Green Schools

So often in development we hear stories of one side throwing money at the other, who can only use it for a project that they never really wanted (or needed). Unlike this one-sided relationship, The Quixote Center’s entire mission is centered on equal relationship with our partners. Over the New Year we learned of a program that has been ongoing in the northwest of Haiti. About 8 years ago, community members founded a network of “Green Schools” – schools dedicated to reforestation. Each school must apply to be in the network, which now boasts over 60 schools. The requirements to be a Green School include teachers attending environmental training sessions, including reforestation within the curriculum, and allocating land for a forest that the students will help plant. Acknowledging that some peoples’ livelihoods depend on cutting down trees, the schools share parts of the forest with the community members. The community owns 30% while the school owns 70% – and those who need to can cut down trees from their portion. However, seeing the positive effects of these new forests and learning about reforestation as students spread their knowledge, many people who used to make charcoal now look for alternative sources of income – like selling the fruit that the new trees bear. Within the schools, each grade takes turns watering and weeding, or has its own section of the forest to tend. At the end of the year the grade that did the best work wins a prize. In the broader network, the schools with the most progress win prizes, like last year’s solar lights. The network has gotten so big and so successful that Haiti’s Ministry of Education has taken notice and wants in! Many schools within the network find the saplings for their forests at the Grepin Center’s tree nursery, one of the important projects you help fund with the Quixote Center. Consider making a donation today to help provide the resources for Haitian-led initiatives like these Green Schools. The Green Schools Network was an idea sparked and carried out by Haitians – and it is an ongoing success. Your donation will help provide our partners the resources they need to make their own quixotic dreams come true!
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Food Aid Reform: It’s On the Bus!

Last month both the House and Senate passed “The Omnibus” spending bill – a $1.1 trillion bill that funds every agency of the government. Among the 1,582 pages is what most consider to be a small victory for Food Aid Reform. The new bill allocated $35 million for purchasing food aid from local markets. The current practice of buying U.S. food from U.S. farms and shipping it to the beneficiaries is not only inefficient. It also hurts the countries and regions receiving the aid by undercutting market prices for locally grown food. The result is damaging to already fragile local food systems. Our subsidized food aid can destroy the ability of these recipient nations to feed themselves – the opposite of our intentions. Moreover, the natural disaster in the Philippines highlighted just how unnecessary and wasteful U.S. food aid policies are when it took over 100 days for the food to arrive to a place that already grows enough grain to feed its people. It is important to note that USAID’s entire food assistance budget is $1.8 billion; $35 million is only a small step in the right direction. Learn more about USAID’s budget for its food assistance program and the new FY2014 changes. For a summary on Food Aid Reform, here is a great fact sheet, as well as this short clip!
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Food Aid Reform: Where Does Haiti Fit?

Haiti just passed the 4-year anniversary of its devastating earthquake in January 2010. To mark the event, Global Post published this article, “In Haiti, All Eyes on US to Reform ‘Unjustifiable’ Food Aid Program.” The article highlights that:
  • In Haiti, 6.7 million people – 2/3rds of the population – struggle daily to meet their food needs.
  • The U.S. has spent $200 million giving food aid to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Since 1954, the U.S. has spent $1.5 billion on aid to Haiti.
  • The U.S. is one of the world’s only “Food Dumpers,” continually sending food instead of buying locally produced food in the regions it is helping.
  • The current U.S. food aid policy is hurting Haitian farmers and the potential for Haiti to return to its former capabilities of producing enough food for its own population.
  • Venezuela’s “Down with Hunger” program gave $30 million to 60,000 mothers to both buy food for their families and distribute seeds to farmers.
To this last point, it is interesting to compare that on one country, Venezuela spent $30 million in cash for buying locally produced food. In the new 2014 budget, Congress passed $35 million for the U.S. to use on the same purposes – but that $35 million must stretch worldwide. We are spending only $5 million more for every country than what Venezuela is spending on Haiti alone. For this reason, the article calls the U.S.’s new allocation a “watered-down version” of the full reforms that need to happen. Haiti is the perfect example of how our aid policies are not reaching as many people as they could while simultaneously reducing a country’s capacity to grow so that in the future it won’t need U.S. aid. As one Haitian farmer’s organization put it, “Cash permits people to continue to buy food themselves, on their own and from their own people. We have many people who are hungry. We have people who can only eat once a day. It’s unjustifiable in a country with the capacity to feed itself.” It is unjustifiable. Let’s make sure our practices and tax dollars strengthen our partnership with Haiti instead of hurt their ability to help themselves. Send a letter to your representative to push for greater Food Aid reforms here.
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Marcel Garcon Speaking Events

