Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Mango Man

Just when you think it is all just completely hopeless, that we are never going to get it right, that the more we try, the worse it gets........ just then.... when the hope is about gone .....

you meet someone extraordinary.

I had the privilege of talking for an hour with one of Haiti's bright lights --- and Haiti has millions of them, but lots of them have left....

A graduate of City University in NY (my alma mater as well), Jean Buteau returned to Haiti to work and started in on the mango business. Not an ordinary Mango business, but one which has become the NUMBER ONE exporter of organic mangos in the world. It has the first hot water USDA pre-processing plant in the world, so that the Haitian mangos go through their first big inspection before they leave Haiti.

But what was most extrodinary about M. Buteau was not just what he had already done, but the way he thought about his country, his people.

We sat in an elegant bistro in Petionville(ah yes, Haiti has more than a thousand faces), drinking cold Presige beer while he spoke of his dreams for the future:

"Every morning there are 300,000 people between here and Croix de Bouquet wake up with no food in their house and no money in their pockets. They have to go out and hustle something in order to get some food for themselves and their children every day - sell a pair of jeans, find a bit of work, something. At the end of the day, they are so tired and they have no time left so they end up eating cornflakes because it is easy and cheap. I want to figure out how to get them a packet of food, of their own food, of taro and yame and their own vegetables - in such a way that they can cook it quickly, and be nourished on their own food."

Please send this man a lot of money and a great team to work with!!


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