Monday, November 22, 2010

Strong Women Build Sustainable Communities

By Sarah Leavitt

       A powerful women's movement, which today is more than 4,000 women strong was founded over 20 years ago in June 1986. This dynamic group, the Coordination of Women from Tet Kole- North West (KFTKNW), is located in Haiti's Northwestern penisula and is comprised of 600 groups of women of about 5 to 15 members each scattered throughout the region.

In addition, KFTK-NW is also affiliated with one of Haiti's largest peasant organizations - Tet Kole ti Peyisan Ayisen (TKPA) also founded in June 1986. Women formed this coalition to create an avenue for women to discuss problems specific to women and to develop strategies to resolve these problems. This included addressing a number of important issues like advocating for equal rights between men and women in the home and to improve economic conditions for its members.By Sarah Leavitt
A powerful women's movement, which today is more than 4,000 women strong was founded over 20 years ago in June 1986. This dynamic group, the Coordination of Women from Tet Kole- North West (KFTKNW), is located in Haiti's Northwestern penisula and is comprised of 600 groups of women of about 5 to 15 members each scattered throughout the region.
Since its inception, KFTK-NW has fought to ensure access to clean and potable water, food security and sustainable agriculture development.
Notable accomplishments in the past 20 years:
Proud members of KFTK-NW
  • Pooling member resources and leasing a large tract of land for a cooperative of crop cultivation
  • Preparing homeopathic remedies to sell in markets
  • Creating microcredit funds to support women's economic activities- today there are three such funds in operation
  • Distributing 80 small manual corn mills in partnership with Lambi Fund to expand market value of milled grains
  • Building six rainwater >cisterns with Lambi Fund in Remon, which constitutes the main source of potable water for community members
  • With Lambi Fund's support, building two rainwater cisterns in Lacoma that support community-wide activities at the Marie Vincent Community Center
  • Constructing two Lambi Fund grain mills in Remon and Mawotyé >which support local economic activities
Impacts from this comprehensive network of women who work together as a unified front have been significant. The women of KFTK-NW have brought engagement and sustainable solutions to their communities. Residents of entire communities now have the opportunity to transform their crops, process their grains without traveling long distances and access to clean, potable water.
Merile Lebien, a member's husband, states that prior to construction of the grain mill, he and his wife had to get up at 2am to travel for hours to the nearest mill. They had to leave their children in the care of neighbors because roads were not safe for a woman to travel alone. Now, the local grain mill makes these time consuming trips unnecessary.
In addition to ensuring greater access to food and encouraging members to invest in agriculture, the mills have spawned a space for retail activities. Members now sell their wares, prepared foods, dried fish, bread and fruits to grain mill customers- creating a viable sub-economy in these communities.
"The women of KFTK-NW have brought engagement and sustainable solutions to their communities."
KFTK-NW members have recognized that Lambi Fund's training sessions offered on grain milling, project management and capacity building also strengthened the group's capacity to implement other projects in their communities.
Members in Remon described a system of water management they developed following a water management workshop offered by Lambi Fund. Thanks to KFTK-NW's ability to manage rainwater cisterns, two members of the community are now employed as "water managers" and the community has steady access to a locally controlled source of potable water.
Over the years, KFTK-NW has grown into a multi-generational network of women working together to improve their communities. They have proven to be a positive force that challenges critical issues they face and works together to solve them. By providing opportunities for training, economic development and sustainable incomes to its 4,000 members, KFTK-NW has not only strengthened women's position in society, but improved entire families' livelihoods.

Read more of Lambi Fund's Fall Newsletter here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The People Must be Agents of Change

By: Beverly Bell

Josette Pérard is director of Fon Lanbi Haiti, the Haitian counterpart of the Lambi Fund. Fon Lanbi trains, builds capacity of, and gets grants to women’s and small farmer organizations in rural areas. Josette’s perspectives on community development follow.

