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Aid: Strategies for Effectiveness

I read this on March 22.

The essence of America is energy — the vibrancy of the market, the mobility of the people and the disruptive creativity of the entrepreneurs. This vibrancy grew up accidentally, out of a cocktail of religious fervor and material abundance, but it was nurtured by choice. It was nurtured by our founders, who created national capital markets to disrupt the ossifying grip of the agricultural landholders. It was nurtured by 19th-century Republicans who built the railroads and the land-grant colleges to weave free markets across great distances. It was nurtured by Progressives who broke the stultifying grip of the trusts. (David Brooks, New York Times, March 22, 2010)

This is what has completely broken down for most of the people of Haiti during 350 years of non-opportunity. It is absent now, even among people who have been empowered as their empowerment seems to have been greatly devoted to indulgence and exploitation during that 350 years.

As deeply as someone else believes in salvation I believe that the above statement is a statement about the proper destiny of human beings. Never for a moment do I want to not believe in that possibility for human beings.

That does not mean I assume it – certainly we cannot assume it in Haiti. But it does mean that I want to work carrying the assumption that good sense and vigor are the natural state of human beings and I want my work to help make it real.

I believe that the manner in which we help the people of Haiti matters. Certainly emergency medical care and food and protection should be rushed to Haiti as quickly as possible. But we do not want to help in the rebuilding of the Haiti that was. We want to help in the building of a nation that can work well for its people.

The following are a series of statements that I’ve heard among people thinking about Haiti. I think these statements have value and I’ll be adding to this list.

  1. Temporary solutions tend to become permanent solutions
  2. Aid that flows thru the local government (if big in scale and continuing) tends to foster patronage, top down power, and corruption. Aid that creates formal sector jobs tends to create a tax paying middle class to which government must answer at election time. People are empowered by jobs.
  3. We might want to look at different kinds of assistance in terms of how rapidly they pay off.
    1. Emergency aid (Good Samaritan aid) is essential, and we believe it helps people to get back on their feet. Certainly Family Promise is a good example.
    2. Education is essential to long term sensibility, but its payoff is long term. It makes a difference in 40 or 50 years.
    3. Formal sector jobs may have the most rapid payoff of all our aid methods. Every week we should ask how many formal sector jobs have we created.
  4. Haiti has a favored nation trade status with the U.S. How can we nurture or create marketing apparatus to take advantage of it. What are Haiti’s possible exports. How can we get production started and moving to export. Coffee appears to be number 1 on that list.

I learned a lot about coffee attending seder performed by Mark Wasserman & Sue Gurland last night (language is carefully chosen). Mark’s niece’s husband (Mark Cordray) worked his way thru college in a coffee house and started his own in Savannah after graduation. He sold it in 2003 after 12 or 20 years in the business. He says we can think of their being two kinds of coffee. Aribica originally came from Yemen and is grown throughout the Carribean in high plateau shaded areas. It is the best and preferred by Starbucks et al. Robusta is grown in lowland areas, used by Maxwell House and others who care most about price. It takes 5-7 years for a seedling to start producing, but then it produces for 25 years. When it ceases to produce it is cut to a stump and grows back for another 25 years of production. Beans are better than pre-ground because antioxidants are released when it is ground. We should be able to create a good marketing spiel around this and see if we can get a whole lot more coffee sold from Jane Tierney is starting to think about other marketing avenues, and the UU fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens has a strong “Fair Trade” concern. ../../../events/fairtrade070428.htm Let’s learn from them.

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