By Kate Schecter
Gang violence and political paralysis continue to plague Haiti. All the elements for entrenched poverty remain in place.
Haitians’ futures can look hopeless to some. Yet there are development programs that have helped Haitians lift themselves out of poverty. These programs are small-scale, take time and build on what already works.
Before the 2010 earthquake, Meladine Dalphinis was a tailor. With her workplace and livelihood destroyed, she went into farming.
In 2015, Meladine learned about a local community-based group working with our organization, World Neighbors. She joined a savings and credit group and started to learn about loans and other financial matters.
Meladine took out a $35 loan from the group. She used it to expand her leek fields and build a small fishpond. Her family eats the fish, a crucial source of protein. She sells the surplus in the local market. The initial investments generated enough profit to invest in livestock. The community group taught Meladine to use animal waste from her livestock to fertilize her crops. This reduces costs, increases profits and allows Meladine to avoid using chemical fertilizers. Surplus livestock fertilizer is another source of revenue and profit for Meladine—especially helpful given the increases in chemical fertilizer prices.
Eight years after her first training, Meladine runs a substantial family farm. Many of her neighbors in Odige do the same. In addition to basic finances and sustainable agriculture, communities have learned about sanitation and hygiene, water conservation, nutrition and health, including reproductive health. Each family now has their own bio-sand water filter for clean potable water. They are growing their small businesses, and providing hope for their children in the midst of the turmoil.
We work with nearly two dozen community groups in the Artibonite region where Meladine lives. Another 28 groups are now thriving on their own without outside assistance. While there is much more for them to achieve, families and communities have lifted themselves from subsistence and opened the door to further opportunities.
Haitians aren’t fated to live in poverty. Those off the island can help them, but it will require new approaches that recognize the capacities and resilience of Haitians and their communities living in Haiti.
This article originally appeared on NewsAmericasNow on April 25, 2023.