Background

The island of La Gonave (Lagonav) is located to the northwest of Port-au-Prince in the Gulf of Gonâve. The island is home to approximately 130,000 people, 16,000 of whom were displaced there since the earthquake of January 2010, with fishing and farming as the primary occupations. The terrain in Lagonav is mostly barren and hilly and the island gets anywhere from 800-1600mm rainfall per year, with higher altitudes representing the latter figure. [1]

La Gonave map

Map showing the location of La Gonave

Over the past few decades, with population pressures and an over-exploitation of natural resources by the rest of the nation, the quality of life on Lagonav has further deteriorated. Much of the vegetation has been removed and serious erosion has occurred. Without vegetation to hold moisture in the soil, rainfall is lost to the sea. Access to fresh water has become a critical issue. Over-fishing has resulted in a serious decline in the fish harvest. Employment opportunities are extremely limited and hunger is widespread. Many diseases are prevalent on the island but few people can afford medications and visits to the distant hospital. Transportation and communication are extremely inadequate. [3] Neglected by the government for years, some residents of Lagonav call their island “the forgotten Haiti.”

Dreaming Big: Local Development Context

The Young Farmers Association for the Development of La Gonave (Asosyasyon Jèn Peyizan Pou le Developman la Gonav, or AJPDG) was founded in 1984 by a group of motivated individuals living across 10 communities surrounding Mòn Ramye, in the 9th communal section of Point-a-Raquettes.  It has been said, “Mòn Ramye is a jungle,” implying this area is too remote for development work. In spite of this, the founders decided to organize in order to save their community. [2] The most pressing current needs are the lack of educational opportunities locally and insufficient sources of clean water. AJPDG has made great strides to meet the educational needs in surrounding areas and are organized to work towards improving the water situation.

Dlo Gran Ravin

Girl collecting water at Dlo Gran Ravin

In 1998 the AJPDG committee called a large general assembly in Mòn Ramye that was attended by 105 community leaders from many areas of Lagonav. At this assembly, the citizens discussed and reached a consensus on the Twelve Big Dreams of the people of Lagonav. These dreams include improved water systems, free education for children whose parents cannot afford to pay, a professional school, a health clinic and a library. [4]

Over the past 25 years, AJPDG has worked alongside community members to carry out many development projects to meet their needs, such as: reforestation, adult literacy, solar power, road building, community stores, school construction and management. With initial micro-capital provided by Beyond Borders (Limyè Lavi), AJPDG has engaged in community-run small businesses, including stores and a pharmacy. With the profits from these activities, AJPDG now pays 30 professors, six school directors, and association members who manage the investments in order to provide free schooling to children that would otherwise be unable to attend. Today, AJPDG has a network of 21 affiliated schools on the island of Lagonav, each of which is encouraged and guided to create and manage their own self-sufficient school fund. They provide free and consistent teacher training and small business courses for member communities of the network. In 2009, several communities used this revenue for school construction and renovation, with the collaboration of World Vision and Concern.

AJPDG has created their projects by themselves, with very limited provision of external resources. AJPDG strives to help us spread their strategy for self-determined development, including the sustainable education fund, all over Lagonav, and to show other disadvantaged communities in Haiti, and throughout the world, what is possible.

Proposed Water Project

Meeting

HEH meeting with local leaders.

Dlo Gran Ravin is a spring near Mòn Ramye on the island of Lagonav. This spring was capped to protect the water source over 5 decades ago. However, due to deterioration of cement over time and natural changes in the springhead, this no longer captures the available water from the spring nor provides sufficient water pressure. During the dry season, Dlo Gran Ravin, in its limited capacity, serves as the only source of water for an estimated 20,000 people residing in 15 communities. Due to the limited flowrate, the relatively clean water from this spring is in high demand, resulting in many hours of waiting in line for access to it. Alternative water collection includes a rainwater catchment system and cistern, installed through a partnership between AJPDG and World Vision, providing water for the school in Mòn Ramye during the rainy season. [5]

Residents of these 15 communities have expressed the urgent need for an improved water system. AJPDG desires to re-cap the spring using a springbox such that the maximum quantity of water can be collected and kept free from contamination. In the midst of a cholera epidemic, community members are determined to promote sustainable methods to treat water before human consumption.

Project Plan

Children waiting in line for water.

On invitation of the community organization, Eric Brandfass and Monica Dyer of Health Empowering Humanity along with Courtney Grosvenor and Rahul Mitra (recent engineering grads from The University of Texas at Austin), conducted an initial needs assessment in September 2010. AJPDG and the community members of Mon Ramye expressed a strong commitment to collaborating on a project at Dlo Gran Ravin. They have offered to organize any necessary manual labor associated with the project, coordinate the transportation of materials and will actively manage the project during and after implementation. AJPDG welcomes any collaboration from other organizations in terms of materials, monetary support, design and implementation of the project. In March 2011, water quality data, topological elevation and GPS coordinates of the spring were obtained.

The citizens of Mòn Ramye and surrounding communities have made significant strides to realize their many dreams. Due to limited access to the external resources needed to achieve this end, AJPDG is seeking organizational partners, to make these dreams a reality and improve the quality of life for the people of Lagonav. Any assistance that your organization can provide will be greatly appreciated by the people of AJPDG and take them one step closer to realizing their 12 Big Dreams.

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Sources:

[1] National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

[2] Community Project Proposal: A fund for the education of disadvantaged children. AJPDG, 2010.

[3] College of Integrated Science and Technology, James Madison University.

[4] Shoulder to shoulder in everything, for the education of our communities (Appreciative Inquiry Report) – Todd Saddler of Beyond Borders for AJPDG, 2000.

[5] Interviews with AJPDG conducted in September 2010 by Monica Dyer and Eric Brandfass Health Empowering Humanity and The University of Texas at Austin engineering students Courtney Grosvenor and Rahul Mitra.

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One response »

  1. Good day, I represent Association Amis des Enfants in La Gonave that has been working for the benefit of the community over the last 12 years. Please contact me, if you also believe that men anpil pa chay lou. Regards. Orietta L’Abbate, CEO AAEA Inc. for AAE La Gonave.

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