Friday, September 12, 2008

Envisioning a New Haiti

I had a sweet dream last night, of a summer sojourn in Maine with two of my best friends. It was minutes after awakening before the feelings disappeared, when I remembered Haiti and the thousands of people who had not slept in comfort, who had not had sweet dreams.

The pictures coming in from Haiti now are looking like the beginnings of Darfur.

After the floods, the bridges will be rebuilt - at great expense to the US taxpayers- as they were after Hurricane Jeanne in 2004-- and then the next flood will arrive.

The international community sends food aid- but it is rice and cooking oil- that has to be cooked. The flood victims have no cooking fuel.

Why not send vitamin enriched peanut butter?

There is a new stove, using a new fuel which comes from molasses, a byproduct of sugar cane. Certainly, we have a lot of that here on Hispaniola.

We preach the value of education. But not vocational education. Voltaire. The land has eroded because no one concerned themselves enough with the lives of the peasants to teach proper agriculture, no one stopped the cutting of trees, introduced permaculture, terraced the mountains, and developed the sustainable farm.

There is another model of education being used now in India. I call your attention to the Barefoot College.

I once had a vision of what it would be like if all the NGOs in Haiti actually cooperated, as they do not now. Inside the States, few non-profits operate without volunteers. Outside the US, few NGOs make any use at all of volunteers. Here in the DR, one cannot even volunteer for the Red Cross.

Poverty is a big business. The team known as the Beltway Bandits, the Private Voluntary Organizations who are "licensed" and "qualified" to accept money from USAID, make a good living off of it. Where is their incentive to eliminate the source of their own livlihood? Nor do they seem to have done a very good job at repairing the bridge and watershed into Gonaives. Certainly this is one of the things that is very broken in Washington. These organizations spend a great deal of time "accounting" to USAID for every dime spent, but unfortunately, there seems to be little room for innovation since grants are designed in Washington. Nor do they appear to know how to actually build the bridges.

Haiti could just skip over the petroleum age. She could model all the very best practices of how to eliminate poverty, the place where all the projects which hope to save the world, hope to save Africa, could come to test their efficacy. There are exciting projects now in place, but scattered about, a farm project here, a yogurt project there, more than onebreakthrough teaching project- here and here

What if all the projects were assembled in one place? Say on one of the large islands offshore? Call it a ¨Global Best Practices Training Ground"... and please don´t let the Beltway Bandits in.. only the entrepreneurs.

In Port au Prince, there are an estimated 300,000 children who have been abandoned by their impoverished parents who cannot sustain them. Meanwhile in Thailand, through the work of one man, Dr. Condom,The average number of children per family dropped from seven to two inside thirty years.

Haiti is a like a patient who is dying from ten different diseases, and each NGO or project treats one disease, declares it cured, and releases the patient, who returns home to die of something else.

So rather than just repair Haiti from destitution to poverty, why don´t we join together and take a great leap forward to envision a different Haiti, a model of sustainable development?

A vision that of a land where people live in harmony with land, without the use of petroleum, growing their own food, living simply (as they most certainly do), telling stories about the fire at night... Krick..... Krack....

Imagine that as a destination! We would drum and dance and embroider and learn all different languages and make ART..........

Until Haiti is blooming, we will not be able to say that we have overcome the slavery that was the stain on our heritage.

Take heart. It is the tropics, every thing grows here.

The other side of the island, the Dominican Republic, while still poor by US standards, is a food exporter. Here they produced more rice than they needed. Also coffee, chocolate, sugar, all kinds of tropical fruit, cashews, macadamias, peanuts, yucca, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, corn, carrots, garlic, corn, apples. All the seeds that are needed are here. All is growing right here.

Haiti, when it was a slave colony of the French, produced more than all the 13 colonies of Great Britain combined.

Until Haiti is blooming, we will not be able to say that we have overcome the slavery that was the stain on our heritage.

Mme. Sarkozy, perhaps you would be interested in this project, after all, one could make the case that Haiti is France‘s legacy? Why not be Haiti’s Princess Diana? (Mindful as I am that we would not have won the Revolution without the aid of France, mesi ampil!)

Or how about you, Mr. Branson? You are our local billionaire who has bought all of Necker Island to turn into an eco development

There are three islands off the coast of Haiti, as well. Not uninhabitabited, of course.

But imagine what hope it would give to the planet if we had even one working model of having brought a small portion of Haiti up from the brink of devastation?

Imagine that.

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