The idea of development is to provide everyone with the means to work, to meet their needs, and to let them enjoy their human rights so they can be full citizens. But for development to occur, the system must change. And the
people must be agents of that change.

If Haiti and our communities were organized, development activities would come just from the initiative of the community members themselves. But because of how the country works, because there’s no government action,
there must be some organizations like ours to help people implement community development programs.

Alternative means if something that is necessary doesn’t exist, you must do it yourself. Lambi Fund’s development programs constitute an alternative compared to what the government does. But I don’t think this form of development can lead to a complete solution.

What we have now is a subsistence economy. An economy of local or community small businesses won’t change the national economy as a whole. The country's economy must change so that people can get education, health, and many other things. For this, there must be a responsible government. There must be two-way communication and joint participation between the government and the communities.

Everyone wonders why Haiti is in the state it’s in. It’s because since 1804, there are so many who’ve been called moun andeyò, outsiders [those living in the countryside]. These people continue to be excluded from what’s happening in their own homeland. They don’t know what the big social, political, and economic powers are doing. They must accept or take whatever is designed for them.

Some of the privileged are descendants of former colonists. After the revolution in 1804, they simply wanted to continue using the former slaves, keeping them in their fields of sugar cane and coffee just like in the days
of slavery. Today it’s the great-grandsons and granddaughters who maintain political, economical and social power, at the expense of the majority. Those holding the reins of power aren’t affected by the problems of those
‘outside’, and they just don’t care.

A society that maintains so much exclusion simply can’t achieve development. No way. Development has to involve everyone.

I’ve been listening to the statements of the presidential candidates. Many of them say absolutely nothing about the majority of the Haitian people. You hear them seldom, if ever, even open their mouths to utter the words "the
people.” You never hear them say they will do anything with the participation of the population, but you often hear them say, "We’ll do this or that for the people!" In fact, no leader can do anything for anybody.

Another thing since independence: Haitians have known that they have the courage and that they must take responsibility for their own lives. They know that they can’t rely on others. With this in mind, when they find
organizations such as the Lambi Fund that support their initiatives, they become participants with all their energy and their whole being. They cooperate to make changes in the communities where they live.

Now, with the support of Lambi and other organizations, community members have been able to implement some development activities. For example, where there’s a corn mill, our organization helps members of the community
increase their production by providing seeds for them to produce more corn. But the mill can still go unused because people don’t have access to roads. They need the means to transform their raw products [into more durable ones that can survive long travel] and they also need roads so that they can go sell their products in better market conditions. We can’t build inter-city roads; that’s the responsibility of the government. But through konbit,
collective work teams, we can help construct paths that will allow farmers to go from one place to another, walking with their donkeys. That's how we’re implementing a few small programs of alternative development as a first step in a comprehensive intervention. That's how I see things.

The Lambi Fund is trying to help those organizations that have identified problems in their communities and are trying to resolve them. But even when people already know the means to solve a problem, there will always be
financial issues, because for each activity in a development process, there must be money. So we sit down and talk to them, we work with them.

But giving money for community development activities isn’t the only work we do. We also have a support function of giving hope. The community members are facing major problems and have identified the solutions, but they want our help. We see how they envisage the planning and implementation of programs to bring change to their lives. We listen to what people have to say. We help them find the knowledge, resources and know-how to  implement their projects. We educate and train the members of this organization, we pass on techniques for management, we strengthen the organization itself. We help people move through the processes to achieve their goals so they can become independent.

Now they create management committees, they appoint a coordinating committee, and you can feel the momentum. These people’s hopes are buoyed with the appearance of a small business they’ve managed to put on track. We can see the light that springs from this little hope that starts to shine brighter and brighter through everything else.

