E's Musings
Blaming Haiti…

Morning Folks!

A few weeks ago, my sister sent me an article written by Mac McClelland, a reporter for Mother Jones, entitled I’m Going to Need You to Fight Me on This: How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD. Needless to say, the title caught my attention and I proceeded to read it. Honestly, to say I was extremely disappointed with the article is an understatement. I have no doubt that post-traumatic stress disorder is a terrible thing. I believe that like all PTSD, the PTSD Ms. McClelland suffered was grave and should not be taken lightly at all. However, I don’t think it is appropriate to blame what you have seen in one city of a country of more than 10 million as what caused you to seek violent sex (her words, not mine) to alleviate PTSD. (Side note: what someone decides to do in the bedroom willingly is none of my business. This piece is not against those who willingly have violent sex.)

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Haitians Helping Haiti

Updated on January 14, 2010

Please note that Duquesne Fednard’s D&E won the environmental category of the Digicel Enterpreneur of the Year Award. Digicel’s site has not yet been updated with the information, but please visit their site for more information. Thanks for reading!

A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO D&E!!!!

Morning Folks!

We have a special blogpost today. A few weeks ago, a journalist asked a Haitian woman at an event, ‘what stories does she think are not being told about Haiti right now?’ The woman replied that she wished there were more stories about the work Haitians are doing in the country themselves. This got me thinking about the Haitians/Haitian Americans I know that have been doing work in the country pre- and post-earthquake.

Today I’d like to introduce everyone to a friend, Duquesne Fednard who has been doing some phenomenal and fascinating work in Haiti. I don’t want to steal his thunder, so I’ll let you read the post below.

Bio:

My name is Duquesne Fednard and I am the founder and CEO of D&E Green Enterprises. D&E is an organization that seeks practical solutions to energy challenges faced by people in the developing world. I have several years of entrepreneurial, operation, business management and finance experience. Prior to starting D&E, I served as the Director of NYC Business Solutions in the Bronx, a Global Trade Associate at Citigroup, Consultant at CCT Solutions, Vice President at Perfection Machine Shop (Haiti ) and Founder of Impremerie SA and Micro Mutual Funds ( Haiti ).  I hold a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems (MIS) from State University of New York and a Masters in International Affairs (MIA) with a focus on international finance from Columbia University.

Please tell us about the project you are working on.

In September 2009, D&E launched an initiative to tackle Haiti’s chronic deforestation and the human health issues that result from the use of charcoal as a primary source of cooking fuel. We began manufacturing and distributing highly efficient charcoal stoves to the Haitian market. Haiti has the highest child mortality rate due to respiratory illnesses in the Western Hemisphere and deforestation for charcoal production has reduced tree cover from 63% in 1923 to 1.5% today. As you may know, charcoal was the main cooking fuel for more than 95% of Haitian household before the earthquake. Poor governance and lack of infrastructure make access to a more environmentally friendly energy source in the near future unlikely. The recent earthquake makes the outlook even bleaker.

What are the benefits of using your stove?

Our goal with this project is to provide high-quality, affordable alternative stoves to replace inefficient traditional metal charcoal burners while searching for alternative cooking fuels that can be produced locally in order to eradicate charcoal use in Haiti. The stoves are highly efficient and are capable of reducing charcoal consumption by 50% and CO2 emissions by 60%, thus providing immediate economic and health relief for the users. Additionally, the stoves are manufactured locally using local raw materials, thus creating jobs and other business opportunities in Haiti, a country where over 66% of the population was unemployed and 80% lived below the poverty line before the earthquake. Each stove comes with a user manual written in the local language and with warranty.   The stoves are fitted with a ceramic liner that makes them highly efficient. For every traditional stove that is replaced by an efficient stove greenhouse gas emission is reduced by 1.23 tons and 0.1 hectare of forest is saved each year the stove is in use.

