Published: February 14th 2012February 13th 2012
Desert (Tropical) Living. Where are the art cars?
It's dusty. It's hot. There are tents and quansets and "theme camps" set up by NGO's everywhere. Law/military presence is real. There are a lot of people and not many resources....sounds like the start of a description of Burning Man, no? Yeah, except that there are TOO many people, there is trash EVERYWHERE, a lot of projects have gone wrong or weren't thought through all the way, malnourishment is evident. Doesn't sounds like radical self-reliance to me.
In fact, Haitians have had little-to-no choice in the way they sustain their economy. Already with a history of being colonized, exploited, and having to pay reparations to the country (France) that enslaved them in order to be free (ironic, huh?), the earthquake 2 years ago did nothing to help the situation; and the following response did/is not addressing long-term sustainability. Of course immediate aid in the form of shelter and food is necessary, but today the Haitian economy is being flooded with such cheap food staples from the U.S. that Haitian farmers cannot compete with those prices and make a living (about 2/3 of the population depends on small-scale local agriculture for their income - est. from U.N.).
And many Haitians
(note: this picture is not recent, it's from the SOIL archives)
question the strong military response after the earthquake - the U.S. sent 20,000 troops among thousands of others sent from the U.N. and other countries, which, after the earthquake delayed medic, food, and aid worker planes from landing for a week and a half. Even today most Haitiens have strong negative feelings toward MINUSTAH (the U.N. Haiti "peace keeping" chapter) which is facing a few rape allegation cases, and taking the heat for bringing cholera here (a friend is spear-heading this case). In this humanitarian crisis there is a serious disjunct between aid and military response. Facing effects of an earthquake, the people need food, shelter, and medical attention, not guns and violence.
It's quite amazing to see how enduring and hard-working Haitians can be, especially utilizing their "third hand" aka their heads. I've seen them carry everything from kivets (large, flat-bottomed plastic buckets) filled with goods to sell, to racks of coca-cola bottles, a refridgerator, lumpy unknown packages, sacks of rice, jugs of water, even just their bag so that they can have 2 free hands. On the other hand (pun intended!), since most people are out of jobs, there are lots of people on the street just
concrete that couln't take the shakes.
note: (this picture is not recent and is from the SOIL archives)
passing the time playing dominos, chatting, eating spaghetti (one of the main food groups here), and general hanging-out (remember, this is the caribbean). Some people comment on a lack of focus and motivation, but I think it's mixed with a resignment of Haitian government not having as much power as it should have, getting over-run by the U.S., U.N. and NGO's that control a flow of money the government can't even keep track of.
It's overwhelming trying to keep up with the people I meet and what NGO they work for - the NGO world is HUGE here! There are a lot of people and organizations doing great things. There are also enormous organizations coming here with a plan of how to improve the situation without much consult to the Haitian people, implementing projects without much reseach or foresight as to the sustainability of these projects in the long run when funding runs out. And the thing with sanitation is that it's dangerous when done wrong, and can be a vector for disease and pathogens. I've been pointed out many projects like this - wasted money that in the end creates more of a mess the Haitians have to
Composting Port-O-Potty Action
DIY: just cut out the middle, attach hinges, and slide your compost bucket in. ready, set, go!
deal with, and literally that's a messy business to clean up.
On other notes, some of my ag experiments have sprouted which is exciting! We'll see how they turn out with different variations of humanure compost and urine applications. It's also carnival now, and though I haven't gone to participate (yet...I think it goes on for another week...), I get to listen to everyone's radios blasting the broadcasted music and party. Instead I went to the Haiti Salsa Festival - actually it was not so great. Most people went to watch the performances, and nobody wanted to dance!! Hello?!?! This means I am 90% sure I'm going to the DR for their Bachata Festival. How could I not? :)
There are more photos below