It was a warm, sunny day in Les Cayes, Haiti. The city was bustling with activity – merchants hustling to sell their merchandise, moto taxis weaving in and out of traffic and school children with their cleanly pressed uniforms walking to and from school. Amidst this hustle and bustle, representatives from 14 grassroots organizations throughout southern Haiti filed into an airy meeting room. They were there to discuss life since October with the Lambi Fund of Haiti.
Last October, just before Hurricane Sandy moved on to batter the eastern coast of the United States, the storm cycle hit Haiti with days of unrelenting rain. While the brunt of the storm sidestepped the island, rains pounded the South for four days straight, resulting in widespread crop damage and loss of livestock. Haiti's Ministry of Agriculture estimated that 70-90% of planted agricultural crops were lost, resulting in severe food security concerns.
With these dire prospects in mind, Lambi Fund field staff mobilized 14 grassroots organizations to assess damage and to determine how best to respond.
As a result, emergency relief grants were provided to each of the organizations to purchase seeds and fertilizers needed to replant crops, to repair damaged irrigation canals and to replace animals lost in the storm. Now, on this sunny day in late February, Lambi Fund staff met with representatives from each of these organizations to discuss the impact of these relief grants.
A member of AFDL explained, "The emergency relief was an opportunity for us. Sandy was during the planting season, so we weren't prepared to repair the land. With this money we re-tilled the land. We planted again. Now we have corn, nuts, and black beans… we have begun harvesting." Another said that, "Lambi Fund provided support to our members when they weren't sure how they were going to undo the mess of Sandy. They helped us replant and start again."
As Lambi Fund staff sat and listened while representatives shared with the group how the emergency relief grants were used, it quickly became apparent that several vulnerabilities were making it difficult for farmers to move forward.
As an elderly member of ODRO shared with the group, "I remember when I was young hurricanes really shook the country - they were a rarity. At the age of 25 I'd only experienced two hurricanes. Now, we have them almost every year. I can tell you that Haitians are not a lazy group of people. Unfortunately though, it seems that every year there is an event that shakes the country more and more. The rains, the sun, the cholera… every event in our country is a hurricane."
The most troublesome news was that it has not rained since Hurricane Sandy. At the time of the meeting, it had been four straight months without rainfall. A member of TK-Bedo said, "After every hurricane there is a major drought. The land is dry and hard." He continued on to explain that, "When there is rain, it is guaranteed to flood. In January, everyone was ready to plant, but there was no rain. We continue to wait and wait and the rain never comes."
One after another, grassroots leaders shared their woes regarding the drought. It seems that organizations located in areas near a river or with irrigation fared much better. Members were able to take the emergency relief grants, purchase seeds, make repairs and replant.
For those less fortunate organizations with no means to water their crops aside from rainfall, the outcomes were not as significant. Most were waiting to plant their crops until the rain arrived.
These types of circumstances are typical in Haiti. Living a life of poverty leaves Haitians open to numerous vulnerabilities. A degraded environment from years of deforestation leaves the soil devoid of nutrients essential for growing bountiful crops. Climate change is bringing unpredictable growing seasons and lowering crop yields. Farmers that lack access to irrigation canals and water pumps are at the mercy and unreliability of rainfall. High interest loans with untenable loan requirements tie hardworking Haitians to a never ending cycle of debt.
It is a compounding of circumstances like these that has lessened the overall impact of Lambi Fund's emergency relief. While the Lambi Fund of Haiti clearly would have desired to see more marked impacts, this meeting has required the organization to take a long, hard look at its efforts and realize that life in Haiti is changing. Each and every day life gets harder and the multitude of struggles that rural Haitians face continues to mount.
This hard reality is what makes Lambi Fund's partnerships with grassroots organizations so important. As an organization, Lambi Fund realizes that it will never have, nor should it have the capacity to address the myriad of issues that leave communities vulnerable and make development in Haiti difficult. It is in the face of these vulnerabilities, however, that Lambi Fund recognizes the ever present importance of communities uniting, working together and calling on the government to make changes that will benefit the greater whole of society.
This is why Lambi Fund's work to strengthen organizational capacities and teach civil rights is an irreplaceable part of its efforts. Providing communities with the tools they need to respond to changing needs, problem solve and advocate for change in their community will be an integral part to advancing Haitian's quality of life.
"The rains, the sun, the cholera…every event in our country is a hurricane"
Take the Women's Organization of Jabwen (OFJ). Every year there is an event that shakes the country more and more. A member said, "At first, our husbands would always ask, ‘Why are you part of that organization? It takes up too much time.' Then we became partners with Lambi Fund [for goat breeding efforts] and they began to see our projects and the impact. Now our husbands will ask, ‘What are you doing home? Go to your meeting!' They see the value of our work and want to be organized too."
Organizations like OFJ are an exemplary model of what can be done when communities unite and go beyond the work of an individual. This group has gone beyond just this project to launch numerous efforts that are working to strengthen the community. When organizations like OFJ transcend unitary efforts to address a number of initiatives, the true power of being united is realized.
So, in the short-term, as communities continue to recover from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, the true rebuilding continues as local organizations work to improve their communities and strengthen their voice.