 

When we (Americans) think of stoves, we usually think of a gas or electric range. Prior to the earthquake, how many Haitians had access to the type of range we’re familiar with?

Prior the earthquake only 5% of the population had access to the type stove that people in the developed world are accustomed to and these are often used in tandem with charcoal stoves due to the sporadic and unreliable distribution of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).  There are reasons to believe that this already low percentage of gas stove users has further diminished as a result of the earthquake.

What were most using? What are people currently using to cook their meals?

Before the earthquake, 95% of Haitian household cooked exclusively on charcoal or wood stoves. In the aftermath of the quake, there is a good chance that the number of people in Haiti depending on wood and charcoal for their everyday cooking needs has sky-rocketed to close to 100%.

What drew your attention to developing high-quality, affordable stoves?

Across much of the developing world, a simple meal does not come without inhaling toxic smoke and ash emitted from burning biomass. A majority of the three billion people in developing countries live in inner cities and rural areas, and cook almost exclusively with wood and charcoal. Though cheap at retail value, these solid fuels have high hidden costs. The indoor air pollution (IAP) caused by burning charcoal can lead to chronic, even fatal, respiratory diseases, while the carbon released into the atmosphere exacerbates climate change issues. A primary example of a region with these issues is Haiti, where upwards of 95% of Haitians depend on charcoal for their energy needs. The high IAP level caused by the burning of biomasses is a major contributor to the low life expectancy in Haiti where healthy life expectancy at birth is only 43 years.  Of every thousand children born in Haiti, 139 die before reaching the age of 5, in stark contrast with nearby Cuba where the rate is only 7.5 deaths for every 1,000 live births. This is, in large part, caused by exposure to IAP. The environmental consequences of this practice are shockingly apparent as well – tree cover in Haiti has fallen from 63% in 1923 to 1.5% of total land today. Rapid deforestation has led to soil erosion and severe flooding, thus affecting agricultural yields and spurring greater rural-to-urban area movement. Economics, coupled with a lack of infrastructure and poor governance, have driven the supply and demand for charcoal in Haiti. Charcoal production represents a viable source of income for many in an economy where more than two-thirds of the population lives on less than US$2 per day. For buyers, a per capita income of US$580 makes charcoal a more affordable option for cooking than kerosene or propane. The recent earthquake in Haiti has devastated and laid bare its already fragile infrastructure. Unemployment is consequentially rising and will further diminish the purchasing power of the population, creating a greater demand for Haiti’s cheapest fuel.  All these issues fuelled the desire to find solutions that can yield the highest social, environmental and economic returns and led D&E to choose efficient stoves as its first initiative. We wanted to develop projects with multiple impacts and the efficient stove project is one that offers such opportunity. Not only does the stove provide immediate economic relief for the user by reducing their cost of energy by 50% but also positively affects their health through a net reduction of indoor air pollution while also slowing deforestation, reducing greenhouse gas emission and creating jobs.

 

Are you targeting a particular demographic (e.g. age group, gender, etc) or area?

Our target market is anyone who uses charcoal or wood as cooking fuel. However, special attention is paid to urban and peri urban women (14 years old or older) who have families and cannot afford LPG or Kerosene fuels. Haitian women are traditionally responsible for most household chores including cooking, cleaning, and childcare.    Women also have significant purchasing power because of their high participation in the labor market in Haiti. We have also developed an institutional model designed for street food sellers, restaurants, hospitals, prisons etc. and a wood model for people living in rural areas.  At the moment our stoves are sold in Port-au-Prince and a few other cities, however our plan is to expand our operation and distribution network nationwide.

What type of awareness campaign do you think is needed for your project and others like it to grow in Haiti?

