The GENESIS Network's Blog

How can GENESIS and other NGOs help sustainable development in Haiti?

Posted in Articles, News by GENESIS Network on March 29, 2010

Operation Hydrate Haiti project photo

Robert Moreau

Research Analyst/Outreach

 Currently, the GENESIS Network has started a relief and development program in Western Haiti. Partnered with Aqua Safe Straw, Operation Hydrate Haiti is working to bring filtration systems to nearly 1,000 people in need of clean drinking water. The project, with 85 percent of funding completed, has thus far provided

  • Hundreds of filtration systems, with nearly 120,000 gallons of drinking water provided.
  • Hundreds of pounds of first aid supplies and medical equipment
  • Clothing and tents

Locations visited by GENESIS in a recent trip were a nunnery in Port-au-Prince, a school in Carrefour, and a group of orphanages in Leogane.

The project, as noted, is a short-term aid measure, providing water until more sustainable development solutions are implemented. And as the focus turns from immediate relief to building for the future, aid groups can play a strong role.

Long-term development in Haiti: Relief strategies and the role of NGOs

Before the earthquake, Haiti boasted 4,000 to 10,000 NGOs active in the country, one of the highest per capita ratios in the world. The international relief effort has added to that number, with 318 groups being registered on the United Nations’ database.

The March 10 Miami Herald piece that noted these figures also revealed a culture of sometimes intense competition among aid groups, including disputes between workers of who does what.

“On a charter flight to Miami, competing doctors get into a shouting match before takeoff…at a search-and-rescue operation, one international team claiming ownership of the effort asks another to leave-although the departing group has the equipment to do the job.”

The incredible international aid relief campaign has donated over $2 billion, almost all of it to NGOs. But with disorganization, can aid groups make a meaningful impact? Indeed, there have been calls to have aid groups reigned in favor of more focus on the Haitian government.

One criticism of the aid effort has been misdirected resources.  Another has been that short-term aid creates temporary jobs for Haitians, but little in terms of long-term development. Nathan Hodge, in a February 12 piece for Wired, describes the concern

“The rapid influx of NGOs and international organizations creates a unique mini-economy, with a demand for drivers, fixers, translators, security and other services. In the short-term, that’s not a bad thing. It provides well-paying jobs for those with the right skills. But it often draws desperately needed talent away from critical sectors of the economy…and it’s a poor imitation of trickle-down economics.”

In the effort to rebuild Haiti, there is no shortage of organizations that can potentially make an impact. But disorganization, accountability concerns and competition are barriers to a structured effort, and initiatives should focus on helping Haitians create long-term self sufficiency.

coffee co-op farmer, nothern Haiti

One possible major project is a revival of the country’s coffee industry, a potential strong export. During the 18th Century Haitian coffee thrived, but since independence the industry had long been plagued by disaster; during the military dictatorship and U.S. boycott during the 1990s, Haitian farmers burned coffee trees for charcoal.

However, coffee remained the country’s chief agricultural export through the 1980s. The industry would enter a brief period of resurgence in the 1990s when a USAID program organized small farmers into a cooperative producing Haitian Bleu, a new fair trade-certified bean that had a very strong initial run in North America and Europe before consistency issues and corruption-plagued export processes took their toll. In recent years, most of this crop was destroyed by hurricanes.

In spite of the difficulties the coffee-making industry has faced, Haitian coffee remains a favorite among many. Revival proposals have included bringing back Haitian Bleu as well as nurturing other taste profiles, emphasizing the need for training and equipment for Haitian farmers and noting the success of the SPREAD Project in Rwanda.  

As noted by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Haitian economy “will have a simple structure in the coming years” and rebuilding agricultural areas along with re-establishing a manufacturing sector are necessary for Haiti’s recovery moving forward. One approach that could make an impact here is the use of micro-financing loans to promote small business.

Moving forward

Operation Hydrate Haiti has done a successful job providing filtration and other supplies to those in need. However, as noted, it is a short-term relief initiative, and promoting ongoing development in the devastated country is of critical importance moving forward. GENESIS, along with other organizations, looks forward to a role in helping Haiti build for the future.

Reader questions: What are your thoughts on the role of NGOs in Haiti moving forward? In what ways are they a help or hindrance, and how should efforts be coordinated? What roles could GENESIS have in promoting sustainable development in Haiti? All comments and questions are welcomed.

Robert Moreau is Research Analyst/Outreach for the GENESIS Network. A 2008 Master’s graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Regional Economic and Social Development, Moreau has been working for GENESIS since July 2009. His work has included freelance newspaper pieces and a newsletter published for a Lowell-area social services agency in 2008

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4 Responses

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  1. […] Originally posted here:  How can GENESIS and other NGOs help sustainable development in Haiti? […]

  2. […]  As noted, Haiti has an abundance of nonprofit organizations in the country, and most education and healthcare has historically been provided by NGOs. Even in the pre-earthquake period, transparency was a concern-a trend continuing into the relief efforts. […]

  3. mobile games said, on March 24, 2014 at 6:43 am

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  4. В этом что-то есть. Раньше я думал иначе, большое спасибо за помощь в этом вопросе.


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