By Angeline Tirogene and Gislet Ceneus
Special To News Americas
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. July. 20, 2022: Insecurity, internal and external migration, food and gas shortages, and double-digit inflation have combined to produce nearly unprecedented social and economic turmoil in Haiti. Nevertheless, in the midst of this ongoing crisis, Haitians continue to work to create better lives for ourselves and our country.
We are privileged to work with such communities in Artibonite and Departments in the North. These are rural, agricultural communities generally outside the view of journalists and the large international aid groups that operate in Haiti. While many foreign aid groups have distributed needed goods that have saved lived in these communities, an unintended side effect of this aid has also distorted local labor and food markets – adding to the long-term challenges in these areas.
The mission of the grassroots organization we work for is to help communities lift themselves out of poverty. We do it through a comprehensive approach that begins with helping a community formulate a vision for their own development that relies on the mobilization of its own local assets. The process then moves to intensive training on techniques for sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry; community and reproductive health; water management; and risk and disaster management to build resilience to climate change and other external shocks. Communities learn to monitor and evaluate results and apply lessons learned to improve their programs.
At the very center of these programs are savings and credit groups. Individuals contribute small monthly sums. When a group amasses enough capital, it loans it to members at low or no interest. Loans are invested in agricultural tools, animal pens, fish ponds and other low-cost materials to increase output and productivity. Profits from surplus sales are used to pay back loans. Savings and credit groups, combined with health and other initiatives, have enabled families and villages to become fully self-sufficient and independent of external aid.
Our years of involvement helping communities build on what already works has built relationships of trust. Local leaders see the results of their work and their sense of ownership means they can continue progressing even when we cannot facilitate trainings and other activities in person.
We hope that one day democracy takes deep root and Haitians enjoy the stability and freedom taken for granted elsewhere. Only then will economic growth and development lift Haiti from poverty and enable our citizens to remain at home to seek better lives.
For all the challenges we’ve faced, Haitians have endured. The incredible resilience of the communities with which we work shows better days and better lives really are possible.
It’s that hope, based on improvements in peoples’ lives, that keeps us committed to staying in the country we love.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Angeline Tirogene and Gislet Ceneus work for World Neighbors, a 70 year old international development organization founded and based in Oklahoma City.