Marcel is the director of the Peasant Movement of Gros Morne. Through this network of small-acre farmers, Marcel conducts sustainable agriculture trainings and spreads information about our reforestation efforts. Most importantly, Marcel serves as a liaison between the Quixote Center and our on-the-ground partners, ensuring an equal exchange of communication, ideas, and inspiration that define the equal relationships the Quixote Center seeks. Learn more about our Haiti Reborn program and Marcel’s work. Below is the current schedule of speaking events. Donate to support the tour and Haiti Reborn here. Wednesday, December 11, 2013 from 7-8pm. Event: Quixote Center Wednesday night liturgy group Where: 3406 Varnum St., Brentwood, MD 20722 Friday, December 13, 2013 from 10:30-11:30am Event: Sustainable Partnerships and Programs in Gros Morne Host: Riderwood Community Where: Riderwood: 3140 Gracefield Rd. Silverspring, MD 20904 Friday, December 13, 2013 from 6-9pm. Event: Quixote Center Christmas Party Where: Quixote Center office: 7307 Baltimore Ave. Suite 214, College Park, MD Saturday, December 14, 2013 from 10am-1pm Event: Social Justice Saturday. First session: Reforestation and Community Development in Haiti Host: Greenbelt Catholic Community Where: Greenbelt Municipal Building, City Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, 25 Crescent Road, Greenbelt, MD 20770 Sunday, December 15, 2013 from 3:00-4:30 Event: Sustainable Farming and Forestry in Haiti Host: Howard County Friends of Latin America Where: Howard County East Branch Library, 6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia, MD 21045
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Calling for UN Accountability

This past Monday the Haiti Advocacy Working Group hosted a panel on the cholera epidemic, introduced to Haiti by United Nations peacekeepers, that has killed almost 8500 Haitians to date. The panel included Jonathan Katz, the journalist who broke the story that the UN peacekeepers were likely responsible for the epidemic, Yale Law professor Muneer Ahmad, who supervised the Peacekeeping Without Accountability report, and Dr. Jean Figaro, a member of the Haitian diaspora and Director for the “Kolera Jistis Project.” The panelists have all concluded that the UN is responsible for introducing cholera to Haiti, which experts have traced to Nepalese soldiers and inadequate sanitation disposal on a UN base near a major Haitian water source. The UN, in response, has asserted international immunity – an action considered wholly inadequate and even insulting. The Yale Law report addresses this point of immunity by looking to the UN’s contract, where the UN agreed to construct a judicial council to hear grievances from Haitian citizens and other actors in Haiti. The UN itself added this in order to have an avenue of accountability for the Haitian people. However, they never established such a judicial board in Haiti, nor have they ever done so in any of the other countries where it is included in their peacekeeping contracts. The UN broke their contract, ignoring this part but claiming international immunity from another part. How can the UN claim immunity that is guaranteed in a contract they themselves breached? Fundamentally, the UN is present in Haiti to promote human rights, which under their own definition includes the right to life. Yet they are responsible for the death of almost 8500 Haitians and counting. The UN is directly undermining its own mission along with its reputation. By ignoring their accountability, the UN is only insulting the same people they claim to be serving. Haitians and many within the international community are calling for the UN to acknowledge their fault and take steps toward reparations. Some in Congress are sending a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, urging the UN to take accountability for cholera in Haiti. The United States is the largest funder of the UN. Dr. Figaro ended the panel by solemnly asking us to think what our individual roles are, as U.S. citizens, within this episode. Let’s reject the UN’s inaction and make sure that our role is one of justice seeking and solidarity with our Haitian partners.
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Let’s Not Make the Same Mistakes

