Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Island Lesson, again

From the ongoing postings on the Corbett List

RE Housing contracts in Haiti and reconstruction

I applaud you. Stuart, for being able to slog through those documents and specs and come up with a judgement on whether the development is going to be adequate or not. I certainly could not. But the fact that they are going to be packed in by the hundreds near a factory does not make the project bad in my book. Jobs... now that is a good thing.

As a bit of a meander.. we do have in the DR the ONLY factory in the world which is certified by the Workers Rights Consortium, at Altagracia http://www.agenceglobal.com/Article.asp?Id=2667 .

I am not a huge defender of USAID -.

But here is a video of what they HAVE done

What I LOVE about the project is it was done (ostensibly) with community participation.

Ok it was small - but with all the issues involved - the clearance of rubble, the issues of lost land records.. then the construction and organizing a community which no longer actually exists, deciding who will get the houses-- what a struggle.

Another issue in this project is that CHF was actually a HOUSING NGO,, there seems to be a lot of mission creep inside the NGOs - everyone wants to do everything. Now the Red Cross - wants to get into the business of building permanent housing?

I do wish that USAID would ease up on designing everything down to the last nut and bolt and just give some flexibilty and trust to the people who are on the ground. They know who the honest players are on the ground. But I suspect that the ultimate decision on who gets the contract is made in DC - not PauP.

No let me underline that a bit. THE ONE thing that would really help save money and get the ball rolling would be if USAID would STOP micromanging done to the last jot and tittle. Can someone do a guesstamate on how much it cost the US taxpayer to get those specs done by an American? in America? Hey, I can get you a Dominican who will do it for a THIRD -- AFTER he has seen the land, AFTER he has located the materials here on the Island, and he will IMPORT a CREW of Haitians who are TRAINED here in the DR and speak KREYOLE and Spanish

(Check out how many of the NGOs are getting money for training MASONS????? YE GODS... MASONS are living ALL over Santo Domingo....)

Now saving the biggest rant for last

WHY are they even THINKING about single family houses?
We have Millions of people to house. Never heard of an apartment? University dorms?

Never been to the Dominican Republic?

I would just want them to give a blanket grant to a group like the Lambi Fund which has a long history of working with grass roots groups in Haiti so that THEY could go out and survey their people. A huge percentage of the population from PauP fled to the countryside and are still living with relatives. So wouldn't it be smart to start building some really dense construction in modern architecture

And I want DOMINICANS who have been spending ONE THIRD of their public health budget on free medical care for Haitians here -- to get the CONTRACTS. ALL OF THEM.

back to my initital rant

it is an island
these people here are infinitely qualified

haitians are very experienced builders

ever heard of punta cana?

haitian built

Casa de Campo?
haitians built it

Santo Domingo?

haitians are building it to this very day......

Your foreign money seems to come with so ooooooo many strings... like as in

let us come into your country and build it the way we think it ought to look.....

wanna see what Haitians might want?

anyone ask them?


and here is the orginal post from Stuart Leiderman (I have his blanket permission to repost)

"I remember going back to the States to visit, and observing that everyone there had hot water in BOTH their showers and their kitchen sinks and could actually FLUSH the toilet paper ... and I could not figure out why they were not dancing...." Elizabeth Roebling

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Dear Readers:

Thanks to Elizabeth and Lance for continuing the colloquy. The remarks about hot water and toilet paper are apropos because there are very large foreign aid construction projects such as the two below that are undecided about what level of civilization to offer Haiti's earthquake refugees after two years of living in tents, sleeping on the ground, washing on their knees, defecating who-knows-where...

In the first case, USAID's project, announced November 3, 2011 - 750 at first, expandable to 1500, then to 5000 - offers a kind of masonry version of a tent, i.e. a predictable solar oven with pit toilet, water barrel and no bedrooms. These are to be packed high-density style by the hundreds next to a future Korean textile factory in the north of Haiti. The distinguishing aspect of this bid process is that the obviously poor design is a done deal; builders have to take it or leave it.

In the second case, the American Red Cross, announced January 5, 2012, seeks consultants to frame bids for "owner-driven reconstruction." It is written in relatively plain-English and the concept seems to be echoed by other humanitarian organizations such as CordAid and CARE that believe the homeless should be involved in rebuilding. In contrast to USAID's tight but flawed technical requirements, these are relatively loose, without reference to minimum amenities:

"Must follow the MTPTC [Ministere des Travaux Publics Transports et Communications] guide for confined masonry [ http://www.scribd.com/doc/47431164/GUIDE-PRATIQUE-DE-PREPARATION-DE-PETITS-BATIMENTS-EN-HAITI-MTPTC-18JAN11 ]; Must develop other standards for other building types (wood structure, concrete frame, etc). Choice will ensure beneficiary satisfaction; It should designate a minimum floor area (18sm or other as agreed) and minimum footprint (10sm or other as agreed) [note: sm = square meters, but I'll have to check how a footprint can be smaller than floor area]; The standards should allow for upwards expansion in high density areas; Housing models should be available to guide homeowners. (single and multistory); The standards must include a sanitation component, and allow for safe cooking facilities..."

These two are worth reading both for their strengths, weaknesses and startling differences in language, process and probable outcome. A question is, should all foreign-assisted and -funded replacement housing in Haiti share minimum features, facilities, stress resistance, durability, performance and habitation criteria? And should this extend beyond the walls to the neighborhood and village context? These are hundred-million dollar questions waiting for answers.

Thank you,

Stuart Leiderman

Reference: "A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander et al.

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Construction of permanent shelters Solicitation Number: SOL-521-12-000003
Agency: Agency for International Development Office: Overseas Missions
Location: Haiti USAID-Port Au Prince

Haiti Assistance Program ? Integrated Neighborhood Approach Program ? Neighborhood Upgrading

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