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8303: Input Sought for "New Haiti" Proposal

From: Stuart M Leiderman <leidermn@cisunix.unh.edu>

Group:  Having received a generous offer of 300 acres for a model
community project in Haiti, I prepared the following proposal with a
opening date of 2004, coinciding with Haiti's bicentennial.  Your
comments and criticism are welcomed, and if you would like to join such
an effort, please reply with a resume or statement of qualifications.

thank you and best wishes.

Stuart M. Leiderman

"Environmental Refugees and Ecological Restoration"
Environmental Response/4th World Project
c/o Natural Resources Department, James 215
University of New Hampshire-Durham 03824 USA
ph 603.776.0055/862.1051  fx 603.862.4976
leidermn@christa.unh.edu  http://pubpages.unh.edu/~leidermn

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copyright, Stuart Leiderman, June 2001


The writer proposes a model community in Haiti that will combine,
coordinate and teach examples of successful cooperation, development,
conservation, environmental protection and cultural pride already
practiced elsewhere in the country but fragmented, isolated or unknown by
the general public or not yet applied nationwide.

Working with Haitians at the local level and assisted by individuals and
organizations worldwide, the model will assemble, amplify and show the
benefits of hundreds of individual efforts to: produce food, maintain good
nutrition and health, provide educational, crafts and employment
opportunities, design and build safe and durable housing, energy, water
supplies and sanitation systems, conserve and restore scarce soils,
forests and fisheries, protect plant and wildlife diversity, practice
small-scale manufacturing, marketing, transport and land management.

The result will be a unique, self-reliant, non-sectarian rural
demonstration community of Haitian teachers and residents where the
country's best skills and technologies will be available for all to see
and learn.  The objective will be to inaugurate the community in time for
the country's independence bicentennial in 2004.  The proposed name is
"New Haiti".


Haiti is a small, extremely poor but independent French- and
Creole-speaking country of about eight million people, approximately the
size of Maryland or New Hampshire.  It occupies the western third of what
is now known as Hispaniola, an island smaller than the State of Maine
situated in the legendary and strategic Windward Passage of the Caribbean
Sea between Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east.  The
Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic occupies the remainder of Hispaniola;
it is only slightly less-impoverished than Haiti, with approximately
another eight million people including up to a million poor Haitian
migrants, many of whom are virtually trapped as agricultural workers--some
would say slaves--on numerous sugar cane and other plantations throughout
the country.

Neither Haitians nor Dominicans are descended from the island's original
natives, because European colonists killed the entire indigenous Arawak
population within a generation or two after Columbus discovered and
subjugated the island five hundred years ago.  Instead, most of Haiti's
population is primarily of African descent, beginning ten generations or
more ago when slavers captured or bought and then transported huge numbers
of people to the island in order to mine its resources and farm away its
natural fertility.  The rest of the population is an
historically-privileged minority whose mixed origin is the legacy of white
European slavemasters' crimes against black African women.  The
consequence today is an extremely stratified society that perpetuates
racism, factionalism, resentment, suspicion and fears, pitting a small
powerful elite against a large desperate peasantry.  On the other side of
the island, a similar stratification pits the Dominican national majority
against the extremely-impoverished Haitian migrant minority.

Haitian slaves fought France for their independence in 1804, but for two
centuries, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren continued
to be largely dominated and terrorized by tyrants and military juntas from
within the country and by occupying superpowers from without.  A tragic
result was crippling waves of Haitian emigrants, refugees and exiles--even
into the 1990's--that included teachers, lawyers, doctors, scientists and
other professionals, business people and intelligentsia that no country
can afford to lose without long-lasting damage.

To make matters worse, essential and timely guidance from overseas
governments, corporations and development banks have barely ever accrued
to Haiti's benefit.  The country has been and continues to be the target
for cheap fixes, labor exploitation and strategic intimidation.
Predictably, these policies have chronically isolated and impoverished the
country and prevented it from reaching its potential as a leader among
small island states in the Caribbean.

In an emergency working conference on the future of democracy and
development in Haiti, recently held at the University of Massachusetts,
Boston, it was said that Haiti has three major crises: ecological, social
and political:

First, the country's natural life support system is critically damaged,
the result of an increasing population, skewed ownership of property and
resources, poor land management, and spiraling food and energy demands.
Said another way, the quantity and quality of fresh food, fuel, building
materials, water, natural medicines, fibers and living space required to
support the basic needs of all of Haiti's citizens are not available or
sufficiently accessible or affordable.  In some places, nothing is
routinely available, meaning that entire communities must wait for relief
supplies brought to them from donors thousands of miles away.  This
environmental crisis has dehumanized human existence, making ecological
restoration an urgent national priority.