Consider, for example, the management and operation of that corn mill I talked about. Customers come and pay to have their grain processed into flour. Now with the education we’re providing the mill owners with, the
community organization learns to better manage the money they earn. They know they need to save some of that money to use later to repair the mill if it breaks down. They know they must be able to cope with any problem that
might arise. They have to be able to eventually buy another mill. They have to pay wages to the operator who runs the mill. Part of the money should go to fund the petty cash they keep to lend some money to group members, etc. So, it’s a whole chain of actions in which each activity leads to another activity.

It’s in the process of organizational development that people understand and learn that they must they must assert their rights and that they must demand what the government or the authorities owes them. So the work we do isn’t only implementing small development programs, because how could we change the economy that way? We’re also helping people to survive, to resist, to get the change they need.

After the earthquake of January 12, things got more complicated but regardless, I think there is hope in the air. Don’t you see how all the people move without getting tired like ants do, how they’re trying to reestablish their lives with their own hands? You’ve visited some camps; you saw the small businesses they’ve created. They make these small investments because nobody is doing anything serious to help them, because they’ve
gotten little to none of the aid.

My dream is that there be real development in Haiti. As I said, these small community development initiatives we’re implementing now are simply for relief. We're just trying to help people to hold on until the legitimate
demands of the Haitian people can be met, until significant changes can really be made; that’s why we call them alternatives.

Another part of my dream is that we have a responsible government. Progressive ideas have to come forth so that they can really make positive and tangible changes. And there has to be space for participation by all
citizens who’ve courageously begun the development of their communities with their own means, however modest. Change will come when the people are engaged right at the heart of things.

For more information, see

Many thanks to Joseph N. Pierre and Pro Bilingual Interpreter Services for
translation of Josette’s interview.

Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years.
She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of
Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds,, which promotes social and economic

alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Haitian Farmers Report: "The Lambi Fund Saves Lives!"

By Leonie Hermantin

    In an effort to assess the lingering impact of the January 12, 2010 earthquake on Haiti's rural communities, the Lambi Fund of Haiti's team of staff and board members embarked on a fact finding journey which took them to the departments of the Artibonite and the Northwest. Post-earthquake statistics indicate that over 600,000 internationally displaced persons (IDPs) left Port-au-Prince and migrated en masse to Haiti's provinces with a great majority heading for the Artibonite, the North and the Northwest.
PhotoThe first stop in an itinerary that took us from Port-au-Prince to Haiti's most Northwestern town, Mole St. Nicholas, was at the Center for Plantain Propagation where we met with members of two partner organizations, Peasants Organization of Gwo Mon and Peasants Organization of Sél (AGPGM and APS). The meeting's agenda as set by the organizations included discussions about Lambi Fund's emergency assistance campaign and the work implemented at the Center.
As anticipated, we were all touched by moving accounts of earthquake stories shared by all. We heard of the tears shed over fallen relatives and neighbors.
We were all moved by the narratives of solidarity and mutual support extended to total strangers who walked into their lives traumatized, wounded and seeking support. Our partners told the stories that we would hear along the way. Stories of communities overwhelmed by refugees, men and women eager to help but wondering how they would all survive with their meager supplies of food and water, in the absence of any type of assistance.
Mr. Josephat, a member of APS recalled tearfully:
"I had 21 people, strangers staying with me and my family. We did not think twice about welcoming them, but we had not yet figured out how they would be cared for or how they would be fed.
When we heard about Lambi Fund's program to help impacted families, I was so happy that I cried. I cried because I was touched and shocked that people who had been at the center of this disaster had the time to think about us.
I was so proud to be a member of a strong organization, and I really deeply understood why being organized is the path to a better life. We would have been left to our own devices without Lambi Fund's support.
The government never came and the NGOs which did drop by brought free food supplies and their methods of distribution stripped us of our dignity."
His sentiments were echoed throughout our visits in the Northwest. Haitian peasants continued to reiterate that Lambi Fund delivered aid respectfully through the direct engagement of partner communities.

