical data – sale documents, certification, and transportation – are made immutable and visible on the web. The payment system then makes data available to all participants in real time, and only vetted endorsers can validate transactions. This process makes it possible to certify product quality, thereby tackling a longstanding challenge preventing many buyers from entering the Haitian market. Furthermore, farmers themselves are safeguarded against price fluctuations, as the market price is determined by supply-demand principles rather than bargaining power.
Similarly, the Blockchain Cotton Project (BCP) is set to have a big impact in the cotton industry. Haiti has not produced cotton for years, yet if all goes to plan, it will soon be supplying millions of pounds of organic cotton for shoes, shirts, and other items sold in US stores. Haiti’s smallholder farmers face challenges tracking the production process of organic cotton. Using blockchain technology, cotton buyers have access to information about the full cultivation process, starting with the farmer’s name and GPS location of the farm and down to the exact fertilizer applications and impact of a specific batch on the environment. Without blockchain it is nearly impossible to verify whether products from Haiti are organic or fair-trade. The BCP employs RCS Global Better Sourcing Program’s technology — an on-site traceability and due diligence tool that guarantees the quality of the cotton and ensures farmers are paid a fair price for their crops. This pilot, which in 2019 involves a handful of farmers, could involve as many as 17,000 within five years. That would revitalize the entire industry, which has seen a 30-year standstill.
Applications go far beyond farming and food production. Blockchain is also changing the recycling process in Haiti, which had for years been plagued by corruption and price fluctuations. In order to counter these challenges Plastic Bank teamed up with IBM to launch a recycling initiative, which today has 32 branches around Haiti. The initiative pays for recyclable plastic with a crypto token system custom-made for Haiti. it operates on two tokens, one tied to the dollar and the other that can be exchanged for goods through Plastic Bank. Fair price for the plastic is ensured through a