The horrific disaster in the Philippines has rocked political boats around the world. This kind of devastation is predicted to become more frequent as the Earth’s climate continues changing. Even if the Conference on Climate Change takes drastic action (which no reasonable observers expect), the train has left the station on emissions levels, and many scientists now argue that we are barreling past tipping points in climate change. These are depressing propositions to be sure, and they are a sobering reminder that the time to improve our emergency response mechanisms and protocols is right now. As the world struggles to respond to this most recent disaster, it would behoove our leaders to consider policy changes based on the lessons learned from the 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti. Particularly, the United States must change the way it distributes food aid, especially in the midst of a disaster. After the earthquake struck in January, the United States spent $140 million on a USAID program that sent food grown in the United States to Haiti. This amount represents nearly three quarters of United States aid to Haiti in following the quake. Sending food to people in need is an intuitive response, but one that is increasingly regarded as both ineffective and counterproductive in the long term for recipients. The reason is that a massive influx of food through an aid program disrupts and re-orders local markets, which are often precarious at the outset. The food aid displaces local producers, and in doing so clears the way for commercial imports of staple crops. This process completely overturns any levels of food sovereignty as countries become reliant on imports to meet their needs. Haiti is a stark example, importing 80% of its rice. This makes sense for farmers in the United States, but not for Haitians, whose country is capable of producing a large enough rice crop each year to be a net exporter.

“Since 1981, the United States has followed a policy, until the last year or so when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to the poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food, so, thank goodness, they can leap directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked.” –Bill Clinton

Haiti is now struggling under immense financial pressures that are driving farmers to focus their energy on export crops. Thus, Haiti is in a situation where its farmers produce mangoes and purchase US-grown rice with their earnings. Hardly a sensible system for a country capable of producing its own food and avoiding the layers of middlemen and transaction costs associated with export agriculture. Time for Reform Right now, the Quixote Center is part of a coalition of NGOs and grassroots networks advocating for food aid reform. We are calling for increased flexibility in the system that will allow for more local purchases of food aid when possible. What we hope for is a system that allows rapid and efficient response to all types of food emergencies. In cases where local production is disrupted, sending food to people in need makes sense. However, this public aid should not be used as a tool to prop up United States farmers to the detriment of farmers in recipient countries. Our coalition advocates for changes such that, when possible, food aid comes by making local purchases for people in need. These purchases are more efficient in that the food does not have to travel from Arkansas, and it is more productive in the long term because it increases the viability of local markets and maintains existing levels of food sovereignty. The United States can do better, but whether or not we improve is dependent on Members of Congress now considering Food Aid Reform as part of the Farm Bill. We have set up a system through which you can contact your Member of Congress and express your support for key issues like food reform, aid accountability, and the ongoing displaced persons crisis in Port-au-Prince. If you would like to get more directly involved in the effort to reform our system of food aid, please contact Andrew Hochhalter for more information.
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Haiti Digest: Food Aid Reform Edition

The Food Aid Reform is moving and shaking! Here at the Quixote Center we have been meeting and collaborating with other lobbyists to follow Congress’ movements as Food Aid Reform negotiations start. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote an op-ed that provides some great points on food aid reform, and even specifies Haiti. Here are our two favorite points:
  1. Buying food from farmers in-country promotes their own local economies and is a step towards self-sufficient markets. In essence, we will enable them to feed themselves, and they won’t need our food aid in the future.
  1. Our current process of shipping U.S. food abroad is inefficient. It takes 130 days longer to reach the hungry, and has lost $219 million of our taxpayer money over three years. With the Food Aid Reform, our aid will be both more efficient and reach up to 4 million more people.
Archbishop Coakley from Oklahoma City also chimed in with his own op-ed, here.
We know too well those sites described: in Haiti driving past fields of rice while on the roadside, merchants are selling U.S. flag-stamped bags. Hearing from small-acre famers who are struggling because our export-led aid has ruined their local markets. Many of you have expressed your support for this reform by sending a letter to your representative. If you haven’t already, you can join the campaign. Let’s not make the hungry hungrier. Let’s enable our partners to cultivate their own farms, sell their own food, and develop their own countries.
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Stolen Wages in Haiti