Interestingly enough, we’ve discovered during our market research that charcoal users in Haiti are aware of the devastating impact that charcoal usage has on environment and the overall economic well-being of the country, but find themselves with little to no alternatives- often times they are too poor to switch to

cleaner burning fuels and with few efficient stoves available on the market they have no other options but to use inefficient charcoal burners. I believe an aggressive national campaign involving all stakeholders  is needed to educate and make the people aware that there is an affordable alternative product that is not only protecting the environment but is providing immediate economic and health relief for all charcoal users and switching to an efficient stove is their contribution to saving the environment.

 

How many people are using your stove? How have they indicated they have benefited from the change?

To date, we have manufactured and distributed over 7200 stoves to the Haitian people.  Users have benefited in ways we did not foresee.  For instance a recent report by Oxfam International (who surveyed our stove users) found that not only did users’ significantly reduce their cooking costs but on average cut their cooking time by 15 minutes.  The report also spoke admirably about the modern appearance and cleanliness of the stove (which retains the ash produced by the charcoal in an ash collection box which allows the ash to be disposed of safely). The report further highlighted the fact that users were using the ash to sanitize latrines, which was a totally unseen benefit. In addition to our own user surveys, other organizations such as Terre Des Hommes and EarthSpark International have reported similar results.    

 

How can people help you and your organization expand healthy, affordable, and sustainable cooking solutions in Haiti?  

Funding is the most challenging obstacle that we face with the project at the moment. We are currently looking to raise capital to expand our operation and distribution network. We have a detailed business plan along with comprehensive distribution strategy plan available to anyone who might be interested in providing assistance with raising funds. In the interim, people who want to help the project can subsidize the purchase of stoves for locals in Haiti through monetary contributions at our website at http://www.dandegreen.org/act-now/ or http://funds.gofundme.com/1pp2c. Our stoves are sold at cost - a medium size stove suitable for a family of 5 costs $8. While $8 may not sound like a lot of money for someone who lives in the US, for a Haitian earning less than $2 a day an $8 stove might be out of reach  despite the many benefits the stove provides. A contribution of $5 will allow us to subsidize the price to $3 for a potential buyer.

I created this organization as a response to what I believe is a complete failure of the foreign aid model to solving the long term issues that people in developing world are facing in their daily lives. The conventional wisdom about Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and foreign aid is that they play an important role in the struggle against poverty and underdevelopment. Their direct involvement in relief, rehabilitation and development efforts is presumably expected to bring about incremental change, which leads towards sustainable growth. While no one can deny that many lives have been saved as a result of NGO and foreign aid interventions in disaster situations, in many countries around the world and particularly Haiti, NGO and foreign aid interventions have not yielded the desired impacts of bringing long term improvements. And in many cases they have even produced the opposite effects.  Living conditions are showing continuous signs of deterioration and there is little or no hope in sight. Misery, apathy, stagnation, corruption and abject poverty have become permanent features of these ailing nations. In the case of Haiti, foreign aid has created a culture of dependency which has a very detrimental effect on the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity that Haitians were once known for. Haiti has the second highest number of NGOs per capita in the world and yet the situation on ground has only worsened. Haitian have grown accustom to equating NGO and foreign institutions to free goods and services. This is particularly troublesome when we know that no one or country can give aid indefinitely. Foreign aid is the first to be cut when donor nations face hardship at home leaving recipients nations crumbling, as was witnessed during the recent financial crisis.  Therefore breaking the cycle of dependency is paramount to restoring the dignity and self-sustainability of the Haitian people.  It is time to start experimenting with the different ways that foreign aid can be used to spur long term growth, wealth building and self-reliance for aid recipient nations. We believe that we need to get people involved in their own recovery.  That is why we focus on finding local solutions through market based approaches. By having the people contribute to the solution through the purchase of the stove we guarantee that the product will be used and will be valued. It is important to mention that D&E as socially responsible organization makes no profit on the sales of the stoves but is not registered as a non-profit organization. That is a conscious decision on our part to de-associate ourselves from the forever free giving perception instilled by NGO and foreign aid organizations in Haiti. As a socially responsible small corporation, your donation will not be tax deductible; however it will contribute to the self-sustainability of the beneficiary. We are currently working with prominent foundations, economic development entities, financial institutions and grassroots organizations to develop a program where the savings (through fuel cost reduction) can be leveraged to allow the recipients to start their own small businesses. Stove recipients who agree to save all or a high percentage of their fuel cost reduction savings will be provided with matching funds, technical and business development assistance to start their own small businesses.

