Haiti’s Protests: It’s More than Gas Prices

Update: Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned today (Saturday, July 14). Details here.

On Thursday, the government in Haiti announced a roll back of fuel subsidies that would result in increases of 31% to 50% of the cost of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.  Gas prices are already extremely high in Haiti, but with the increases, a liter of gas was projected to cost $5 (for perspective, that is almost $19 a gallon!).

The announcement led to protests throughout the country, in which 3 people were killed on Friday, business were looted and buildings set on fire. On Saturday President Moïse cancelled the rollback of subsidies, and yet protests continued, with people calling for Moïse to step down.

It is too early to know where this is heading. But a few points are important to provide context for what is happening.

The first, is that the announcement came as the government is under increasing pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce the fuel subsidies program as part of a broader set of market reforms the IMF is requiring of Haiti if the country is to be able to access additional funding. Haiti has been under the scrutiny of international financial institutions for decades, with access to funding continually tied to structural reforms aimed at reducing government expenditures. Though Haiti had qualified for debt reduction under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative some years back, the reductions were highly conditioned, and benchmarks impossible to meet, given political instability, four hurricanes and the 2010 earthquake. The resulting hollowing out of state capacity to deliver social services makes it difficult for the government to meet the demands of the people, and leaves the country dependent on non-governmental and church organizations for the provision of health and education services. Actual debt cancellation is still required – as most of the Haiti’s multilateral debts have been accrued under un-elected governments.

A second point is that the Haiti’s participation in PetroCaribe has not provided the hoped for benefits, with political leadership using the funds for investments into business ventures that had no impact on poverty reduction. PetroCaribe is a program launched by Venezuela. Under the provisions of the program, a country may pay back a portion of the bill for oil sales at a very low rate of interest over an extended period of time. In Haiti’s case, 40% of the revenue from the sale of oil could be held and used for social services, with the payback of the balance over a 25-year period at 1% interest.

Earlier this year, an audit of the program as administered under former presidents Preval and Martelly  showed a number of problems. Questions arose, particularly, around Martelly’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe’s facilitation of projects geared toward tourism. An example:

In another case, the Dominican corporation Ingeniería ESTRELLA was given a contract of nearly US$20 million by the Martelly/Lamothe government to build an airport on Ile-à-Vache, which it was trying to develop as a resort for rich tourists. Le Nouvelliste visited the island recently and found that, although the company had pocketed more than $5.2 million in revenue, work on the project ended more than two years ago and left behind an unpaved landing strip half the size contracted for. No planes have been able to land on it.

The release of the audit back in January of this year led to much anger at the government – including the current government of President Moïse, who is from the same party as President Martelly, and has done little to confront these past abuses. Given past anger, Moïse clearly did not have the political capital and legitimacy with the people required to make the controversial announcement about steep increases in fuel costs.

Finally, the question of legitimacy is not a small one. In 2011, the United States intervened in elections in Haiti, demanding that Martelly be included in a runoff for which he did not qualify, according to Haiti’s electoral council (Martelly had come in third in first-round voting that year). The government eventually gave in under enormous pressure, and Martelly won the elections with a very low voter turnout. The United States seemed to embrace Martelly – the first president to win an election outside of the Lavalas movement or Preval’s Lespwa, a political coalition that included many former Lavalas members. Such a victory, long sought by U.S. policy makers, was not greeted warmly by the people of Haiti. This cloud hangs over President Moïse who has struggled to build a coalition within the context of PetroCaribe corruption scandal, controversies over re-establishing the army, and ongoing economic hardship. It doesn’t help Moïse’s case that there are reports that the U.S. State Department indicated he may be on the way out.

As one might expect, people are not simply burning tires and buildings over gas prices. The demonstrations have deeper roots, and thus it is not surprising that they have continued even after the cancellation of the increases. 

Continue Reading

Climate Change Refugees and Haiti

Environmental changes have always been a driving force for migration. From natural disasters to drought and flooding, changes in the environment impact lives and livelihoods, forcing people to abandon their homes. Over the last 40 years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people forced to migrate as a result of environmental factors. Catastrophic storms are more common, areas suffering from prolonged drought have tripled in the last 40 years, and rising sea levels put coastal communities at risk. By 2050, the International Office of Migration estimates that as many as 250 million people could be displaced as the result of environmental impacts. Unlike those displaced by war or systemic violence, people forcibly displaced as the result of environmental change are rarely recognized as refugees when they cross borders.