Last week the Workers Rights Consortium issued a report on garment factories in Haiti that sew for major U.S. brands. The report found:
…garment factory owners in Haiti routinely, and illegally, cheat workers of substantial portions of their pay, depriving them of any chance to free their families from lives of grueling poverty and frequent hunger. Tacitly complicit in this theft of wages are the major North American apparel brands and retailers, like Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart, that are buyers of garments from Haiti. Although most, if not all, of these firms are well-aware of this law-breaking, they continue with business as usual, profiting from the lower prices that they can obtain from factories that cheat their workers of legally owed wages. Despite the presence in Haiti, since 2009, of a factory monitoring program operated by International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and funded by both the U.S. and Canadian governments and major brands and retailers, themselves, the extent of wage theft in the country’s garment industry has only increased over the past few years. Earlier this year, this ILO-IFC monitoring program, termed “Better Work Haiti,” reported that every single one of the country’s 24 export garment factories was illegally cheating workers of pay by failing to comply with the country’s legal minimum wage.
Read the full report here One of the facilities profiled in the report is the Caracol Industrial Park, which is the flagship project of USAID’s efforts to assist Haiti’s reconstruction post the 2010 earthquake. Caracol, an industrial park built far from where the earthquake did damage, on land seized from farmers, and an almost guaranteed environmental disaster, was handed over to SAE-A, a South Korean company, to manage. SAE-A has horrible record on labor rights. Indeed, the AFL-CIO lobbied the Obama Administration not to grant the management concession to SAE-A because of violations in Guatemala. The Administration ignored them. Stories of wage theft and other abuses emerged almost immediately upon the park opening. In the wake of the report, TransAfrica joined with the Workers Rights Consortium to circulate a letter to major U.S. brands that have clothing sewn in Haiti, encouraging them to take the necessary steps to reign in the subcontractor labor abuse. The Quixote Center signed onto this letter, and we will be taking action with others if the response is inadequate.
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Haiti Digest: October 21

The Worker Rights Consortium has released a new report that shows Haitian garment factory workers are routinely denied the minimum wage guaranteed by law: Scott Nova, the consortium’s executive director, said in an interview: “What goes on here is not some occasional violations where most companies are in compliance and a few are not. You have across-the-board systematic, willful noncompliance with straightforward labor law by a large margin in a way that’s very destructive to workers.” The report is especially troubling because it includes the controversial Caracol Industrial Park, which was backed by the United States as a model of international reconstruction and relief efforts. The cholera lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti has created intense media focus on Haiti since being filed. This focus has resulted in high profile articles on the subject from major newspapers and magazines, and an increased consciousness of the issues facing Haiti. We hope that the renewed focus will translate into more direct action, and that audiences and advocates will have the patience required for these ‘marathon’ issues in the coming months and years. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs has a new Chair. Ed Royce (R-CA) has built a track record of reform measures worth applauding. In May he introduced the Food Aid Reform Act (HR 1983), which would dramatically change and improve the way the United States handles food aid. Earlier this month he chaired hearings on aid accountability to Haiti, and has showed support for the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (s. 1104). We hope that the new Chair will continue his reform efforts with the full force of his new position. Take action by sending your representative a letter in support of reform.  
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Haiti Digest: October 11

This week a lawsuit on behalf of victims of the reintroduction of cholera to Haiti was filed in New York against the United Nations. The source of the infections has been traced to Nepalese peacekeepers whose camp sanitation facilities were inadequate. The camp bordered a tributary of the Arbonite river, Haiti’s largest, and waste from infected peacekeepers spread the disease downstream. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti filed the suit, and you can read details on their website. If you’re interested in a more in-depth accounting of the cholera epidemic and its impact, take a look at a new report from Yale law on the subject. The Venezuelan government is continuing its home building program in Haiti with a new commitment of US$260 million. The funds will be used to construct 4,400 new housing units near Port au Prince. We hope that the project will help in efforts to alleviate the severe housing shortage that has left tens of thousands of Haitians homeless and in IDP camps scattered throughout the city. Read the full story here. The Quixote Center has worked with a coalition of NGOs to halt the forced evictions in the IDP camps, arguing that evictions without an alternative living situation in place are both inhumane and ineffective. As expected, the United Nations has renewed its peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) to Haiti for another year. While this news is no surprise, the announcement coincided with the filing of the cholera lawsuit, which prompted Beatrice Lindstrom, an IJDH lawyer, to point out, “If the funding that is being provided to MINUSTAH was instead invested in clean water and sanitation, thousands of lives would be saved each year and we’d be much closer to realizing human rights in Haiti.” Hear Hear! In December, Haiti Reborn partner Marcel Garçon will spend a week in Washington DC with the Quixote Center. During his trip he will speak to local church groups, community associations, and on the campuses of local universities. If you would like to help with the planning for Marcel’s trip, or have suggestions for speaking venues please contact andrew@quixote.org as soon as possible.    
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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)