Friday, June 26, 2015

Ruminations on Statelessness And the State of Our Work

As I watch the unraveling denial the obvious discrimination against Dominicans born of Haitian parents, I feel the tension of statelessness that seems to have existed since excised from our native land, the core of the colonial existence.  People rendered stateless, sold for labor, a revolving door of denial, fragmentation and racist overtones that everyone wants to dismiss for different reasons.   These painful and uncertain factors surge in my reflection on twenty years of work in rural Haiti.

On the one hand, there is the undeniable reality that Haiti has slipped, both absolutely and relatively,

by all measures:  When we began our work in 1994, Haiti ranked 137th in the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index; today it ranks 168th.  While food security, the bedrock of the work that we support and foster at the Lambi Fund of Haiti, has improved since 1994, it has deteriorated since the earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Sandy in 2011.  With an increasing unemployment rate and rising exchange rate, how can we maintain the slipping level of food security?  With a growing population, with one of the highest population densities in the world (34th of 221 nations ranked in Wikipedia), how can we redefine the quality of life for all Haitian people?

We would not be generating serious thoughts on 20 years of existence if we remained within the confines of relative success, project by project.  We are looking for the total picture, for the transformation of a society in decline to one that crosses over to progressive growth and cumulative change.  Indeed, each engaged person and organization can ponder their own contribution but together where are we?

At the same time, we celebrate the undeniably positive impact of the efforts of the peasantry in partnership with the Lambi Fund and the transformative impact on their respective communities. On our recent 20th anniversary delegation to Haiti, we were struck most particularly by two organizations – the Association of Peasants of Katò Bayonè (APKB) and the Organization of Peasants of Bige – communities with which we have worked for many years. As the call of the Lambi drew us to our meeting in Bige, we were struck by the sense of prosperity within the community. Relative to be sure, but the children were well fed; clean water was abundant; goats, which ran freely about the community, provided protein for growing children many of whose older brothers and sisters were off studying at the university. Such simple, and reasonable, outcomes borne at so little cost, investments made at the behest of a people who know far better than you or I the challenges they face and what might most make a difference in their lives. Even in APKB, an organization we began to work with in 2004, the promise of investment was palpable. Here at the end of a torturous, 90 minute drive over pitted, dirt roads that slowed us at times to a crawl, we were greeted by a community that welcomed our solidarity with a display of the wealth – again however relative – that our partnership had showered upon them over the years.

In May of 2014, we celebrated our work with some 40 organizations of the more than 150 with whom we have worked over the years. Their enduring confidence in our partnership  was gratifying and inspiring to hear. They also shared with us in a clear voice what is now needed for Haiti: advocacy for the work of our partners in Haiti so that they might be rewarded through meaningful investment into roads and transportation networks that their products might better reach their markets; into extension programs so that the best agricultural methods might be employed and the scourge of plant disease might be minimized; into meaningful trade agreements that don’t undermine local food markets; into reforestation that the precious soil upon which the food security of Haiti rests might be preserved for future generations. Thus, as we look forward to the next 20 years, we intend to honor our commitment to extol the wisdom of our partners by advocating with and on behalf of the peasants of rural Haiti.

We will celebrate our work to date on July 15 as we gird ourselves for the work ahead. Please join us on July 15 – on-line at or at our celebration itself in New York City. Click here for more information.