Forced migration due to effects of climate change will impact all countries. The United States could see 13 million people internally displaced as a result of rising sea levels by 2045, especially along the east and gulf coasts. The majority of the communities facing permanent inundation are socioeconomically vulnerable communities. Around the globe, drought has already led to displacement and related social tensions as rural communities are forced to move to urban areas. The origins of social conflict and violence are certainly complex, but as climate change forces the movement of people, tensions increase. In Syria, for example, “record drought and massive crop failure beginning in 2006 led to the mass migration of predominately Sunni farmers to Alawi-dominated cities, increasing sectarian tensions and generating conflicts over diminished resources.” Rising food prices in 2007 and 2008, from drought and increased transportation costs, led to protests across the globe, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen. The UN estimates 144 million people were driven into poverty by the increase in food prices by 2011. In Niger alone, 5.1 million people became food “insecure.”

In Haiti the intersection of environmental degradation, climate change and forced migration is apparent. At the root of this crisis is the transformation of the rural economy that began under the U.S. occupation from 1915 to 1934. Haiti’s economy was re-engineered as an export platform to feed U.S. interests, from agriculture to banking. By the mid-20th century deforestation, soil erosion, insecure land tenure and population growth was driving an exodus from rural areas to cities. However, in the last 30 years these trends have accelerated. Under pressure to lower tariffs for imports from the United States, Haiti saw the local market for staple crops such as rice collapse. De-forestation accelerated, leading to a situation today where only 3% of Haiti’s tree canopy remains. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced, forced into urban areas not equipped to handle the influx of people. Today, less than half of Port-au-Prince’s population was born there. Areas like Cite Soleil, with over 400,000 people, are overcrowded and under-resourced. The rapid growth of insecure building and overcrowding is the reason that the 2010 earthquake was so deadly, killing up to 300,000 people.

People migrating to major cities like Port-au-Prince, Gonaives, and Cap-Haitien are in effect moving to coastal areas. Here rising seas, more intense storms, and areas of extreme drought combine to create a recipe for recurrent disasters. Mudslides in 2004 killed tens of thousands of people near Gonaives, as treeless hillsides collapsed on the city. Every new storm brings with it the risk of crop failure, flooding and further soil erosion. Overcrowding has also increased the risks of disease. When UN troops introduced cholera in to Haiti in 2010, the disease spread rapidly, killing 9,400 individuals and infecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Interconnected with the process of internal displacement is outward migration. Nearly one million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, primarily seeking work on sugar plantations and other agricultural positions. Tensions have resurfaced in recent years leading to mass expulsions of Haitians from the Dominican Republic, whose government denied citizenship to people of Haitian descent. Over the last thirty years, the United States has been the primary destination for Haitians with 650,000 people moving to the U.S. since 1986. However, tensions have mounted within the U.S. over immigration – leading to the suspension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which covered over 50,000 Haitian migrants. Meanwhile, other countries with less restrictive policies are becoming a destination. It is estimated that close to 105,000 Haitians, equivalent to 1% of the population, moved to Chile alone last year.

The confluence of environmental degradation, climate change, and forced migration in Haiti is part of a global process driving people into insecure situations; exacerbating political conflicts and violence. There is no easy solution. Clearly, binding agreements to reduce emissions and move the planet away from a fossil fuel based economy is necessary. Even if this is acheived, the process must be inclusive. Alternative fuels are no panacea if accompanied by the expansion of extractive industries and agricultural practices that further drive forced migration. In the interim, people are already being forced to migrate.

International law is behind the times

The Refugee Convention of 1951 defines a refugee as a person who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. The Convention does not cover people who are forced to migrate due to environmental reasons when they cross borders. The result is a variety of short-term measures, such as TPS in the United States, that affords very little protection to people whose status can change overnight. Within the United States, at least, there needs to be more effort to craft lasting solutions, that offer people who previously migrated an opportunity to seek permanent residency.

