At the Roseau market on Market Day with a Difference 29 October 2016
At the Roseau market on Market Day with a Difference 29 October 2016

Take a casual stroll through Roseau and it is hard not to notice the growing presence of Haitians on island and the fact that many of them are making a living from agriculture.

On any day of the week, a significant number of Haitian women are among the most ardent street vendors of Dominica's agricultural produce.

And this phenomenon is even more evident during the traditional weekend market days, especially at Roseau Market where 47 of the 190 registered vendors are Haitian.

A well-placed source with knowledge of the agriculture industry said existing statistics do not quantify Haitians' activities and contribution to the sector, so any assessment of their impact will be speculative.

Superintendent of Markets, Julius Carbon noted that the vendor population fluctuates based on production levels, availability of produce, market trends or persons moving on from vending.

According to agriculture industry insiders, it is indisputable that Haitians in Dominica have made a noticeable contribution to the availability of local agricultural produce in the few last years.

Yet it appears that agriculture authorities do not have accurate means of measuring the extent of the Haitian influence, so officials are not prepared to go beyond acknowledging that it is "notable".

Nevertheless, there are certain clear indicators of their increasing impact. For example, Carbon disclosed that on weekdays Haitian vendors dominate the use of market tables.

He also pointed to an upsurge in weekday vending at the Roseau market recently, mainly because several Haitians have undertaken to sell there from Monday to Friday. He however noted that there are Dominican vendors on weekdays as well.

"I think the Haitian vendors may have led the way to people using the [vending] tables during the week. I believe they have contributed by being always there…" Carbon said.

"Yes, I think the Haitians have contributed to availability of products at the market…their numbers have contributed to that, particularly during the week ...

"They have actually added to the vendor population at the market, especially the daily vending," he added, estimating that their presence may be up to 60% of the vendors there during the week.

Carbon commented that most of the vendors registered with the market authority are also farmers or part time farmers, particularly Dominicans.

And the Haitian involvement in agriculture is much deeper than merely vending produce. They are also engaged in the cultivating, harvesting, and transporting crops to the marketplace.

President of the International Foundation for the Development of Haitians, Petit Louis Acceus said Dominica's Haitian community might comprise the majority of the island's immigrant population.

Based on information he has received, Acceus believes most of the Haitian immigrants are involved in agriculture.

"They work for the [Dominican] farmers … some Dominicans are satisfied with what they do and give them a piece of land so they can help themselves.

"Some of them have their own farms and some of them work with Dominicans," he said.

Acceus noted that Haitians love farming and many early immigrants were only allowed into Dominica to do agriculture.

"Now they have a choice, but in the beginning they didn't have a choice," he said.

Given a choice, many Haitian immigrants still gravitate to agriculture and come to Dominica fully intending to make a living in that sector, he said.

They make a meaningful contribution by providing a wide range of services. Acceus remarked that many do both farming and vending and others buy from farmers to resell.

In his view, Haitian immigrants have proven their value to the local agriculture sector by increasing the amount of local farm produce that is available daily.

Meanwhile, head of the Dominica Hucksters Association, Cecil Joseph remarked that many licensed hucksters do business with the Haitians.

"We have a number of [licensed] hucksters who buy produce from them …" Joseph said, "There certainly has been a positive impact by the Haitians on production."

He said one positive contribution from Haitians has been to lengthen the sorrel season by cultivating 'black sorrel', which now becomes available from August.