The Strength of a Community: Haitian Farmers Begin Receiving Compensation, Demanding Swift Progress

A Haitian Farming Collective Successfully Negotiates an Agreement to Restore Their Livelihoods After Being Displaced

In December 2018, the Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè – a collective of Haitian farmers and their families representing nearly 4,000 people – signed a historic agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Haitian government to restore their livelihoods. The agreement came seven years after these farmers and their families were forced from their land to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park (CIP), a large industrial facility financed by the IDB, the U.S. Government and others. Almost overnight, construction of the park uprooted the Kolektif from 250 hectares of the most fertile agricultural land in the area, leaving them in a state of extreme financial and food insecurity. Farmers, some of whom had farmed the land for generations, had used the land to grow nearly all of the food they ate and sold extra produce in the market to pay for their children to attend school and for medical and other emergencies. After being displaced, farmers struggled to meet their basic necessities.

After unsuccessful attempts to address their concerns directly with the Haitan government and the IDB, the Kolektif filed a complaint to the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (MICI) of the IDB in January 2017 to demand accountability and remedy for the harm caused by the displacement. The subsequent MICI-facilitated dialogue process between representatives of the Kolektif, the IDB, and the Haitian government ultimately resulted in the December 2018 agreement. The agreement is primarily intended to support the farmers and their families to establish sustainable livelihoods. It provides each affected household with the option of: land (limited to the 100 families most in need); modern agricultural equipment and training; support for micro-enterprise focused on women and the most vulnerable members of the community; or vocational training scholarships. It also provides each household with school kits and the opportunity to be employed at the CIP. Finally, the agreement aims to address long standing environmental and social problems at the CIP and improve management of those issues.

Three Years Since the Agreement Was Signed, Significant Milestones Have Been Reached, But Many Are Still Waiting to Restore Their Livelihoods

People in every livelihood option have started to receive their benefits, but many are still waiting for their turn. With every day that passes, the value of the agreement erodes and people grow more desperate for the benefits they were promised three years ago. The IDB and Haitian government must take the following urgent actions to ensure they fulfill the promise of the agreement to restore farmers’ livelihoods.

  • Land: Land transfers – the most significant aspect of the agreement designed to help the most vulnerable displaced families – have been painfully slow. Each day that families cannot turn to their land for their livelihoods, they are pushed into even greater economic and food insecurity. The IDB and Haitian government must support land beneficiaries to:
    1. obtain the higher standard of documentation they have required for this process, and
    2. expedite the bureaucratic review of these documents with a level of urgency that matches the gravity of the Kolektif’s circumstances.
  • Equipment: The motorized pumps and wells have made a meaningful difference to the 50 families who received them in working order in August 2020. But all 90 beneficiaries who elected equipment must be able to reap the benefits of this critical infrastructure. The remaining 40 beneficiaries either do not have working wells, or are still waiting to have their wells dug and receive their motor pumps. The IDB and Haitian government must:
    1. address existing issues with wells, and
    2. distribute equipment to the remaining beneficiaries as soon as possible to ensure no family loses out on greater productivity during the next planting season.
  • Environmental and Social Commitments: To date, the IDB and Haitian government’s commitments to address issues of solid waste, wastewater treatment, stakeholder engagement, emergency response, and implementation of the EHS system have remained largely untouched. As the Bank commits a further $65 million investment in the park, it is all the more critical that the IDB and Haitian government first resolve these existing concerns. The project must meet its minimum obligations to prevent and mitigate social and environmental harm before the bank distributes additional funding.
Land

Land

In November 2021, the Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè celebrated an important milestone — 13 families received access to public land. But, 87 families are still waiting for land.
Equipment

Equipment

Only 50 out of 90 people have received the full benefit of their equipment. Although 14 more received their equipment, problems with their wells have been unaddressed for over a year.
Graduation

Graduation

189 participants are currently enrolled in this program to receive support in starting a small business, including training, health insurance, start-up assets, and access to microcredit.
Vocational Scholarships

Vocational Scholarships

Three beneficiaries received a scholarship for technical training and are currently enrolled in their program of study.
Employment

Employment

After the IDB and the UTE agreed to pilot access to training at the Park’s training center, approximately 68 individuals were provided with training and 25 of them were hired for sewing jobs at the Park.
School Kits

School Kits

Each family was provided with two school kits, which included notebooks, backpacks, pencils, pens, and geometry sets; however, 90% of all distributed backpacks tore and broke within days of receiving them.
Environmental & Social Safeguards

Environmental & Social Safeguards

Affected families continue to worry about the Park’s wastewater contaminating vital water resources and trash piles contributing to harmful pollution.

Lessons Learned

In December 2018 when the Kolektif signed the agreement that promised restoration of their livelihoods, they were jubilant at the prospect of their long fight for just compensation to be over. No one thought that implementation of the Agreement would be easy but we did not anticipate the multitude of challenges that would present themselves to significantly delay the process — including a pandemic, several fuel shortages, and growing insecurity grinding the Haitian government to a halt.

Today, many farmers have finally started to reap the benefits of the agreement, but progress has been far too slow and for those who have not yet received their benefit, delays have come with a significant cost as livelihoods continue to deteriorate.

Below we share lessons learned from this implementation experience to continue to guide our work as we fight for every family to get the benefits they are owed and to help other communities who may be going through a similar process.