Currently there are efforts to recraft refugee and migrant laws. For example, the United Nations’ International Office of Migration is overseeing the creation of A Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The draft compact should be completed this year. However, enforcement mechanisms will be limited. In the United States and Europe in particular, migration is re-crafted as a crisis for the receiving country and thus there is resistance to any kind of binding obligations to accept more people. Given the current political environment it is not surprising that Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Compact negotiating process in December last year.

Until there are binding protections afforded to migrants as well as binding agreements to ameliorate the worst impacts of climate change, the world will face increasing migration, accompanied by ongoing political conflict. The current zero-sum, nationalistic orientation of so many, who view migrants as a threat rather than as fellow human beings in need of solidarity, continues to infect any effort for change. We must be better than this.

 

Continue Reading

Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Myriam Merlet

Part IV of the Inspirational and Influential Women of the World Blog Series

Myriam Merlet was considered one of Haiti’s most prominent leaders and catalysts of the women’s rights movement. Merlet was one of the 300,000 people who perished in the  7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. As part of our series on inspirational and influential women, we take a look at her work as an advocate for gender equality and the rights of women facing sexual violence.

Myriam Merlet

 

In the 70s, Merlet left Haiti and sought refuge in Canada, where she studied economics, women’s issues, feminist theory, and political sociology. Upon the completion of her studies, Merlet returned to Haiti in the mid 1980s, stating, “While I was abroad I felt the need to find out who I was and where my soul was. I chose to be a Haitian woman. We’re a country in which three-fourths of the people can’t read and don’t eat properly. I’m an integral part of the situation…as a Haitian woman, I must make an effort so that all together we can extricate ourselves from them [the problems].” Upon returning to Haiti, Merlet used her education to lead grassroots advocacy to promote the rights of Haitian women and worked with others to change the culturally accepted norm of gender-based violence.

Merlet was involved in an array of organizations seeking to create and enforce gender equality. In Merlet’s early advocacy years, she founded EnfoFanm, an organization that sought to raise global awareness about the challenges Haitian women face, namely the history and continued use of sexual assault by government soldiers, police, and criminal gangs as means of controlling and oppressing women. EnfoFanm also led a campaign to name streets in Port-au-Prince after famous Haitian women to celebrate and commemorate their work as well as elevate the status of women within Haitian culture. Later in 2006, Merlet took part in creating the Coordination Nationale pour le Plaidoyer des Femmes [National Coordination for Women’s Advocacy] and served as a spokesperson for the organization to fight against sexism within the public sector.

One of Merlet’s greatest accomplishments was leading the efforts to reclassify rape. Prior to 2005, rape was considered a “crime of passion” or an “offense against morals” in Haiti. Rape victims and their families seldom received monetary compensation from the perpetrators, and had no hope for a legal sentencing or justice for the victim. In large part thanks to the work of Merlet and many other women activists, rape has been reclassified as a criminal offense. However, there remains a lack of a precise definition of rape as well as strong judicial system to uphold and enforce the criminalization of rape. As a result, many rapes continue to be overlooked by authorities and there is a stark lack of rape prosecutions, leaving victims vulnerable and susceptible to further gender-based violence.

From 2006 to 2008 Merlet acted as the Chief of Staff to Haiti’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women. There, she continued to promote equal rights and end gender discrimination and violence. Though in a government position, Merlet continued to participate in grassroots advocacy and worked closely with the Minister for the Coordination of Women and Women’s Rights, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue. Together, Merlet and Lassegue opened the first Haiti Sorority Safe House and V-Day Safe House, both of which act as safe houses for women who are victims of domestic violence. At both of these safe houses women can access medical, legal, and psychological aid as well as gain life skills through the business and computer training courses offered. There continues to be an overwhelming lack of safe houses and aid offered to victims of domestic and gender-based violence. Merlet and Lassegue’s work is carried on by organizations like Fanm Deside, but more needs to be done.

