Tuesday, August 23, 2022

What should foreigners *Blans" Do to help #Haiti

For years Bob Corbett ran a list serve on #Haiti

This is a post with his wisdom back in 2009


On Thu, 6/18/09, Bob Corbett <corbetre@webster.edu> wrote:

From: Bob Corbett <corbetre@webster.edu>
Subject: 34584: Corbett (reply) 34583: Durban (reply): re. 34582 Roebling re. Clinton & Haiti (fwd)
To: "Bob Corbett's Haiti list" <haiti@lists.webster.edu>
Date: Thursday, June 18, 2009, 10:39 AM

From Bob Corbett

I think Lance Durban lays out a serious challenge.  Like Roebling and many others, and I would think Lance Durban would be among the group, most of us deplore the wages and life form lived by the bulk of the Haitian poor.

But, to bemoan conditions seems to me to do virtually nothing to improve them.

I'm quite a pessimist.  For more than 20 years I ran a small NGO and I tried to get various economic projects going in quite remote rural areas and in Cite Soleil -- well, it was Cite Simone in the early days.

I was using donated money and my organization had no paid employees at all, nor did we use donated money for our own expenses.  I had a policy to work solely with established community organizations, mainly called
"Ti Legliz" in those days.

Many of the people were willing and worked hard.  But moving from a start-up
project (again with donated money) to SUSTAINABLILTY proved to be next to impossible.  My primary aim was to try to get some business of some sort started, that within 3-5 years could become independent of my group's money and to become self-sustaining.

There were three major sorts of projects I ended up working with:

1.  Groups of market women.
2.  Farm projects.
3.  In the city, artisans.

I never had much success with groups # 2 and 3, and very little success with any whole group of the market women, but some individuals did manage to use the start-up money my group advanced and to move on to sustainability.

There were many reasons -- in farming, as Lance pointed out, there was the problems of land.  Some were the natural problems he point out and some were ownership of land issues.  As soon as a parcel of rented land (seemingly the bulk of land avaialble to peasants) began to produce something, then city land-owners demanded a cut and the projects would begin to wane.

Markets were always a problem and with farming so was transportation of goods.  Water was always an issue.

There were certainly some dishonest folks in the groups and we lost some groups and some money in that manner, but that was very insignificant and to be expected in any human community.  In general it wasn't will and effort that were lacking, rather it was

-- organization
-- know-how
-- natural resources
-- transportation
-- water
-- land ownership or use
-- markets

Now consider, I was coming to Haiti with money on which I was not expecting ANYTHING in return, wanting to use 100% of my money to help already organized groups.  And the success rate was extremely low.  Some benefits would accrue in the few years my organization was pumping money in, but as soon as we would say:  Time's up, this has to become self-sustaining, then they would collapse.

So, if one is talking about INVESTORS coming in to make a profit ......
well, again, it is easy to get angry with people who seem to be taking advantage of folks, but what are the POSITIVE and CONSTRUCTIVE advice to
people looking to invest in Haiti....  And, people who are looking in a competitive manner to invest money at a return that about matches what the market will provide in a world econmy?

I am very pessimistic that such investors would be much attracted to Haiti and attracted to pay living wages.

If that is at all so, then what does one suggest?

Is Haiti just to remain a begging nation forever?  It doesn't seem to be working very well.

Are there alternatives?  I haven't seen many.  I've met and visited with hundreds of folks who, like me, were trying to do things at the level of human service with either no profit or very little, or just trying to keep a few small projects going.  And I have seen a handful of successful ones, but a gigantic mass of those which fail.

The money runs out, a main leader dies or moves on, the group loses interest, the group is more interested in the religious outcomes that the material advancement of the communithy, the group goes to some other country and so on.  Lots of reasons.  And the projects die out and within a year or two there is no sign of their previous existence.

What are the POSITIVE possiblities?  Haiti is what it is governmentally and socially, economically, ecologically.  Those are relatively fixed.

Then what?

I would love to hear some discussion of these questions.

Bob Corbett