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Prescription for Haiti

Another crosspost today folks! So what does Haiti need exactly? Check out the answer at the Huffington Post.

Tags: Haiti

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Haiti’s Good Fortune?

In a few weeks, it will be one year since an earthquake killed some 300,000 people and left 1.3 million Haitians homeless. Humanitarian workers and aid agencies poured into the country over the past year. Sean Penn made Petitionville, Haiti his new home. The US, France and several other countries promised monetary aid that has yet to materialize in terms of the millions that were promised. Frustration and anger is building across the country. The UN Nepalese forces allegedly brought cholera into the country and the number of dead are rising daily. To say the least, Haitians are angry and frustrated.  

Today, the BBC News is reporting that Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s Prime Minister, made the following statement:

Let’s be clear, I have nothing against NGOs - we need them. What I need is to have control over what they do in my country, where they do it and with whom they are doing it, and at what cost.”

I strongly believe that if NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) are to be truly helpful in rebuilding a country, they should not only have the natives of the country at the table, but ensure they are the leaders and the NGOs are supporting their efforts. What PM Bellerive is complaining about is not new.

Frankly and sadly, some NGOs are coming in and speaking as if they are the know-it-alls and the Haitian people are the village idiots who need to be educated on how to (re)build a civilization. I know those of you who work for NGOs are going to hate me for saying this, but some NGOs are in essence perpetuating the paternalistic attitude that many developing countries once rebelled against. These NGOs are operating under the guise of eliminating poverty and rebuilding lives.

I think it’s time that some NGOs realize that they may have the best intentions, but their methods need to change. Earlier this year, I saw the documentary, Good Fortune, and became so annoyed with some of the NGOs in the film that I had to pause it. (I figured they were not worth me developing high blood pressure issues.) I watched a family that was living “comfortably” lose their entire year’s worth of crops after some Americans who wanted to build a rice farm, flooded the family’s farm. The family was not forewarned about what was to come. Nor did anyone seek their advice or opinion. Can you imagine if I decided to flood a family farm here in the US to make a rice paddy?! 

The great thing about Good Fortune is that you get to see what those dollars you donate to certain organizations are doing to people in other nations. It makes you realize the importance of knowing exactly what your dollars are being used for and how. I don’t want my hard-earned dollar going towards razing down a shantytown and replacing it with modern homes that are occupied by the families of politicians. I want to help the people that are always forgotten, not the corrupt politicians.

Finally, the Good Fortune provides you with intimate insight into what it is to be one of the natives at the table, because that is all you are.  The radio program, This American Life, also peripherally discussed this phenomena in Act Three of Island Time. (I strongly urge you to listen to it.) In Act Three, a Haitian eye doctor (one of the few in the entire country) has been invited to sit at the table. However, we quickly learn that no one listens to you or cares that you know the culture, politics and lay of the land better than anyone. It doesn’t matter that this man is considered a genius by many. Who cares that he can provide perspectives on how the plans will affect Haitian doctors who have served other Haitians for decades when they could have easily picked up and left the country? Thus, the eye doctor is at the table, so the NGO and foreign governments can say we did have a Haitian at the table. At least the eye doctor is guaranteed to get a meal when he shows up to the meetings…

Haitians don’t just want to be at the table they want to be heard. This is their country and they have every right to decide what they need or want. I’d be extremely frustrated if someone came into my home and started to tell me how to run my home. So why should I tell someone else how to run his/hers? Giving you advice is one thing, telling you what to do is the ultimate level of disrespect in my opinion.

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