Thursday, December 04, 2008

Intern Notes

I’m new with Lambi Fund and new to working with Haiti, so before I went there two weeks ago, I don’t think I truly understood the level of need that existed throughout the country, though this set in very quickly.

But I also didn’t understand just how powerful Lambi Fund’s programs are to the communities where we work, though this also didn’t take me long to realize. For me the evidence wasn’t just in the progress reports from our community partner organizations, or the incredible gratitude they showed us, it was in their faces when they talked about what was now possible because of their partnership with Lambi.

They were no longer worrying about feeding their families, they were planning for growing their small businesses to bring prosperity to their communities. The head of one organization that Lambi Fund is helping to produce honey explained that with two more devices, they would be able to make honey that meets international standards and begin exporting abroad.

That is powerful stuff considering that these same people were using a piece of tree bark to produce honey before they partnered with Lambi Fund.

Intellectually, I understood before I went that our model of funding grassroots organizations according to democratic principles was an incredibly practical and effective way to approach development. But to see community after community transformed because of the up-front capital we provide to help them get their dreams off the ground was truly inspirational.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Miami Herald: Letter to the Editor

Posted on Sat, Sep. 20, 2008

Help Haiti's storm victims

The Lambi Fund of Haiti is disappointed that crops destroyed by the hurricanes will not be harvested. Haitian farmers will not reap the benefits of their labor. We have worked with Haiti's rural communities for 14 years supporting peasant and farmer initiatives in the Artibonite Valley and in rural areas surrounding Les Cayes that have been severely affected by the hurricanes.

Our mission is to support sustainable development projects in Haiti's rural communities. Our work has had an impact on more than one million people; we have supported construction of irrigation canals, acquisition of irrigation pumps, construction of grain mills and the development of fish farms. We have funded animal-husbandry projects and microcredit programs for farmers and merchants. We have also implemented environmental and reforestation initiatives.

We are poised to support our rural partners' efforts as they rebuild their lives and communities. We will first help our partners get food and essentials, such as household items and school uniforms. We also will assist members of our staff, residents of these communities, who have lost everything. We will offer emergency assistance and work to stimulate the local economy and the cultivation of cash crops. Local merchants, primarily women, will have access to funds from recapitalized microcredit initiatives enabling them to replenish their stock and resume commercial activities. We will buy seeds and tools to cultivate devastated farmlands. We will support the acquisition of new irrigation pumps. In one community, we will rebuild an irrigation system. We will provide We will provide funds for farmers to buy goats, pigs and chickens and to replenish livestock. We will ensure access to safe drinking water by repairing the rainwater cisterns we helped build.

Even within the context of emergency relief, we can begin to lay the foundations that will support Haitian farmers' efforts to become self-sustaining.

LEONIE M. HERMANTIN, deputy director, Lambi Fund of Haiti, Miami

Thursday, September 04, 2008

An Update from Josette Perard, Haiti Director

Yesterday, Port au Prince was in a state of panic. It was extremely windy and raining hard. Many houses no longer have roofs, trees are uprooted, light poles with electric lines are down… but this is nothing compared to the devastation which has struck other communities throughout the country.

The Minister of Education postponed the opening of classes until next week, but in light of the unanticipated problems brought by Hanna, we don’t know if they will not have to postpone it yet again (we have heard that there are two other hurricanes on their way)

No one is talking about schools right now; the focus is on the damage wrought by Gustav and Hanna. We are all thinking about how to begin tackling the problems which have suddenly disrupted our lives.

We are receiving calls from our partner organizations with horrible news about their communities.

The peasant organization in River Blanche (ODEPERIB) called to say that one member of the organization has died, the flooding is really severe, and many houses are destroyed. Some of the cisterns we have funded have sustained a lot of damage.

The Women’s Association of Mapou Rollin, just called and Vyolèn, the president of the organization, said that Hanna is even worse than Jeanne. Her house is completely destroyed and she has lost everything. The grain mill we helped build is completely flooded and the corn and millet brought by the market women to be milled just washed away. The chicken coop which we also helped build is being used as shelter by over 100 local families. No one has eaten anything since Monday.

Mme. Cedieu, a leader in the farmers’ organization of Gwomon (AGPGM), said that she lost everything -- her crops and her animals. She said that the land cultivated by AGPGM was devastated and all the plantain trees are down. Fortunately our experimental field of young plantain trees is still standing. Not too many trees were destroyed but the irrigation pump will need to be repaired. I have not talked to the staff member who runs the Center for Plantain Propagation to determine its condition. We are still trying to reach him.

Tidjo (Lambi Fund Field Monitor for the North) and Margo (Lambi Fund Advisory Board member) called us this morning and told us that the waters are beginning to recede in Gonaives, and at Tidjo’s house as well. Tidjo has lost everything and there are now over 60 people seeking shelter on Tidjo’s rooftop. They have not had anything to eat in 3 days.