The earthquake served as a reminder of how crucial the work in which Merlet was involved continues to be. A report by Amnesty International stated, “the displacements and living conditions in the displaced persons camps have increased the risk of facing gender-based violence for women and girls, while the destruction of police stations and court houses during the 2010 earthquake further weakened that state’s ability to provided adequate protection.” Women and girls living in the camps with poor lighting at night, unsecure tents, and limited police presence continue to be increasingly susceptible to rape and gender-based violence. Furthermore, the child sex ring run by United Nations Peacekeepers exacerbated the sexual abuse women and girls faced in the camps in Port-au-Prince.

The work Merlet started for the promotion, empowerment, and protection of Haitian women’s rights at the grassroots level remains imperative. The UN’s debacle illustrates why women and local leaders must be involved in the disaster relief process and the need to bring female issues to the forefront of government policy in the hopes of strengthening the justice system to deter rape and gender-based violence as well as provided justice for female victims.

Up Next: Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Sister Pauline Quinn coming April 20th

 

Continue Reading

It’s Not Just Oxfam

Last week The Times reported on a 2011 internal investigation conducted by Oxfam into the behavior of some of its team in Haiti.  

The group lived in a guest house rented by Oxfam that they called the ‘pink apartments’ — they called it ‘the whorehouse’,” said a source who says he was shown phone footage by one of the residents of the guesthouse. They were throwing big parties with prostitutes. These girls were wearing Oxfam T-shirts, running around half-naked, it was a like a full-on Caligula orgy. It was unbelievable. It was crazy. At one party there were at least five girls and two of them had Oxfam white T-shirts on. These men used to talk about holding ‘young meat barbecues’.”

Roland van Hauwermeiren, who was Oxfam’s country director in Haiti in 2011 and admitted to hiring prostitutes in Haiti, had also been accused of hiring sex workers in Chad in 2006 – an allegation known to his superiors at Oxfam prior to him being sent to Haiti. Following the disclosures in 2011, Hauwermeiren was allowed to resign from his post in Haiti in exchange for cooperating with the investigation. Following the 2011 investigation Oxfam set up a whistleblower line and Safeguarding Team to try and rein in abuses. There was some reporting to officials in the U.K. about the investigation and the actions taken internally at the time. However, until The Times published its piece last week, there had been no full public disclosure about the abuses in Haiti.

Since the story first broke, more information has come to light about other staff at Oxfam engaging in sexual harassment, including demanding sex in exchange for aid. Helen Evans wrote to Oxfam’s director in 2014 that the information she was gathering as head of Oxfam’s Safeguarding initiative, “increasingly points to a culture of sexual abuse within some Oxfam offices.” She raised these concerns to the UK Charity Commission as well. Little was done. She left the organization in 2015.

As many have also been noting, there is nothing unique to Oxfam about sexual abuse. In Haiti, there have been a number of sexual abuse incidents involving UN Peacekeepers and other non-governmental organizations. Globally, aid workers and peacekeepers have come into the spotlight from time to time because of sexual abuse. According to an ABC report:

Andrew MacLeod, former chief of operations of the UN’s Emergency Coordination Centre and Red Cross aid worker, said the Oxfam scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. “It’s a global problem across all charities, including the United Nations”….The UN said last year there were 145 cases of sexual exploitation involving 311 victims reported within peacekeeping in 2016 alone.

Obviously, the time for treating these incidents as isolated is long passed. Which is to say, we must look beyond Oxfam to the broader pattern of abuse. In doing so one might hope this becomes a pivotal moment where we begin to ask critical questions about the nature of aid work itself, and the differentials in power between agencies and their employees, and the people they are supposed to be serving.

Such an assessment must be far-reaching. Aid organizations control significant resources and can leverage them in ways that impact policy and dramatically impact lives in the countries where they work. We need to ask about the ways aid agencies disempower local stakeholders in general – through setting up infrastructure independent of local governance, bypassing official channels in the organization and delivery of services, bringing in people from outside the country to run projects rather than hire more locally and so on. These institutional choices can reproduce modes of privilege, creating the environment in which abuse takes place. In short, it is the responsibility of all of us who work in the delivery of international assistance to commit to being more responsive to the communities we serve. Oxfam will navigate the current situation however they choose. For the rest of us, we should be thinking less about how we are different than Oxfam, and more about the fundamental ways we may be the same.

And then change.