Second, as described above, Haiti's society has become extremely
stratified, i.e. there are relatively few "haves" compared to too many
"have-nots".  Most of the country's wealth, land, economic and educational
opportunities are still inherited, accumulated, enjoyed and wielded by a
relatively small portion of the population, to the startling deprivation
of everyone else.  Thus, Haiti's finite, dwindling resources and
opportunities for social development are not equally available throughout
the country; instead, they overwhelmingly go to feed, house, educate,
employ, care for and entertain only perhaps a tenth or less of the
population.  Ultimately, this destroys national spirit and unity, to
everyone's detriment.  It is a well-known recipe for disaster.

Third, there are fractures in Haiti's political life brought on by the
always-difficult task of replacing tyranny with democracy.  This task is
made worse by pressures for short-term unsustainable development
characterized by coercion, conformity, materialism and dependency; these
are Faustian bargains where even human rights and irreplaceable
environmental assets are traded for money.  Against this background,
political factions arise, split and split again, citizens rightly demand
transparency and power-sharing, elections are scrutinized and criticized
by international observers, banks and lenders issue ultimata that can't be
satisfied, and so on.  All of this has seriously mired the fledgling
democracy in a swamp of postures and damage control, diverting its
attention from nation-building and productive international relations.

To these three crises, the writer adds a fourth: education.  Haiti's
literacy rate is less than 50%, some say much less than that.  There is a
shortage of schools, teachers and administrators for the country's
increasing population, and there are problems with the content and
effectiveness of the courses of study.  The best governmental intentions
are continually thwarted by political upheavals and lack of money; the
flight of teachers and professionals from Haiti has already been
described.  Religious orders working through local missions often
supplement the effort by establishing and maintaining grade schools
through overseas contributions, but even then the writer is finding that
basic courses in science, health, nutrition and home economics, for
example, are often missing for want of teachers, funds or priorities.
Despite the existence of a national education plan, a cabinet-level
Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports, and a Secretary of State
for Literacy, the Haitian population is not being educated to confront its
national crises nor able to imagine solving them.


Despite these horrendous circumstances, poor Haitians have demonstrated
remarkable survival traits.  They are resilient, creative, restrained,
resourceful, outspoken, collegial, eloquent, artistic, long-suffering,
attentive and charitable.  Relief workers and technical advisors often
remark, "Poor Haitians just need a chance to succeed."

The predicament is that the pace of ecological, social and political
deterioration is outstripping the pace of restoration.  This is
additionally hurt by a growing population whose basic needs may already
exceed the country's carrying capacity.  Further, Haitians individually
and collectively may not have a sufficiently-comprehensive factual
understanding of their national condition to know, for example, where and
how irreversible damages in the country are affecting their chances for
recovery and development.  In turn, limited development opportunities are
forcing the country to accept tradeoffs that may keep the present
generation alive, barely, but then indenture future generations to the
caprice of international banks and multinational corporations.

Against these odds and fully aware of worsening conditions,
non-governmental organizations, churches, foreign aid agencies and
individual professionals and volunteers have visited and taken up
residence in Haiti for fifty years or more.  Some have established and
maintained clinics, hospitals, schools, markets and other lifesaving
facilities and services.  Today, thousands of people are involved in
assistance to Haitians and Haiti's environment, providing tens of millions
of dollars annually in aid to Haitian communities through grants, loans,
equipment, food, training.  What more can be done, or done differently?

In the writer's opinion, solving Haiti's development problem requires
addressing all four crises--ecological, social, political and
educational--at the same time.  To do this, each new project in Haiti must
achieve at least four goals simultaneously: improve the standard of
living, decrease the cost of living, increase freedom of choice, and
restore and protect the natural environment.

It is well-known that few if any development projects anywhere in the
world, much less Haiti, are designed, funded, staffed and implemented in
such an explicit way as to satisfy these requirements.  Indeed, for
example, economic development projects usually sacrifice environmental
quality; conversely, environmental protection projects generally require
economic development to take place somewhere else.  In the long run, even
the best of any of them are only qualified successes.