As the Lambi Fund of Haiti reported a few months back, while the heart of Hurricane Sandy did not hit Haiti, the storm brought days and days of persistent rain. This significant rainfall caused severe flooding – causing widespread loss of crops and livestock.
In response, Lambi Fund moved swiftly to respond to our partners’ needs. Field Monitors in both the North and South met with community organizations throughout the country to assess damages. As suspected, widespread loss of crops and livestock were reported, rainwater cisterns and irrigation canals were damaged and tree seedlings planted for reforestation efforts had washed away. Lambi Fund staff members also estimate that the overall pace of projects, organizational capacity, and economic conditions in these communities will be negatively affected.
As such, Lambi Fund has been working with community organizations throughout the country since the storm. So far, 13 grassroots organizations have been provided emergency relief grants. These grants are going straight to Haitians hit by the storm to help:
In addition to this, Lambi Fund’s field monitors have been in contact with over 50 other community organizations that may qualify for similar emergency relief. Once initial assessments are complete, these groups will be provided with the resources necessary to get back on their feet as well.
For each and every one of you that donated to Lambi Fund's emergency relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy, a very big mesi ampil is in order. Your support is helping Lambi Fund respond swiftly and appropriately to communities in need. Hopefully through concentrated efforts like these, we can work to help curb the impending food crisis as much as possible and keep impoverished Haitians’ incomes flowing.
Typically, the Lambi Fund of Haiti uses these project updates and an opportunity to highlight progress on specific projects and how your support is working to move Haiti forward. Setbacks in this type of work are inherent though and hardworking Haitians have been dealt a very harsh blow by Hurricane Sandy.
As I am sure many of you are all too aware, Hurricane Sandy tore through the Caribbean and then continued onto the Eastern Coast of the United States wrecking incalculable damage. In Southern Haiti, it rained unrelentingly for four days straight. In a country riddled with severe environmental degradation and soil erosion, the flooding was severe. Initial reports from our project partners in the area are speculating that famers lost over 90% of their crops and livestock. Homes were destroyed and roads were washed out. For a nation already struggling to feed itself, this news is just devastating and the country is now facing a severe food crisis.
Lambi Fund is working hand-in-hand with community organizations throughout rural Haiti to aid in recovery efforts. Seeds, tools and fertilizers are being provided to farmers so that they can quickly replant crops, community credit funds are being replenished, livestock replaced and much more. It is setbacks like these that make our work in Haiti heartbreaking and trying at times, but in witnessing the unbreakable spirit of hard-working Haitians, we continue to move forward. Please consider supporting Lambi Fund’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts which are urgently working to fight the looming food crisis in Haiti and help get families back on their feet.
Mesi ampil and our thoughts are with the thousands of families in the Caribbean and across the U.S. who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. May your recovery be swift.
Day-by-day, Haitians throughout the countryside are working to expand local food production in their communities. The movement to strengthen food systems and local markets are innovative and varied. One such organization that is lighting a spark in their region is The Youth Association of Sel (AJS). The 255 youth members are working in partnership with the Lambi Fund of Haiti, to build a grain storage facility and launch a community credit fund. The grain silo they are building will store surplus grains and seeds for use in times of need – droughts, natural disasters and in between growing seasons. The storage facility will also be a place to store Haitian Creole seeds. With this silo, AJS members are working to increase access to high quality, local seeds that they can share and sell to one another at an affordable rate. Just as importantly, the food storage aspect of the facility is working to create a safety net for the community – making food and grains available when its needed most.
In order to successfully manage and operate the storage facility and community credit fund, members of AJS attended workshops administered by Lambi Fund teaching them grain storage management and operation, bookkeeping, the issuing of loans and how to manage a community credit fund.
To date, 50 low-interest loans have been issued to members who are using the funds to purchase more seeds, tools and organic fertilizers for growing more peanuts, peas and corn in the area. One recipient noted that investments from the loan allowed him to cultivate 25% more land. Each repayment schedule has been paid on time - and since AJS manages the credit fund and interest earnings stay within the community, the fund is growing. In fact, AJS members are planning to issue an additional 19 loans this fall to farmers in preparation for the upcoming planting season. The silo is currently under construction and committees have been formed that will be responsible for managing the food storage unit and distributing the grains and seeds in an equitable manner.
Thanks to your steadfast support innovative projects like this are cropping up throughout Haiti and changing communities.
Lambi Fund recently approved the launch of eight new projects that are helping move rural communities in Haiti along the long path towards recovery.
One of these new projects is a partnership with members of SADN to launch an ox-plow service. Lambi Fund will be working with this rural grassroots organization in Haiti to fund the purchase of oxen, plows, tools, and to provide the training necessary to operate an ox-plow service. The exciting thing about this project is that members in SADN's community will now have an easy and affordable way to plow their fields. Currently, farmers in the area cultivate their crops by hand. This back-breaking work is extremely time consuming and many farmers do not manage to plow their fields in time for planting season.
This ox-plow service will plow fields in mere minutes: freeing up the farmer's time to work on other tasks and to plant and cultivate even more land. Ultimately, more food will be grown and farmers will have more of their harvests to sell in the local market. This means the entire community wins!
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