Continue Reading

Program Update: Haiti Reborn

Last week, I visited Haiti for the first time. Since Haiti Reborn, the Quixote Center’s program is related largely to reforestation and agroecology, I knew I would hear about and visit trees and gardens. What I knew best was that there would be a thriving forest, where once there had been barren land – and I hiked up the mountain that houses that verdant space on the third day of my visit.

To my surprise, however, I also spent nearly the entire time talking about waste. No, not the kind where a program went over budget or funds were misused. I mean the kind of waste that we all produce or leave behind in a regular day. In Haiti, in contrast with the United States, municipal and private waste removal is practically nonexistent in most areas. What this means is that the people of Haiti are confronted with the reality of disposing of their waste with little institutional support.

My first meeting with a partner was with Marcel Garçon, a leader in the Peasant Movement of Gros Morne and a licensed agronomist who manages Grepen Center. While he talked a bit about his work in agronomy, his concern last week was with Styrofoam. I had just eaten a meal out of a Styrofoam container the evening before, so I had seen that it was readily available. He explained that the problem is these containers usually end up tossed into ditches and eventually wash into waterways, where they are carried to larger bodies of water, destined for the Caribbean coast. He had decided that the La Chandeleur parish festival last week would reduce this sort of waste by serving food on metal plates rather than Styrofoam – a culture shift he wanted to implement in his community for the common good.

When I visited the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center – commonly called Grepen Center – later that day, I met two technicians who were gathering brown and green plant waste as stock for the compost piles. They use both open composting and two different kinds of worm composting to manage plant waste, combined with either animal or kitchen waste.

At the satellite agricultural center in Boukan Richard, the staff showcased a mat made with the strong fiber of banana leaves.

Fr. Charles, administrator of the Grepen Center, explained that he wanted to purchase equipment to make jellies or juices from the mangos during harvest time, starting this May. This region, well known for its abundant mango production, often ends up seeing ripe mangos rot on the ground. He pointed out that this is not just lost opportunity, but also attracts mosquitoes, which spread disease.

Sister Pat Dillon, RJM, spoke with excitement of an experimental corn crop yield doubling when urine was added to the soil, due to the additional nitrogen in the waste. She is looking for a way to separate out liquid waste to increase yields on a larger scale. 

In Port-au-Prince, Daniel Tillias, executive director of Pax Christi Haiti and founder of Sakala Center, spoke too of waste. Situated in Cité Soleil, a neighborhood known for the massive canals literally overflowing with the waste of the capital city, Sakala is a community center for youth, designed to showcase the real possibilities of creating a garden amidst the rubble of abandoned factories that once filled this landscape.

In reflecting on Haiti Reborn. I’ve wondered what rebirth really means. In a material sense, perhaps it really just means figuring out how to find and nourish new life from that which seems to have become obsolete. If that is the case, my encounters with the people I met in Haiti suggest that they have a compelling commitment to rebirth as an ongoing process.

This year marks the Quixote Center’s 19th year of partnership with the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center. We continue to learn from and be inspired by the creativity of our partners. We invite you to walk with us on this journey of rebirth. 

— John Marchese 
Executive Director
Quixote Center

Continue Reading

Country Highlight: Haiti

Part IV of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

 

The lives of 50,000 Haitians rest in the hands of the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke. Duke is responsible for granting the renewal of TPS for Haiti in January 2018. Her predecessor, John Kelly, clearly warned Haitians here under TPS to prepare to return home next year due to what he describes as the improving conditions in Haiti since the major earthquake in 2010.

We are here to ask, in light of subsequent natural disasters, a weak economy, and political instability, have the living conditions in Haiti actually improved enough to support the return of 50,000 citizens?.

Due to Haiti’s location in the Caribbean, it is extremely susceptible to natural disasters, which have repeatedly devastated the island, making for difficult living conditions. The World Bank estimates that 90% of the population is vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters.

Here is a brief chronology of natural disasters in Haiti, as reported in the New York Times:

May 2004: Heavy rain and excessive flooding displaced tens of thousands around the country and washed away villages.

September 2004: Hurricane Jeanne killed 3,000 and leveled the city of Gonaïves.

August & September 2008: Tropical storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike killed 800, and destroyed 60% of the country’s harvest.

