Joseph Serge Compère

Haiti is the world’s largest producer of vetiver essential oil – and Joseph Serge Compère is an entrepreneur who’s brought together 250 planters in his own community to form a co-operative that both supports the industry and provides sustainable employment.

From the moment he finished school in Port-au-Prince, Compère’s aim was to help himself and his neighbours to help themselves by working together instead of as individual growers. So in 2012, he set up his vetiver co-operative, Koperativ Plantè Vetivè (KPV), focusing on three localities, Massey, Foucauld and Bazelais.

It had an immediate effect. Working together, they were able to agree a contract with the owner of Agri-Supply Co. S.A., a company which buys vetiver essential oil for the perfume industry and for aromatherapy. The immediate result of that people power was a modest increase in income.

At the moment, the co-operative produces about 35 barrels of essential oil a year, and Compère’s aim is to increase the organization’s membership so that they can boost that number to at least 100 barrels – and begin to generate enough revenue to fund a list of community projects.

High on that packed list are a school for children and young teenagers, a dispensary to provide basic medicines and prescriptions, and a modern community washhouse. A distant dream is a factory to process the vetiver. “Now we can dream: we’re working for each other – and not just for ourselves.”