Three weeks ago I travelled into Haiti for my initial orientation of how Convoy of Hope operates on the ground and the role I will play in it. During the six days of travel I was immersed in the culture and truly saw a large portion of the country, especially the areas I will be focusing my efforts. On arrival I was pleased I could put my experiences from Nigeria, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Grenada together to combine what Haiti was like in smells, geography, and culture. If I had not had those previous experiences this would have been a dramatic culture shock to my system. However, with that being said, Haiti is a poor country and I saw the things one would expect.
The first couple days of travel included connecting with local rice farmers who are currently growing rice for our children’s feeding program (CFI). Convoy is one of two organizations working in Haiti that are deliberately purchasing Haiti grown rice in their program. (Convoy pays more in this approach but the goals is helping the local growers) My role is to be a resource for the growers as they try to increase their capacity. The story of Haitian rice production is a long sad one, but in short US rice coming into the country over the last 20 years has killed the local market and destroyed farmer incentive. This is a picture of me with the president of the new local rice federation during a Q and A session.
We also spent a couple days in the mountain regions where I will be connected with local farmers in an effort to help them with their food production. One of the main worries is water management during the dry season and best management practices for the more 24 crops grown in the region. When wandering through the farm areas it is evident the knowledge is there but not everyone received the information. In the mountains I will be working with 208 identified farmers connected to local feeding programs and information transfer will be one of our main focuses. As most people should know, whether in Haiti, Africa, or North Dakota you should never count a farmer as dumb. Below are some rice farmers we came across after walking up a trail for 30 minutes.
I also got to see first hand the benefit Convoy is having on the ground in Haiti. I can say without bias (for real) the investments people are making into Convoy are going to kids. One of the things that impressed me about COH was the accountability and screening involved for those partnering with Convoy. There are very strong measures being taken to assure lack of corporation and during the school year monthly health reports are required from every child being helped. Here is one of those pictures I just had to snap.
Lastly, we got to see the damage remaining from the earthquake. People ask what was it like? The damage is still widespread and the recovery is slow, however what did surprise me was the overall randomness of the damage. There were areas harder hit but still in those hardest hit areas some buildings remained untouched. The tent cities remain and still grow in some cases, which adds to the impact of storms like Irene, but some progress is being made. The lack of progress is a combination of rules, culture, and politics (my opinion). He is the palace that the locals told me was the devil’s house.
It was a fascinating trip and the next report will be on specifics related to my role in the Haitian picture.