January 2010: Two earthquakes (magnitude 7 and magnitude 6) killed 300,000, destroyed most of Port-au-Prince, and devastated the whole country.

October 2016: Hurricane Matthew killed 1,000, and left over 35,000 homeless.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, which makes it increasingly difficult to rebuild after such repeated natural disasters. Roughly 80% of the population is living under the poverty line, and participate in the informal economy where they sell crops and livestock. These agricultural resources have been devastated almost routinely, due to natural disasters, resulting in huge economic losses for peasant farmers and forcing the country to become more reliant on imported food.

In addition to the natural and environmental challenges, the current political upheaval has not helped the grave economic situation. Jovenel Moïse faces weekly protest in Port-au-Prince and throughout the country in response to his proposed budget, which increases taxes and fees. The government has banned the protests led by civilians and has employed violence and intimidation in the hopes of crushing the demonstrations. Police were seen in Port-au-Prince firing tear gas, water cannons, and bullets into crowds of peaceful protesters. Armed civilians have taken to the streets to intimidate protesters in Pétion-Ville, just outside the capital. These protests have been occurring since mid-September, and show no signs of slowing down.

Up Next:

Highlight: Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras & El Salvador) – coming November 17th

Continue Reading

Growing for the Future

 
Goat Summit - milking demonstration

Goat Summit – milking demonstration

In the fall of 2014 we had two important conferences which spearheaded activities for 2015.  Both followed the same participatory model. First was the goat summit:  on the first day we had 12-15 staff and leaders who planned out four stations covering goat food, goat parks, goat wellness, and milking goats. On the next two days about 40 people participated and rotated among the four stations and drew up action plans.

 
The second conference was on the heath of the soil and included A) adding carbon and compost from SOIL (made from human waste), double digging, cultivating worms for their castings, along with other soil conservation techniques.
 
Participants in a training at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center

Participants in a training at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center

During the first half of 2015, there have been trainings for the four Caritas technicians on an average once a week at Grepin and there have been numerous formations “in Place”  out in the countryside where people live. There are at least 10 groups of ten families who after training received a female goat.  There is one improved male goat for each group of families.  This model of dispersed training allows us to have a much wider impact and reach many families who would not be able to travel to Grepin.  The same is true about the soil conservation which was the Caritas campaign.  More than 150 people have benefited directly and another 100 indirectly.

The other movement which has happened is that the parish Caritas agricultural program has moved from the small room in the rectory to the Fr. Jean Marie Vincent Formation center.  The technicians receive weekly formation and participate in workshops with the agronomists out in the country side.
 
Students receiving training in the nursery

Students receiving training in the nursery

On May 1, 2015 over five hundred students from Jean XXIII primary and high school participated in a training session on reforestation at the Center and on Tet Mon – the Jean Marie Vincent Forest. The training of students is some of the most important work we do. The children enjoy working in the nursery, planting trees and caring for the seedlings. This knowledge will have long lasting benefits for their communities.

 
srpatThank you to Sister Pat Dillon, RJM for this informative report on the work in Haiti! You are all doing amazing work there!

 

Continue Reading

Cultivation in the Mountains of Haiti

During the past fifteen years, Marcel Garcon has emerged as a champion for the sustainability ethic in Gros-Morne, Haiti. Year after year he demonstrates his commitment to restoring ecological balance to the region which has been his life-long home. Whenever I travel with him he is greeted by a near-continuous stream of friends among the rural peasant population. All of them know him as a collaborator, as one who has inspired them to continue working this depleted land with the dream of restoring its productivity.

Marcel is an example of why the Quixote Center has been remarkably successful in organizing programs of collaborative development. Our projects in Nicaragua and Haiti are not designed in our Maryland office. They are the result of a deep partnership process, a series of exchanges and critiques that flow both north and south. To achieve that kind of relationship, the Quixote Center commits to long-term partnerships and consciously de-centralizes decision making. The results speak for themselves.