Once it stops raining we will try to go to Gonaives to bring some help to Tidjo and his family and to see in what way we can begin to help our partner organizations and their communities. Reaching Gonaives will be very hard, since a veritable lake now lies at the entrance of the city.

Meanwhile, St Cyr (Lambi Fund Field Monitor for the South) has finally gotten news from home. He came to Port-au-Prince from Les Cayes to attend a staff meeting when he got news that his home and neighborhood were flooded. He was extremely distressed to hear that his family and their neighbors had to seek refuge on their roof top. He was told this morning the waters had receded. He too has lost everything. Although St Cyr has learned that there is no way to get to Les Cayes, because Miragoane has overflowed, he is now determined to get back to his family, and he will call us when he gets there.

We have heard on the radio that Torbeck and Chantal are flooded. We are supporting projects throughout the area. We have not been able to reach any member of our partner organizations in Belfontèn but we heard on the radio that the area is in shambles.

The calls are trickling in we will keep you posted whenever we hear something.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

GWOB Conference Recap

I recently attended the Grant Makers Without Borders' (GWOB) annual conference held this year in San Francisco. GWOB is a network of the trustees and staff of public and private foundations who practice global social change philanthropy. While I found the majestic beauty of San Francisco's Presidio extremely distracting, the conference proved to be amazingly informative and thought provoking. As a relative neophyte to the world of social change philanthropy, I approached the conference very strategically, focusing on the workshops which would help me gain a greater understanding of how global issues affect Haiti’s rural communities.

I was eager to learn more about ways in which the food crisis, the environment, and climate change are interrelated. The information was overwhelming and a bit scary. I heard about how oil depletion and the resulting energy constraint would affect us in every aspect of our lives, from transportation to medicine and food security. We are hooked on oil and our lives grow exponentially more miserable without it. The transition to a future of reduced oil supply will require the development of clean, renewable energy sources and the reduction of oil production and consumption.The most thought provoking sessions on the current food crisis were offered respectively by Eric Holt-Gimenes and Grassroots International’s Maria Aguiar. Dr. Holt-Gimenes explored the root causes of the food crisis, stressing that it is grounded in the political and economic decisions which have undermined many countries' abilities to feed their people.. He talked about the impact of the "Green Revolution" on the food crisis, a "revolution" which deepened the developing world's dependence on multinationals and their Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). These GMOs have produced seeds which self destruct after one planting and have forced farmers from Asia, Africa and Latin America to depend on multinationals for their supplies of seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. Green Revolution techniques, I learned from Ms. Aguiar’s workshop, rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The fact that most of these products must be developed from fossil fuels make “modern agriculture” extremely dependent on petroleum products. The intense use of fertilizers causes major problems including the depletion of the soil's growing capacity and the accumulation of inorganic chemical residues in the soil. Additionally, over fertilization harms beneficial soil microorganisms and increase soil susceptibility to disease. In other words they are …Bad News…for the environment and even more hazardous for Haiti’s severely degraded environment.

Wow did I learn, a lot! In my efforts to understand Haiti’s food crisis within this global context, I became ever more convinced that we, at the Lambi Fund of Haiti are most definitely on the right track. Our sustainable development programs promote organic agricultural methods including seeds banks, silos and composting. We provide funding not only for motorized tillers but for ox plows and tools suited for the environment. While some view agricultural reform as an opportunity to introduce the modern, highfalutin and oil dependent technologies needed to usher Haitian farmers into the 21st century, it is clear that the long term crisis involving fossil fuel depletion, global warming and the “food shortage”, demands innovative solutions. These strategies must support our farmers’ efforts to adapt and thrive in an era of oil depletion and decreasing dependence on petroleum based products. Lambi Fund’s approach is especially suited to soften the blows from impending petroleum crisis on Haiti’s farming communities.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

How to Help

Many of you have emailed us after reading the news article about Haitians eating dirt cookies or mud cakes and have asked what you can do. Lambi Fund of Haiti is partnering with communities in Haiti to become sustainable so that they can support and feed their families -- and not rely on food aid charity, which can create an unhealthy dependence.

Haitians are proud and do not like to have their poverty sensationalized. Haiti is, after all, the first independent black republic. But the fact of the matter is that malnutrition and poverty are concerns in Haiti, especially for the many peasants living in the countryside.

The best way an individual can help is to contribute to groups that work in true partnership with Haitians to become socially, economically and politically empowered. Lambi Fund is by far one of the best organizations to address these issues. And I am not saying that just because I work for the organization. Like you, I did my research beforehand and came to the same conclusions as you. Lambi Fund is one of the best models for creating change and sustainability while working for improved economic conditions and increased food availability.

