Over the past several months, we have seen various important developments. Folks within OASPKA have been solidifying their collective and community with a clinic, a school, and a women’s initiative. Thanks to the contributions we received from many of you, we have moved forward with a dedicated pilot project on one hectare of land! We have planted Banan, or plantains — 800 plants of them to be exact. The harvest awaits us in the first quarter of 2019. However, there is plenty of other happenings while we await winter.
Our work began in summer 2015, after the lives of hundreds of families of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic (DR) were jeopardized through the implementation of a series of laws that questioned the citizenship of Dominicans of Haitian descent and also targeted Haitian immigrants for deportation. At the time, many Haitian activists pointed out that if the deportation of Haitians could happen in the DR, it could happen anywhere. In recent months, the Trump administration stripped 59,000 Haitian immigrants of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), ignoring evidence that Haiti is not yet ready to receive these families. Unless a lawsuit on that issue is successful, these families will have to leave the United States by July of 2019. Antihaitianism is an ongoing phenomenon, and we plan to continue fighting that with efforts to promote greater sustainability in Haiti!
As you may recall, in 2017 we were able to work with OASPKA to secure a land grant of 360 hectares of land. Thanks also to the donations we’ve received from our supporters, we were able to build a well and acquire a water pump so that crops could be irrigated. Infrastructure and water access are still greatly limiting in the nation; and a garden’s success is dependent on hydrated plants. Farmers must also be in good health to complete the agricultural demands needed for upkeeping their crops. Farmers on a global scale are typically a mistreated demographic, so our healthcare efforts coincide with our work.
OASPKA has a woman’s initiative as well. Women rights are central into what we do, and the women of this organization have created a network of vendors who sell various goods in the market. From rice, meat, salt, clothes, shoes, deodorant, lotion and so much more, the ladies of OASPKA have great experience in the market space. Many of the women in the organization used to sell in the markets of DR before they had to leave the nation; and are now getting work again within the northeast Haiti region. These women are working and finding more ways to build and grow their community. And in addition to agriculture, we are working with them to find other ways in which women can receive greater economic empowerment.
Much praise is due for Charitable Joachim, the organizer heading OASPKA and partnering with us at HCLT. For the past few years, Charitable has been quite intentional about not only the relationships built within their collective, but also the partnerships that have allowed this project to evolve so greatly. When he first started the organization OASPKA, he was constantly traveling between the countries of Haiti and The DR to connect with members on both sides of the island, build with neighboring organizations, and keep us informed with the happenings of the org via media. Currently, his family is now with him in Haiti as they try to find their sense of home again. This disenfranchised community is not only looking for income and work, but a home, school system and sense of structure that many often take for granted. Once again this work is important and we encourage folks to get involved.
We must remember the deportation, forced removal and fleeing of the DR effected many folks who spent most or all their lives in that nation. That was home; and that sense of stability was removed from many, especially children. During this untimely transitional phase, teachers made sure that these children’s education did not have to suffer as well. For over a year now, these children have been students at a facility. Educators have been working with no pay to provide academia for these children. Our contribution to this effort has been shipping supplies over — notebooks, pencils and other school essentials have been sent to these students to support their educational endeavors. Also, thanks to the donations we have received, during the past few months we have also been able to help 17 migrant families in the Dominican Republic to obtain birth certificates and other documents they needed to finalize their paperwork so that they could remain in the country without issue.
Who doesn’t love some banan?! We have started to see stalks sprout. There are many plants growing now such as green beans and moringa. The harvest for plantains will come in early 2019 and we are excited to see what opportunities this harvest can yield for this northeast Haitian community.
As far as what is occurring directly within Haitian Community Land Trust, we are launching events to continue gaining support and opportunities for community outreach. We are all working remotely between New York, Texas and Georgia, so keeping that same sense of community is more important and intentional. We are continuing to seek new partnerships, and would like to add two more members to our board. Once our initial pilot project comes to a complete cycle, we intend to seek institutional grants which will now be easier for us to acquire thanks to our official 501c3 status! Thank you all for your continued support! We are proud to say we are Haitians looking to help our fellow Haitian, and we welcome all to get involved! We want to encourage you to support agricultural work, even if by joining a local agricultural cooperative or community garden. As the Haitian proverb goes, “men anpil chay pa lou” — “many hands make the load lighter.”