Marcel Garcon now heads a peasant movement that is 12,000 members strong. Those members are some of the most active and effective reforestation advocates, and plant most of the 60,000 trees produced at our Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center each year. During the past three years, the Movement has embarked on a series of new endeavors to restore the ecological balance in and around Gros-Morne. Community nurseries dispersed throughout the countryside now produce an additional 20,000 trees annually. The Movement is experimenting with collective farming of plots to produce high quality food for nearby families while providing a training ground for practical agricultural techniques.

In a country too often maligned or forgotten, Marcel Garcon and the Peasant Movement of Gros-Morne represent an effective alternative. We will continue to walk with them, and to present their success as a source of hope.

Continue Reading

Gran Plenn Nursery: Project Update

Last summer we began a partnership with the Green Schools Network in northern Haiti. The organizers of the network have worked with school administrators and teachers to develop innovative ways for students to learn and practice ecological restoration throughout their education. We asked for your help and support to build a permanent nursery at the school in Gran Plenn as our first project together. As always, the Quixote Center network responded, and now I am happy to report back that the project has been completed and the new nursery is in operation!  
Grading and collecting compost and fertile soil

Grading and collecting compost and fertile soil

The nursery has an embedded irrigation system.

The nursery has an embedded irrigation system.

Construction of the canopy.

Construction of the canopy.

The nursery taking shape

The nursery taking shape

The nursery is operating!

The nursery is operational!

Continue Reading

On the Announcement of the Santa Maria’s Rediscovery

Earlier this week explorers announced that they had located the wreckage of Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria, off the northern coast of Haiti. For more than 500 years the ship has been sitting beneath the Caribbean Sea mostly ignored by researchers. It was only after retracing Columbus’ steps from his original encampment in Haiti that anyone realized the identity of the vessel. When I read about the Santa Maria, I began thinking about what Christopher Columbus found when he and his ships landed there in December of 1492. As someone committed to the Quixote Center’s Haiti Reborn program, my mind wandered to the vast native forests that once dominated the Haitian landscape, covering mountains and valleys alike. What a different place it must have been with those ancient organisms everywhere! Now, after hundreds of years of exploitation, the native forests are almost entirely gone. Wiped out in the name of commerce and fueled by European demand for high quality lumber, the island can no longer sustain the demand for wood charcoal used for cooking fuel. Cacti grow in the coastal areas now, and the inland regions have been stripped of the nutrient rich soil that small farmers rely on to feed themselves and their neighbors. Haiti cannot thrive without her farmers, and global climate change is only making their future more uncertain.
2

Tending the Young Trees

For the past fifteen years, the Quixote Center has worked with the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center to replenish Haiti’s forests one seedling at a time. Each year the JMV nursery technicians produce and distribute more than 60,000 seedlings to families and organizations who wish to plant them. The seedlings provide shade, prevent erosion, and in many cases can provide food. All without straining the scarce resources of rural Haitians. The Center’s nursery is also the engine that drives our model forest on Tet Mon. The forest began on a rocky hillside, and has grown to cover the entire mountain and more. Recently, we realized that maps would be needed to navigate the forest. Success!

IMG_20130625_073434

Getting Lost in the Forest

In nearby Gran Plenn, a coalition of educators has found inspiration in the model forest on Tet Mon. They have come together to form the Green Schools Network. Their dream is a coalition of schools throughout the north that instill the values of environmental stewardship and preservation in students. They plan to do this by developing their own tree nurseries and model forests connected to each school. We began a partnership with them last year to do just that.

greenschoolswell

A Green Schools Irrigation Well

This year we began a new partnership with Project Lorax in Fond Verrettes, near the border with the Dominican Republic. Just south of town is one of Haiti’s last remaining old growth forests. The forest is made up primarily of Pino Criollo, a spindly and unique pine tree native to the island. I had the opportunity to tour the pine forest with Rodrigue, the founder and director of Project Lorax. Rodrigue’s dream is to spread the pine throughout Haiti once again. This spring our technicians at the JMV Center are experimenting with seedlings carried north from Fond Verrettes. We are hopeful they can grow in Gros Morne.

pineforest

Pino Criollo!

There is no going back to what was when the Santa Maria ran aground off the north coast, but new trees and forests are the cornerstone of a restored ecology in Haiti. With the proper support and care, a few seedlings on a barren hillside can grow into a community forest that serves as both an example and inspiration.

Continue Reading

Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)