As is generally true of most third world counties, Haitians depend on subsistence farming to survive. It therefore makes sense that long lasting agrarian-based projects fit out model to develop Haitian owned projects that will supply much needed food and employment.
Planting Hope’s initial plan was a plantain farm. Plantains are a staple of the Haitian diet. In addition, there is a year-round market for plantains, making them a good cash crop. They are a staple crop and grow well in the tropical environment of northern Haiti. Plantains became the focus of our efforts.
Following a number of trips by team members, Planting Hope began working plans to acquired land near Cap-Haitian and Dumas in northern Haiti. A deal was struck with the government and a local land holder to take title to approximately 32 acres of undeveloped land.
Then, quite unexpectedly in July of 2021, the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse’s, was assassinated. Following the assassination, significant loss of civil control and police presence has strangled development of all types in Haiti. Outlaw gangs have taken control in many areas and extort local populations knowing fully well there will be little to no civil authority intervention.
Much to our dismay, squatters, fleeing unsafe and chaotic conditions in more populated areas, have occupied much of the land we acquired for the farm. With no civil authorities to enforce our land rights and Haitian laws that very much favor squatters’ rights, we lost control of our land. In essence, possession has become the rule of law without civil recourse to enforce our ownership.
So plans for a plantain farm have been scrapped. Further investment in this project has been discontinued.
The loss has not been without lessons learned. Consideration in future plans now include these lessons:
- We cannot successfully develop a farm without Haitian partners living on the land to protect our interests;
- With weak civil authority, it is probably better to look at projects that do not require larger plots of land;
- The protection of property and resources must be a hallmark of any plan we make;
- We need to consider projects that will work on a smaller scale in terms of land, water, and investment.