Learn How You Can Help by going to

Friday, January 18, 2008

Green Belt Movement Visits Haiti

The much anticipated visit of the Kenyan delegation representing the Green Belt Movement (GBM) finally happened. Lilian Muchungi, Josephine Wangari, Esther Wamucii and Mercy Karunditu, landed at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

This was the beginning of a journey of mutual learning and sharing between GBM representatives, Lambi Fund staff and members of grassroots organizations engaged in reforestation and agro-forestry projects in Haiti. This visit offered GBM representatives the opportunity to learn about Haiti's degraded environment and its impact on the both rural and urban communities. It also allowed GBM representatives to become more knowledgeable about the Lambi Fund of Haiti by gaining a deeper understanding of how it works, its relationship to the communities it partners with, as well as the problems addressed. The Lambi Fund of Haiti benefited tremendously from this exchange, learning about the Greenbelt Movement, its philosophy, its methodology, its accomplishments and challenges. It was a true peer to peer exchange.

On their second day in Port-au-Prince the GBM delegation visited a national fair "La Foire de L'Alimentation" which explored themes of domestic agricultural production and food security. The colorful stands and displays of regional crops and culinary delicacies provided a great introduction to subsequent discussions about agriculture, the environment and food security. These issues were debated at a conference held in the afternoon where about 40 Haitian students, environmentalists, and other stakeholders gathered to meet the delegation, learn about the Greenbelt Movement and offer GBM representatives a greater insight into Haiti's environmental and ecological crisis.

The delegation left the next day for a visit to Gwo Mon located in the Artibonite Valley. The first site visit was at Lambi Fund's plantain greenhouse in Gwo Mon. This center is a great model of collaboration where, by working with local organizations, Lambi Fund is producing a plantain tree resistant to the diseases which have devastated local plantain production. Members of the delegation were very impressed with this center as it offered solutions to concerns about crop and food security.

The visit to the Oganizasyon Peyzan Bige was GBM's first encounter with a peasant organization. Members of the delegation were greeted with the haunting and vibrating sounds of the lambi (conch shell) calling the meeting to order. OPB is a grassroots organization that has partnered with the Lambi Fund to address the environmental degradation in the community of Bige with the construction of water cisterns and the commitment to plant 100,000 trees. So far, OPB has successfully planted 48,260 trees that were produced in the tree nurseries built throughout the community. The members had the opportunity to introduce themselves, discuss the nature of their projects, and listened with great attention to Josephine Wangari's presentation of the GBM's tree planting methodology. This presentation was followed by a lively exchange between OPB members and GBM delegates comparing and contrasting strategies and discussing the political and cultural contexts in which environmental work is conducted. OPB members took the delegation on a tour of reforested sites, answered questions about tree selection, maintenance and rates of tree survival.
The next day the delegation visited another grassroots organization, ODEPERIB, where members greeted them with songs of welcome and solidarity. The dialogue focused on issues of civic education and engagement. Members of ODEPERIB shared their frustrations about their inability to garner any support from locally elected officials. Lillian Muchungi stressed the importance of advocacy in Kenya's environmental movement and urged the ODEPERIB members to partner with the Lambi Fund around issues of advocacy. The meeting was followed by a site visit where ODEPERIB members took the delegation on an extensive visit of the multiple sites where reforestation, as well as agroforestry projects, were implemented.
Saturday was a very special day as the delegation had the opportunity to meet with representatives from all of the organizations in the Gwo Mon area that partner with the Lambi Fund. This meeting took place at Lambi Fund's Center for Food Security and offered representatives from different peasant organizations the opportunity to hear about the Greenbelt Movement and share their experiences.

What followed the meeting was a celebration of cultures. The entertainment was provided by the incredibly talented, dynamic and politically engaged women's musical group called Awozam, all members of a women’s organization partnering with Lambi Fund in the Northwestern part of Haiti. It was truly an opportunity for sharing knowledge and culture. The Kenyan women donned their traditional dresses and regaled the crowd with traditional Kikuyu songs and dances, impressing all gathered with their high pitched ululations. The day ended with a tree planting ceremony by the GBM delegation.

Upon the delegation's return to the capital, they met with the Honorable Marie Laurence Lassegue, Minister of the Women's Condition. She expressed enthusiasm about the historic partnership between the Lambi Fund and the Greenbelt Movement and offered her support of this Global South collaboration and partnership.

The visit accomplished its stated objectives of mutual exchange between the Greenbelt Movement and the Lambi Fund. The next steps will entail an assessment of the trip and discussions about areas of interest where the Lambi Fund and the Greenbelt Movement will partner to improve Haiti environment through sustainable grassroots efforts. Representatives from the Lambi Fund will attend a GBM sponsored Pan African Network summit next spring in Kenya and learn even more from the people who are responsible for the reforestation projects in the Greenbelt Movement throughout Africa and the African Diaspora.