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  • Writer's pictureRocky Paurice

On the Meaning of Self-Sufficiency

My name is Rocky Paurice. I live in Port-au-Prince. For the past ten years, I have partnered with Nadine Dominique to run the Organization for the Betterment of Cap-Rouge (OBEC).


We are a reforestation project that seeks to restore balance to our ecosystem, to bring things into an equilibrium where everything has its place, where one thing doesn't disturb another. When you plan something, you need to consider how you will sustain it. You need to have plans in place for five years, ten years, twenty years. That's what we have tried to do.



Since 2018, the biggest hurdle we've had to face has been the lack of security in our country. This lack of security has affected every sector of activity there is in Haiti, in one aspect or another. For example, in order to arrive in the city of Jacmel, near where OBEC operates, you will encounter the phenomenon of banditry and gangsterism. It impedes people from moving from one location to another.

 

CCH recently provided me with a grant to visit Cap-Rouge for a week. The first thing I noticed was that the road between Port-au-Prince and Jacmel has deteriorated badly. Not only is the road no longer frequented, but it now has bandits on it. And with the hurricane that's just passed, there have been landslides. In places it is crumbling.

 

Another thing that I noticed when I arrived in Jacmel is that a lot of people have been leaving Haiti. Many of them are people who were working at good institutions and earning good salaries. They've left the country because of the insecurity. They feel menaced. Their kids can't go to school. Among them are people of means. These are professionals. They have careers. They're lawyers, engineers, technicians. There are also rural people selling all their assets to be able to go.

 

The lack of security affects people from all walks of life. For instance, bus drivers and taxi drivers who would normally be able to feed their family and take care of their needs can no longer do so because of the bandits. Their jobs are too unsafe.

 

And furthermore, I have observed that the problem of bandits gives rise to a lot of other problems. There is food in the countryside but it can't reach Port-au-Prince. And the food is perishable, like oranges. Because there is no agro-industry to process them into something more durable, they rot. The peasants can't make money. When people go to the market to buy something, they can't find it.

 

Every place in Haiti has its own unique problems. Maybe they don't have problems with security but they have supply problems or a lack of money. The biggest problems in Cap-Rouge have to do with lack of access to water during droughts, but we also suffer from bad roads and insufficient access to healthcare.



The first thing I did when I arrived was meet with the people who take care of OBEC's model food forest: Benita who cooks food for everyone, Benite the groundskeeper. Then I did an inventory. What are the things we have, are they still here. Are they not here, are they broken? The third thing I did was visited the land. To see how the trees were doing, if any have died. Are they growing, are they bearing fruit. To see if they needed compost, if they needed pruning. It rained a lot so there were a lot of weeds. We weeded the entire property.

 

Once we took care of the land then we turned our attention to the nursery. We cleaned out all the weeds and started distributing saplings. Kids came to get plants. Adults came to get plants. We also took the opportunity to transplant seedlings into bags. We did a count of how many we have. We planted more trees on the property too because there were some that had died.



We also spoke to the people. We observed the environment. There are other people involved in similar activities. We went and observed them. People such as Sidney Etienne and our neighbor Roc. They also came to look at what we were doing. We always exchange knowledge in this way.

 

Something that I have encountered in my experience is that when most people do things in Haiti, after five or ten years it is broken. We don't want to do that. We want to build something for our community that lasts.

 

People need leadership to be able to organize. That's true in Cap-Rouge and it's true for the country as a whole. And people in leadership can't think about their organizations when they're hungry.


 

The way I see it, my well-being should exist in synergy with the population I serve. For instance, I have a little animal husbandry project. I distribute pigs and goats among the people. When the animals have babies, the people give me some and they keep some. Now I'm working with ten people in this way, but I started with one. I'm helping people and it's also helping me.

 

There are other project that aren't profitable like that. Cap-Rouge doesn't have toilets. I want there to be composting toilets. People can use the compost for their plants, and it helps to keep the water table clean. But it isn't profitable. And you know that when there are droughts people have water shortages. There are no wells or public reservoirs. It's the same there. Building up that infrastructure isn't profitable. For that work, we need to solicit donations.

 

So as I see it, we need to do both. We need to concentrate on all of these projects that help people, but within that scope we need to make sure we are doing things that make OBEC financially sustainable. It's one thing to ask for money, but sometimes you will not get money when you ask. We need to be able to help ourselves. Fundamentally, the responsibility is in our hands.

 

––Rocky Paurice

Organization for the Betterment of Cap-Rouge

(Translated by Reginald Turnier and Michael Rogers)

 

 

 

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