Definitive solutions to the problems of Haiti
By Jean H. Charles
I have been simmering long and hard trying to find the definitive solutions to the problems of Haiti. I have, in a two-part column a week before the earthquake of January 12, 2010, presented a detailed plan for Haiti’s re-building. Whether it has inspired the policymakers and the NGOs’ directors to take the course and lead Haiti after the earthquake into sustainable development, the result is not visible to the naked eye!
Haiti has failed to use this crisis resulting from an act of God to transform itself into a growth oriented country. As such I am urged now to condense in a four-point part, how Haiti can take a new road towards sustainable change?
1. First and foremost, Haiti’s urgent problem is the revival of its environment. The famous French environmentalist Jacques Cousteau some thirty years ago in a moving documentary “Waters of sorrow”, warned that Haiti’s vegetation cover was only 15%. Urgent actions should be undertaken immediately to reverse this ecological disaster.
I remember a day after the inauguration of Jean Bertrand Aristide on February 7, 1991, I advised his executive assistant, Henry Claude Menard, that I was observing the complete destruction of the flora for bread making and the dry cleaning plants. His answer that we do not have time for such triviality was indicative of what was going to happen to Jean Bertrand Aristide and to Haiti some years later.
Haiti’s vegetation cover is now only 2%. If drastic actions are not taken, Haiti vegetation cover will be soon 0.2%. There will be no Haiti to enjoy after any redevelopment is undertaken. As such I am proposing that all effort should be focused on tree-planting, sewers and ravine cleaning. Haiti must engage itself in the culture that made Dominica the Nature Isle. Stop destroying its trees for daily survival and engage in systematic tree-planting and soil conservation.
I am proposing this citizen to citizen movement. On November 18 and May 18, Haiti celebrates its heroes and its flag days. The government should declare November 17 and 18, and May 17 and May 18, volunteerism days. Starting on May 18, 2012, a vast marketing program should start on preparing seedlings with black bags of all the fruits consumed in the homes. Churches, schools and businesses will engage group leaders to promote the movement.
The first planting will take place on November 17 and November 18, 2012, with mature plants in all the homes, the churches and the schools. The mountains surrounding the towns and the cities of the country will be the first target of this environmental action.
Once the first volunteer days are over, immediate action will be taken to prepare with seedlings gathered for the next planting days that will take place on May 17 and May 18, 2013. As such, Haiti will slowly become a second Nature Isle in the Caribbean after Dominica.
2. Having renewed the physical environment, we shall now attack the spiritual environment. Haiti is a country not a nation. It will not be developed unless and until the sentiment of appurtenance is cultivated by and amongst all the sectors of the society. Haiti is the product of the culture of swimming to get out on your own without communal life support. It is the culture of hating and hurting one’s own brother and sister. It is the culture of damaging the environment without the conviction of destroying one’s own patrimony.
Dr Tunelb Delpe, a political leader, has for the last twenty years called for a national conference to reconcile the nation with itself. His appeal has gone nowhere, in part because of his own non-articulation of the goals and motives of such an initiative. We must create a Haiti that shall become hospitable to all. I have often said in this column that Haiti practices the culture of discrimination against 90% of its population. It practices political, economical and social discrimination against 85% of its population that represents the rural and the urban favellas dwellers. It practices political and social discrimination against 4% of its population that represent the Diaspora. Last but not least, it practices political discrimination against 1% of its population that comprises the mulattoes.
A country cannot become a nation with such an endemic discriminatory practice and culture. I am observing how Haiti is amassing more and more resources without the sentiment of appurtenance that would make a difference in services delivery. Bishop Pierre Andre Dumas of the Diocese of Nippes region of Haiti is another voice in the desert promoting this love and concern for each other.
The sentiment of appurtenance is the glue, the blood and the oil that can transform the individual energy into a force that will move mountains to create a prosperous nation.
I am suggesting a massive campaign of solidarity mixed with concrete actions to attack this gangrene of each one for each one promoted by the last governments of Haiti in particular the Rene Preval government.
3. These renaissance actions must start in the rural counties of Haiti, not in City Soleil or Canaan – Port au Prince -- the two largest slums of the Caribbean. I came back yesterday from Jacmel the picturesque city on the southern coast of Haiti. Driving through the mountains to Jacmel is pure delight, crossing the small rural villages of Macassin, St Etienne, Cormier, Fondwa, Tom Facto and Decouze, before crashing into Jacmel; it is easy to lay the groundwork for the renaissance of the region.
An excellent school in each one of the villages, with institutions, infrastructure and economic incubation that will spur the monetization of the human and natural resources of each region will make a significant difference in the way citizens value their nation. They will be no more nomad Haitians that seek a better life in the slums of Canaan or a leaky boat towards The Bahamas or Florida.
4. This proposition cannot be outsourced to the international community. It must be owned, executed and implemented by the Haitian people themselves (of course the cooperation of the international community is welcomed).
My resolution this year is to demonstrate a positive attitude towards life in general. This search for a solution is the first of many more to come. With the support of the political platform Repons Paysan that succeed in electing a president in its young age of two years, the platform will not wait either for the NGOs or even the president of Haiti to start this movement of renaissance that must begin with the peasants of Haiti in their own neighborhoods!
January 21, 2012