(MENAFN - Caribbean News Now) Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at[email protected]
By Jean H Charles
Three months ago I visited the town of Grand River and I was startled by a vista that intrigued me. I saw several firewood merchants selling their wares right in the open, (they usually hide in a parallel corner of the market). The surrounding mountain usually covered with vegetation was patched with reddish spots. Grand River usually brings enchantment to the visitors. It is one of those rare places in Haiti where the surrounding mountains have not been depleted off their trees. And here I was watching the beginning of the deforestation of the town of Grand River.
On my return trip to the city this past week I saw a miracle that intrigues me again, but on the positive side. In the countryside of the town, each home was competing with its neighbor to prepare thousands of seedlings of all types of trees in the hope of making a killing with a proposed buyer, the AVESI.org, an ONG that promised to become suppliers of a forthcoming greening project of the catchment areas linking Bahon to Grand River.
I said to myself someone has, at last, read my comments on Caribbean News Now or the Nassau Guardian and act upon them to develop a project that could render Haiti rich like Croesus. Indeed five years ago I started a venture, bringing from Port au Prince, the capital city, seedlings from the decade-old mahogany trees that adorn the big city park to the north of Haiti where those trees have been decimated first by the Spanish in the 1600s, then by the French in the 1700s and finally by the Haitians in the 1900s and the 2000s out of desperation from their misery as the last line of goods to survive economically.
My journalistic curiosity brought me to visit with the director of the project Xavier Willard who indeed told me his organization has been building on a success story of a previous organization that has accomplished a miracle in the western part of the north of Haiti in the region of Borgne and Ti Bourg au Borgne.
Indeed Ti Bourg au Borgne has an intriguing story. I have not been there, yet I am familiar with the produce of the place; because on the Spanish Street (Rue Espagnole) closed to the Iron Market of Cape Haitian, the best product from Haiti in quality and in quantity came from Ti Bourg Au Borgne. I was wondering what is happening there. It is just the result of a greening campaign orchestrated three years ago with funding from the BID in that region by an ONG named PITAG (Program innovative in technology agro-forestry).
AVESI is building on that success story to reproduce that feat in five counties of Haiti starting with the towns of Grand River and Bahon. I jumped on the bandwagon, to offer our heritage piece of land as a demonstration setting to amplify my pioneered work of leaving for the next generation of the family thousand of mahogany and cedar trees that will make the grandchildren, rich like Mike Zuckenberg or even as rich like Jeff Bezos from Amazon in the next decades.
The AVESI project has been going along not without its cultural difficulties. The BID the funding agency is insisting that the participating members contribute seven percent of the funding while the rest such as support to create a Creole garden with all the fruits in season, animal traction to mow the land, water conservation will be provided by the ONG.
Haiti and its people have been spoiled by gimmick projects where everything was given, leaving no responsibility to the accepting agent. As such, there was no proprietary accounting of the gift from either side. The AVESI Ong has encountered a welcoming mat, not so friendly from two counties of Grand River, Jolie Trou and Cormier where the participating members claimed they should receive the entire packet of grants free of charge.
In my discussion with the director of the project, I came out with a clever but with a cultural touch solution of overcoming that difficulty. The trick would be to ask the beneficiary to organize at their own expense a Kombit.
(Kombit is a Haitian cultural trait of helping each other accomplish a difficult and onerous task in combining the strength of each one free of charge with the hope that each member will become the beneficiary of the same largesse later on).
- To clean the piece of land and AVESI will help in the planting by bringing agriculturist experts and seedlings for the fields. Will they buy that trick; I do not know yet? In the meantime, I am beating the drums with all my strength to call on all the participating agents, the BID, the FIDO the GAFSP and the Haitian government to go forward with that project. It is the first time since Christopher Columbus and his men stumbled unto Haiti and have started the destructive exploitation of the land that a serious effort has been made and the people have responded to participate in the rebuilding of the forests of Haiti.
I have always maintained that Haiti has six ways to stop its dooming road as the most failing place on earth: Concentrating on feeding its Diaspora with nostalgic fruits and the lovers of Whole Food with organic produce that is indigenous to the island such as our Francis Mango or our giant apricot. The second step consists in replenishing the mountain ranges of Haiti with rare and precious woods such as mahogany and cedar tree for future generations of millennia from Europe and the United States who love the comfort, the style and the serenity of a splendid base floor enriched with the color and the sparkling of the mahogany feeling and sparkle. The third step is to mobilize the extraordinary artistic skills of the Haitian people to help them create utilitarian artistic gadgets or even transforming the ordinary gadget into artistic pieces that bring added market value to a simple object. Art is in the DNA of each Haitian citizen helping them to market their talent will bring not only glory to Haiti but will also fill the coffers of that nation with money while enriching and elevating the universe in style and in comfort. The fourth step is to utilize the unique cultural medieval traits of Haiti in honoring and feasting the saints. Catholic devotees from Spain, Mexico and the United States would love to experience the tourism pilgrim scene of fiesta from town to town of Haiti all year long. Haiti is a Mecca of black liberation movement whose historical sites can attract million of visitors in communion with the concept of freedom, equality and justice for all. Haiti historic slave route must be rehabilitated to bring in visitors to experience those sites. Last but not the least, invest in the Haitian human capital at all levels to counter the globalization process that has no pity for and no patience with uneducated and untrained workers.
These are the six missions for Haiti to become again the pearl of the Antilles. It must step away from the neo-liberalism practice and policy brought into the country some thirty years ago by the Democratic Clinton administration implemented by successive Haitian presidents that Haiti is destined for textile factory with its miserable salary while Mexico is designed for agricultural products and the export of its workers.
The Haitian government must rebrand nation-building projects that are suited for its population. This AVESI project is the right direction for Haiti.
May it rise from all its challenges to become the model for a Haiti that has suffered from the last two hundred years, not only by malign international interference but also by renegade national rulers in coo's with the international agents; that insist on inflicting the most pain, renewed with force and arrogance every five years on a very resilient and gallant population.