This conclusion seems to hold for Haiti and is reinforced by the writer's
original research that recently included a search of a thousand or more
Haiti-related Internet websites and a compilation of hundreds of current
humanitarian and environmental projects.  Whether conceived from within
the country by Haitian citizens or government agencies, or from outside by
international agencies, NGO's, churches and individuals, the piecemeal
approach to Haiti's three crises predominates.  Worse, many projects are
stuck in the relief mode, only addressing the symptoms of crises, not
their causes.  As a result, Haitians seldom enjoy what they deserve from
all the apparent care and attention.


Imagine a visit to a new rural Haitian community of approximately 2,000,
whose people were well-nourished and housed, free of infectious and
transmissible diseases and parasites and able to work productively
throughout the seasons; where drinking water was clean and conveniently
available; where toilets and showers were plentiful, sanitary and simple
to use and maintain; where windmills and solar panels provided renewable
energy for refrigeration, lighting and equipment in homes, workplaces,
schools, marketplace and community centers; and where reliable telephones
and durable vans, trucks and boats were available to maintain contact with
the outside world.

For anyone familiar with conditions in most Haitian villages today, this
new kind of community would be a stretch of the imagination.  But to those
who are familiar with the minimum living standards necessary for a small
rural population to survive anywhere in the world today, this description
would be an unarguable benchmark.  To the writer, it is inconceivable that
outside development funders and relief providers--government agencies,
citizen organizations, churches, corporations and universities--have
poured millions of dollars annually into Haiti without sharing and
monitoring a common program to simply bring all rural communities up to
such standards.

For the purpose of this model community proposal, the writer adds an
additional unique requirement, namely that when the community opens to the
public beginning during the Haitian bicentennial in 2004, the residents
will be highly-qualified individuals who as a group will offer a variety
of exhibits, classes, workshops, conferences and other activities to
teach visitors the concepts, design, construction, operation and
maintenance of "New Haiti" as a sustainable community.  This means the
residents will routinely use their resources and good fortune to help
other Haitians learn the skills necessary to identify and solve community
problems anywhere else in the country.


The success of any project occurs when at least three basic
elements--willingness, know-how and resources--are: a) brought together
closely enough, b) in the right place, proportion and orientation,
with c) sufficient energy, determination and duration to d) transform
an unsatisfactory, deteriorating or chaotic situation into e) one that
is more satisfactory, improved or better-organized than before.

Obstacles in a project are encountered when the quantity or quality of
willingness, know-how and resources are inadequate, or when they cannot be
brought together properly because of human limitations, natural conditions
beyond human control, or combinations of both.

In the proposed model community project, the usual funding and staffing
obstacles are present, but there are also some particular obstacles that
will need to be overcome as the project passes through various stages to
completion: a) the language barrier between English and French/French
Creole speakers, b) the vulnerability of land, equipment and supplies
to theft, sabotage and damage from storms, drought, and natural disasters,
c) the difficulty and expense of transporting people and material across
the country, and d) the prevalence of communicable diseases among the
general public.

Too many obstacles in a project can lead to failure.  Periodic assessments
will have to be made to determine whether sufficient progress is being
made to warrant going to the next stage.  The responsibility for such
decisions will reside in a large working group made of Haitians and
non-Haitians who will score project performance at each stage and require
a minimum score to proceed on to the next.

Over the past half-century, development projects in Third World countries
or other poor regions of the West have had a poor record of success.
Projects fail under one or more of the following circumstances:

a) when developers attempt to conduct projects against the wishes or
without the meaningful participation of the recipients,

b) when developers attempt to conduct projects with incongruous
technologies and/or on an inappropriately large scale,

c) when projects are physically completed but then turned over without
providing recipients sufficient training and funds to operate and maintain
them or understand their long-term value,

d) when projects require too extensive and/or too rapid a change in the
recipients' culture,

e) when projects cause unanticipated negative social, political and
ecological impacts on the recipients,

f) when projects benefits accrue solely or primarily to the developer than
to the recipients,

g) when developers throw money and capital-intensive projects at the
symptoms of problems,

h) when projects lack a systems approach to address and eliminate the
causes of problems, and

i) when projects contain hidden objectives that damage, betray, threaten
or insult the recipients, their values and homelands.

