May 28, 2010 – Jackson Nelson returned to Leogane to complete the work WHR-Haiti began in March. They are in conversation with several other non-governmental organizations who need help with water wells. We are pleased that they have been able to respond in this way, and that they are becoming a resource for other communities around the country. May 12, 2010 – Addressing needs in rural communities like Ferrier is being promoted both as a way to support internally- displaced Haitians and as a solution to a long-term, chronic problem. By the time of the earthquake, chaotic urban migration had turned the capital of Port-au-Prince from a modest-sized city to a crowded, messy habitation for over three million people. Experts involved in the reconstruction effort are increasingly encouraging the one million Haitians who have left Port-au-Prince to stay put in the countryside. The January 29 Christian Science Monitor reported: “As Haitian officials and international development experts start to envision Haiti’s reconstruction, ‘decentralization’ has become an ubiquitous rallying cry.”
These thoughts guided my visit in February. Ferrier is one of the few areas of Haiti with under-utilized land resources. It includes the third largest flood-irrigated area in the country, and as such holds the potential to produce significant quantities of rice, the staple food of many Haitians. Rice production creates additional jobs as the crop is processed, transported, and marketed to consumers. I spent much of my visit slogging through rice fields, discussing these ideas with local farmers.
Upon returning to Waco, I began making phone calls. Much to my astonishment, Cornell University’s Norman Uphoff, one of the world’s leading proponents of SRI, was looking for partners to help introduce this approach to Haitian farmers. Dick Roosenberg, an internationally-recognized specialist in ox traction, was looking for ways for Tillers International to respond to the needs in Haiti and quickly agreed to visit Ferrier to provide advice on oxen and improved implements for rice production.
A Haitian organization, GRADES-Nord, agreed to manufacture the tools needed for SRI and asked us to partner with them in a large grant proposal to finance a revolving fund enabling Ferrier farmers to purchase ox teams. Finally, a retired scientist from the International Rice Research Institute agreed to provide consulting services in Ferrier and connect us with other international resources.
There are few times in my life that I have felt prayer answered so directly as in the events of these past three months. Rebuilding Haiti remains a monumental undertaking. Nonetheless, we step forward in the confidence that God is calling us to participate in this task. Pray with WHRI as we nurture these tender shoots of hope growing up through the tragedy and rubble.
March 15, 2010 – The World Hunger Relief – Haiti well drilling team has completed three wells in the Leogane area at the request of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). They encountered lots of problems due to the rocky soils they had to drill through. At 50-60 ft depth they lost their best drill bit. Due to other commitments in northeastern Haiti, they will return to complete their work with CRWRC in a month or two.
February 22, 2010 – I traveled to Ferrier through the Dominican Republic partly because of the post-earthquake travel difficulties in Haiti, and partly in hopes of making contacts with resources on the Dominican side of the border. This trip had two main purposes. First, I hoped to assess the WHR-Haiti response to the crisis experienced in southern regions of the country. Secondly, I wanted to further our efforts to promote long-term economic advancement through improved rice production.
Some 2-300 families (roughly 1000 people) have relocated in Ferrier following the Jan. 13 earthquake in Port-au-Prince and southern areas of the country. Most of these are relatives of Ferrier residents and/or former Ferrier residents who migrated to the city. WHR-Haiti responded to this influx by distributing food and cash to returnees. The process appears to have been orderly and well documented. Mission Waco and WHRI both contributed funds toward this effort, and WHR-Haiti President, Jackson Nelson does not feel the on-going need is significant enough to continue the program.
A portion of our support was used to repair the Beraka Mission internet connection. In the days following the earthquake, this was their only functioning means of communication with the outside world.
The WHR-Haiti well-drilling team is preparing to travel to Leogane, a small town west of the capital which was devastated in the January earthquake. Christian is overseeing relief efforts in the area, and their water specialist requested that WHR-Haiti dig four wells to provide drinking water for affected communities. Because their equipment is dated, they have been repairing worn parts and collecting materials with financial support from WHRI and Mission Waco. They plan to mobilize after hosting a Mission Waco mission group the 2nd week of March. I was pleased to see they have implemented several of my recommendations from last September, including replacing the Beraka Mission well and chlorinating a new well they are developing for a Catholic project in Ouanaminthe.
Although the Ferrier area was not directly affected by the January earthquake, and prices of most goods have returned to near-normal levels, the repercussions of the devastation are evident in the overall mood of the area. Virtually everyone continues to grieve the loss of friends and family. An unspoken shadow of discouragement is evident in small ways. Attendance at all the local schools has declined significantly. At the WHR-Haiti school, parents have objected to having their children attend classes in an older poured-concrete building. Jackson Nelson called a parents meeting while I was there in order to motivate parents to send their children and not succumb to discouragement.
I am pleased and impressed with the response of WHR-Haiti to the crisis, and feel that we did well to work through them rather than to mobilize independently. Having responded to immediate needs, our focus should now turn to supporting long-term economic development efforts in order to enable the community to support their returned population, and minimize the forces which might lead them back to a city whose once-meager opportunities have been diminished drastically.