The population has been demanding greater accountability in the management of the Petrocaribe fund, in which Venezuela supplied Haiti and other Caribbean and Central American countries with oil at low prices and with easy credit terms intended to allow those countries to use the savings to fund social programs for their people.
Protests began in July of this past year with major riots following the government’s decision to increase gas prices by over 50% following International Monetary Fund pressure to limit the government’s gas subsidies. In February of this year, the country again experienced violent protests, in a week now known as Operation Lock Down, that paralyzed businesses, forced schools and stores to close, and forced many people in major cities to be confined at home. Businesses were looted, mass transit ceased in most cities and at least 10 people, both protesters and police, were killed.
After the President and the Prime Minister addressed the country, the situation calmed somewhat but remains tenuous, with no agreement between the government and the opposition. Although the opposition has asked the population to continue the street protest, there haven’t been any significant demonstrations for almost two weeks. The opposition has just scheduled more demonstrations for March. The government has created a committee to facilitate dialogue between government, opposition, demonstrators, and the private sector. We don’t know yet what will come out of those meetings as both sides remain entrenched in their own position.
During the violence and uncertainty of February’s protests, the World Renew closed its office here and most of the team was working from home, unable to go out to purchase food, water, fuel, or get cash from a bank. Our expatriates were allowed to leave voluntarily if they felt the need to do so.
Since February 16, things have returned to a kind of normal. Schools, banks, and businesses have reopened. Our expatriate staff came back a week ago. Carnival remains cancelled for Port-Au-Prince and several main cities; the only other time in my life that this has happened was after the terrible earthquake of 2010.
We will continue to follow the situation closely and keep in close communication with our partners. They too have been affected and stayed at home, unable to deliver services to the most vulnerable communities. Some remote rural areas remained peaceful, allowing work to continue, while others were disrupted because transportation disruption in the cities impacted their food supplies as well. Most of the work of our partners is done in remote rural areas so we are hopeful that the majority of our projects will remain active going forward.
Header photo: World Renew office in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2017, training workshops like this one are provided to partner organizations and their staff
It’s Not Just Peanuts! Church + Community = Transformation
In 2017, the small community of Savanette established a development partnership they call the Federation des Organisations de Savanette, or FOS. FOS was the brainchild of church and local leaders who had been through training provided by World Renew and our local partner in Haiti, the Christian Reformed Church and they’ve had a lot of success with peanuts.
Over 20 congregations in the central department (or region) of Haiti have taken part in trainings that have included community assessment, community analysis, and the role of the church in community transformation. Those congregations are now very involved in community activities, working with local leaders also empowered by the CRC of Haiti so that together they can facilitate transformation in their communities.
In less than two years, the Federation of Organizations of Savanette has had success in starting a peanut and corn production project and purchasing a milling machine that allows for the grinding of corn and peanuts. In addition to great revenues for the federation, these projects have instilled a strong sense of unity in the community of Savanette. The federation has also supported local people in marketing their own products in the community, allowing both buyers and sellers to do business at home rather than in the nearest city, which is six long hours away by bus!
Over the last year, 32 more church leaders were trained on the role of the church in community development and 62 community leaders attended a two-day session that taught community leaders how to develop business plans, perform market analysis, identify community resources, and articulate long-term visions for their community. We look forward to the outpouring of more enterprise and creativity like we have seen in Savanette.