When someone goes into a community with the intention of “helping the poor” without taking the time to build relationships it can do more harm then good in the long term. The storm the beaches and impose our worldview approach has proved itself as erroneous thinking time and time again globally.
As I started trips into Haiti and working closely with a co-op of local rice farmers it became evident this was a partnership worth investing but at the correct time and place. Early on in the endeavor a man traveling with us declared these farmers need a tractor, to direct seed their rice from a plane, and understand their small fields will produce no real economic benefit. When I actually listening to the federation leadership and fi their needs with the cultural realities of Haiti no one really cared about direct seeding and yes, one field producing more rice might not affect the Haitian economy at large it would benefit that individual family. As one family saw the example more would follow their lead and ultimately the enhancement of this community food system could impact generations.
Skipping ahead almost a year we have been purchasing this federations rice while enhancing our friendships. We have been building trust, creating market by buying locally grow rice, and finding value added revenue for the rice waste products a transformation has started to take place. As the yield has increased so has the income of the farmers and in direct response ownership in the process has lead to the federation now paying for the school teachers – NOT A NGO. They are cleaning their irrigation canals – NOT A NGO. They entered into a cooperative loan to purchase an upgraded milling system – NOT A NGO. As they have started this change it was time to increase our partnership and take them to a new level of production. (Granted still small scale by American standards) But when you partner with a group of people who have ask, not for a handout but a little push, the results are amazing.
Two weeks ago we partnered with the federation by holding the note on a nice 51 horsepower Kubota tractor with a rotovator attachment. When I say hold the note I truly mean these farmers who once depended on the handouts from NGO’s for almost everything came up with the terms of 8% interest, $1000 dollars a month and over a 36 month period. We gave them the grace of 3 months (next harvest) for first payment and a reduction of 8% interest compared to the normal Haitian rate. There is nothing like being approached to partner when we are both putting skin in the game.
In a half a day of working the tractor they prepared the same amount of land it would take 10 farmers 1 week to complete – that is the power of partnership.