Formidable challenges are not new to Father Jean Michelet Dorescar, Congregation de Sainte Croix, C.S.C., and General Manager of Bon Sel Dayiti, a Haitian fortified salt processor. After all, his country endures the ravages of frequent and devastating natural disasters, compounded by chronic economic instability and political unrest. Despite Haiti being in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fr. Michelet continues to be tireless in his efforts to provide the country with fortified salt to prevent iodine deficiency and help eradicate lymphatic filariasis, a mosquito born disease that affects more than two million Haitians.
The Bon Sel facility remains Haiti’s sole salt processing facility and plays a crucial role in fortifying both local and imported salt, as well as supplying food processors and food service operators with iodized salt. By expanding into the food industry, particularly bakeries and bouillon makers, iodized salt is reaching a wider population in which consumption patterns have shifted away from the in-house use of salt. In addition, Fr. Michelet has overseen an expansion into the industrial salt industry, providing positive margins to help offset operating expenses. The Bon Sel facility operates as a social enterprise with support from the University of Notre Dame and Cargill Salt, using commercial principles and marketplace strategies to address the pressing challenges of iodine deficiency and lymphatic filariasis more effectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents new and daunting challenges to healthcare, with many programs now halted or severely curtailed. The Bon Sel program is an example of a community-based health intervention that can continue to deliver benefits when many other activities must be suspended due to COVID-19. In spite of the pandemic, Fr. Michelet and his team continue to leverage the Haitian salt supply chain to cost effectively achieve healthcare objectives for preventing IDD. Bon Sel demonstrates how a commercial enterprise collaborating with like-minded government agencies and non-governmental organizations can serve as key contributors in addressing humanitarian needs.
With some packaging supplies running low and his labor force restricted, Fr. Michelet tends to the daily processing and fortification of salt. He is heartened by the ample amount of salt and is pleasantly surprised by the volume of sales and shipments to his commercial customers, particularly the bakeries and bouillon makers. While the mix of sales may shift somewhat, he accepts that the changes are merely part of the ebb and flow of supply and demand in the marketplace. Fr. Michelet is accustomed to having to adapt in the face of natural disasters, and COVID-19 is no exception—he continues to make the adjustments necessary to ensuring that the Haitian salt industry is in a position to benefit the health of his fellow Haitians. Once again, Bon Sel, Haiti’s indispensable salt program, weathers a storm.
Authored by: Chip Wirth; David O’Brien; James Reimer, Salt Project Director of the University of Notre Dame Salt Program