Without adequate problem analysis, any of these can become obstacles to
the success of the proposed model community project.  But in general, they
can be eliminated or minimized by drawing on Haitians and non-Haitians who
have a demonstrated record of success in humanitarian and environmental


More than twenty years ago, the writer devised a community development
tool called "Composite Paradise".  The purpose of this tool was to
demonstrate to citizen groups and university students how an entirely new,
environmentally-sound community could be envisioned by assembling images
of isolated but familiar examples of renewable energy, organic
agriculture, small business, appropriate technology, recycling,
environmental protection, soil conservation, etc. already being practiced
within a short distance from their own location.

Typically, the writer compiled from photographic archives dozens of
locally-known but scattered scenes and then arranged them, with musical
accompaniment, as a slide-show travelogue through an environmentally-sound
but fictitious community.  The effect was quite persuasive because it
established the possibility that such a community could actually come into
existence if and when the viewers had the will, the know-how and the
resources to reproduce the elements in a single place.  Even though the
scenes may have been drawn from an area of 7,500 square miles or more (a
circle of 50 miles' radius), the viewers generally immediately recognized
or at least appreciated the significance of each scene, meaning that they
already held the actual memory of them or similar ones within their minds.
The novelty of the writer's approach was in visually juxtaposing the
scenes as if they were physically near each other in the same community.

The proposed model community project for Haiti will begin in a similar
fashion:  The writer and others will gather photographic and videographic
evidence and written descriptions of ecologically-sound and
economically-sustainable practices scattered through Haiti's mountains,
countryside and villages.  The documentation will be reviewed, selected
and assembled into a multimedia, multilingual presentation for a variety
of audiences within and outside Haiti.  A "Whole Haiti Catalog" in the
spirit of the "Whole Earth Catalog" of the 1970's will become the written
version of the presentation.  The goals will be to:  a) plausibly describe
and persuasively suggest the value of establishing a model learning
community where Haiti's leaders, teachers, scientists, professionals,
students, visitors and temporary residents can introduce, study,
experiment with, modify, and then apply a wide variety of techniques and
experiences in their own communities--or anywhere else in the world, and
b) create educational materials about Haiti that can be sold to supplement
funds necessary for the next step of the project.

In the next step, the writer will identify and invite selected Haitian
community leaders, project organizers, professionals, teachers, farmers,
builders and others to form a working group to discuss, plan and decide
how to reproduce examples of their success--and teach about them through
classes, workshops, conferences, performances, etc.--within an existing
community or in an entirely new community where none presently exists.

In either case, the project will require the invitation and approval of
nearby residents and will offer them opportunities to participate in and
benefit from its development.  The writer proposes that, at minimum, a
small settlement of educational pavilions, residences and demonstration
landscapes will be established in time for Haiti's 2004 independence

>From that point, the new community's members will determine how to
maintain the model as both a place of residence and as a place of
learning.  The members responsibilities will roughly correspond to four
decision areas:  people, processes, structures and spaces.  Again, the
emphasis will be on activities that simultaneously improve the standard of
living, decrease the cost of living, increase freedom of choice, and
restore and protect the natural environment.


A three-year budget will be developed to cover work for pay, taxes,
insurance, health care, travel, land acquisition and/or lease,
networking, publication, communications, videodocumentation,
construction and supplies for a community that would encompass 300 acres.

An initial amount will be used to a) expand the details of the proposal,
b) gather endorsements and suggestions from community leaders and other
supporters and potential participants in Haiti and abroad, and c) prepare
a prototype presentation to simulate the model community project for
fundraising purposes.  This work will be done during the first 3-6 months
of the project.

Then, a followup amount will be used for the preparation of the
multimedia presentation and "Whole Haiti Catalog" described above, from
which the elements of the model community will be selected.  The work
will occur between the first 3-12 months of the project.

Then, a followuup amount will be used to assemble and underwrite the
expenses of a working group to determine the course of development of
the model community, with the objective of opening to the public in 2004.
This work will take occur during the first 6-18 months of the project.

Then, the balance of the funds will be used for site acquisition or
lease, on-site construction of educational pavilions, homes and
landscapes, project coordination, public relations and development of
educational material corresponding to community elements.  This work will
take place beginning 12 months into the project.

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Stuart M. Leiderman
Environmental Response/4th World Project
c/o Natural Resources Department, James 215
University of New Hampshire-Durham 03824 USA

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