Phase II: Expanding Food Production

Reports from all communities visited confirmed that the second phase of Lambi Fund's emergency assistance program focusing on food production and food security was a total success. Nearly all farmers from Gwo Mon to Gwo Sab shared their succes stories of fast growing cultivation within two months of the earthquake. Thanks to Lambi Fund's support, partner communities generated bountiful harvests of peas, vegetables and corn for consumption and sale at local markets.
In Mawotyé, farmers were less successful with the Emergency Fund's second phase because they purchased most of their seeds from a government agency which was selling hybrid seeds donated by the international community. This unfortunate deviation from their tradition of acquiring local seeds proved very costly. According to disappointed farmers, with the execption of corn cultivation, the harvest for peas, okra, millet and other vegetables was dismal. The farmers said that they have learned their lesson and will return to purchasing local seeds.
In all communities visited, farmers reported that their ongoing projects were now proceeding on-course following justifiable post-earthquake interruptions. In Gwo Mon, activities related to plantain production, sale and processing were going strong.
"I was so proud to be a member of a strong organization, and I really deeply understood why being organized is a path to a better life."
Members of KFTK-NW in Remon, spoke of the importance of the Lambi Fund's support immediately following the earthquake and the Second Phase of assistance focusing on food security and sustainability. In Gwo Sab, farmers, fishermen and market women thanked Lambi Fund for its support of their efforts to modernize their fishing practices and to capitalize the women's microcredit fund. Members enumerated in very somber tones the names of all the men who perished at sea in the past - victims to the elements and the rudimentary boats they used for fishing. Gwo Sab's collaboration with Lambi Fund has resulted in the purchase of new motor boats, is saving lives and helping build a more sustainable future for their community.

Moving Forward

This trip into the Artibonite and Northwestern parts of Haiti illustrated the undeniable fact that Haiti's farmers rightly reflect the post-earthquake psyche of those in urban communities. Haitians, throughout the entire country, are all overcoming the immense trauma of January's earthquake.
Like their urban counterparts in Port-au-Prince, Haitian farmers are determined to be part of their country's reconstruction. Lambi Fund is proud to be a tool which will assist them in the realization of these dreams and visions for a stronger Haiti. In addition to continuing our support of sustainable economic and environmental activities, Lambi Fund has pledged to amplify these voices and their determination to be included in this historic moment for nation building in Haiti.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Hurricane Tomas Hits Haiti

5 November 2010- The island nation of Haiti braced for Hurricane Tomas to hit its country on Friday.  Hurricane Tomas hit Southwest Haiti first- bringing heavy rains and heavy flooding to towns in that region.  Lambi Fund field monitors also report that the community of Leogane is "underwater."     
     Many feared that Tomas would tear through the already fragile city of Port-au-Prince.  For the millions living in tent cities with little to no shelter this prospect spelled disaster.  Tomas did not hit Port-au-Prince as hard with heavy rains and not much wind.
      Lambi Fund staff are reporting heavy rainfall and strong winds in the Northwest.  There is much flooding all over the coastal areas of Haiti.  

     In the aftermath of the hurricane, flooding can jeopardize the Cholera epidemic.  Clean water and sanitary latrines are important in containing cholera and the flooding will have a negative impact on water quality.  Lambi Fund continues implementation of water projects for rainwater cisterns and latrines to improve potable water and increase sanitation- which will minimize the impact of waterborne diseases like Cholera.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Pennies for Pigs, Pigs for Haiti

     Last Spring, students at Stedman Elementary School in Denver, CO found a unique way to help their friends in Haiti rebuild after the earthquake.  Children throughout the school gathered their spare change and worked to raise money to purchase pigs for families in Haiti.  After a school-wide effort, Stedman surpassed their fundraising goal and earned $1,400 for the Lambi Fund of Haiti.   To celebrate their efforts, Stedman's principal kissed a pig! Watch the movie below to see how BIG things can happen when you start with a simple idea and the desire to help.