Birth of the EcoVillages: Out of Tragedy, New Hope
In 2010 a devastating earthquake killed 250,000 people and left a million homeless in Haiti. Presbyterians donated $11 million to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) Program to help Haiti recover. PCUSA partner MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay) received $600,000 to develop a resettlement initiative – the EcoVillages -- where survivors of the quake began to build a community of self-sufficient, small farmers. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is a co-partner in the EcoVillage project.
There are 6 villages that sit on previously unoccupied land, home to more than 300 refugees. Families live in sturdy homes surrounded by gardens, with clean water supplied by wells. Each village has 10 homes, each home with one acre of land. They are model communities that show how Haitians can live safe, productive, independent lives.
Why are they called EcoVillages?
They practice sustainable, organic agriculture. MPP, a 45-year-old agricultural NGO, has taught the residents how to compost to create rich soil, how to use tire gardens to conserve soil and water, and how to select the most nutritious crops that will thrive in the area’s dry and rainy seasons. Moringa, known in the U.S. as a “super food,” grows well in the area and provides excellent nutrition and income possibilities. Residents are able to feed their families healthy meals from their land.
EcoVillages are located in a rural area of the Central Plateau of Haiti, between the City of Hinche and the village of Colladere, on National Highway 3.
EcoVillagers were left destitute by the earthquake and prolonged displacement as a million Haitians searched for housing after the devastation.
PTSD: The EcoVillage provides safe shelter and the opportunity to raise their own food. However, many still suffer from psychological trauma from loss of families, possessions and a way of life. The principal wants counseling for several students whose PTSD interferes with their capacity to learn.
Unfamiliar Lifestyle: Most are former city people without experience as farmers. They are learning new skills and live among people who they did not know. Adjustments continue. There is some turnover from those who get jobs in the city, a long waiting list keeps the villages full.
Income: The quake threw many deeper into poverty. While the basics of safety, food, and shelter are accounted for, there are still questions about finding economic stability in the rural area with fewer opportunities. MPP is exploring possibilities for micro-businesses and cooperative farming as income sources.
Drought: The worst drought since the 1950’s hit the Central Plateau in 2015-16. Many villagers went hungry, needing food subsidies from MPP. Return of the rains has restored the gardens, but the drought delayed the emerging prosperity of the villages.
Water: Lack of water was one reason the land was not previously settled. Thus, drilling wells was the first priority for the creation of the EcoVillages. Fluctuating water tables and erratic solar technology continue to complicate the well project.
Micro-Business Launched: A success story in the making
A long-time partner on the EcoVillage project--Wendy Flick—secured a grant to provide 4 sewing machines to EcoVillage parents. ACG members delivered a 5th machine. The goal is two-fold: make school uniforms for the children and launch a micro-business. 24 villagers have attended sewing classes. Their instructor is optimistic that they will have the skills to quality produce clothing for market in Hinche.
You can help the EcoVillages.
The long-term success of the school is linked to the prosperity of the EcoVillages. Consider leaving your mark on the lives of these people by collaborating with MPP and ACG. Here are some possibilities.
Expertise: Do you have expertise in marketing or counseling? Parlay that knowledge to help people rebuild their lives.
Micro-Financing: Haitians are natural entrepreneurs and many villagers have skills , such as carpentry and mechanics. Transportation to nearby markets in Hinche is a chronic problem that offers an opportunity for a small business. There is an EcoVillage credit union through which such loans would be administered. Funds to support such loans are needed.
Goats: A small-scale goat husbanding project is 2 years old. The herd nears 100 and 7 kids have been sold in the market. There are possibilities for significant returns if the project can be scaled up.
Solar: The EcoVillages have no electricity which means solar power is extremely valuable. Some American non-profits specialize in providing solar energy solutions to places like the EcoVillages. Take on the task of finding those NGOs and getting them to the EcoVillages.