  1. Progress is slow and uneven but remains important for improving beneficiaries’ livelihoods. There have been many moments when the communities received no updates on when they could expect to receive their benefits. In these times, many community members would give up hope, and we could no longer expect them to buy into a process that seemed not to deliver what it had promised. During these times community leaders continued to fight to address the eroding value of the agreement and to press for progress. Announcing improvements to the program to account for delays and delivering benefits in stages as the government is able have been important tools for keeping families engaged and keeping the promise of the agreement — to restore livelihoods — alive. Accountability Counsel has been regularly tracking a randomly selected group of beneficiaries to measure how their livelihoods have changed over time and we plan to release more information in the future about the outcome of receiving these benefits for this group of farmers.
  2. Flexibility is key to addressing changed circumstances. There were several instances where factors outside of the control of the Parties worked to significantly erode the value of the agreement. The agreement as originally envisioned would have failed its stated goal to restore the livelihoods of farmers, but both the Bank and Haitian government showed flexibility in adapting the agreement to changed circumstances. To highlight a few examples, when it was clear the CIP hiring process was failing to lead to employment for families, the Parties agreed to pilot a different process that more than doubled the hiring rate for people in this process. Also, when double-digit inflation and foreign exchange fluctuations significantly eroded the value of assets people would receive in the small business program, an agreement was reached to adjust the values to account for these economic changes.
  3. Build in quality controls to avoid unnecessary anger and distrust in the process. This applies where physical goods are being distributed, such as backpacks, agricultural tools, pipes, and motor pumps. We learned this the hard way when backpacks were distributed that tore almost as soon as people received them. This sparked a lot of community anger and distrust in the process until the Haitian government and the Bank agreed to replace all the backpacks. They consulted the community representatives before distributing the next backpack, which was very well received. Now the community regularly asks to see and test physical goods before they are distributed to catch problems early and prevent them from becoming much larger issues later on.
  4. Transparency fosters creative problem solving and trust. There were many occasions when the community raised concerns about implementation and their initial proposed solutions would be rejected with a curt explanation that the proposed solution could not be done. By probing why it could not be done and having the Parties share transparently the boundaries of what was in their authority to approve, the community was able to come back with adjusted proposals that all could accept and has led to improvements in the land, small business, equipment, and employment options.

Land

  • In November 2021, the Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè celebrated an important milestone — 13 families received access to public land as compensation after being displaced by the CIP ten years ago.
  • 87 of the most vulnerable families are still waiting for their land, including access to private land.
  • The IDB and the Haitian government must urgently: 1) support farmers to obtain documentation for this process, and 2) move those documents through the bureaucratic review as swiftly as possible.

For the farmers of Tè Chabè who were displaced to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park, their small plots of land were their life boats. They used their land to grow a diverse, bountiful, and healthy diet for their entire extended families, which often numbered 10 or more people. This included crops such as beans, okra, cassava, plantains, mango, pumpkin, peanuts, and rice among others. Their land not only provided food on the table, it was their main source of income and savings. Extra crops were grown and sold in the market to pay for their children to attend school, for vital medicines and medical care, and for any other emergencies the family might encounter. In short, their land was their entire livelihood, and when that was taken away, entire families’ lives significantly deteriorated and became much more precarious.

The grandson of a farmer displaced by the CIP describes the importance of land to his family.

Given the importance of land to this community of farmers, this aspect of the agreement holds the most significance to them. After being forced from their land, many did not want to return to agricultural work, but about half of displaced families wanted to receive replacement land for what they had lost. In the end, compromises were made, and it was agreed that 100 of the most vulnerable displaced families would receive this benefit.

Three years after signing the Agreement, the Kolektif in November 2021 celebrated 13 families receiving land as compensation — a huge milestone in a country where land rights are often incredibly fraught with often informal, inconsistent, and confusing land titling and registration processes.

Land Total: 100 beneficiaries
Land Total: 100 beneficiaries

But 87 families identified as the most vulnerable among the displaced farmers are still waiting for land. Importantly, the 13 families who received land received it in the form of public land owned by the Haitian State. These families are obtaining exclusive and significant rights to use the land for farming. Many of the families still waiting for land are expecting the Haitian government to follow through on its commitment to also provide access to private land.

Conditions in Haiti have deteriorated significantly since the signing of the agreement, making an already precarious situation worse for these families. The most critical challenges facing this process now are: (1) delays in the government’s bureaucratic process to review documents and communicate decisions to the beneficiaries; (2) the high standard of documentation being required, which is meant to follow all legal requirements, but is far greater than the local custom and practice; and (3) fuel shortages preventing travel to land plots for surveying.

“Because we had the land before, we had harvests that provided income. But we do not have that same income anymore. . . . Within the last two years, it has been harder because we do not eat the same number of meals as we did before.” – A farmer who lost his land to the CIP

What is needed now is urgency. The IDB and the Haitian government have important roles to play in supporting people to obtain the higher standard of documentation demanded by this process and for shepherding those documents through the bureaucratic review as swiftly as possible. These families were displaced in 2011 — 10 years ago. Justice delayed is justice denied, and with every year and every day that goes by, these families experience not only the denial of their just compensation but also an ever-spiraling downturn towards hunger and greater insecurity.

Equipment

  • Only 50 out of 90 people have received the full benefit of their equipment. Although 14 more received their equipment, problems with their wells have been unaddressed for over a year. Another 26 or more people are still waiting to receive their water pumps and have their wells dug.
  • The IDB and the Haitian government must urgently work towards finishing what they started and ensure that the last 40 people receive their equipment and can effectively use it.

Some farmers who were displaced, managed to find other land they could farm to continue their livelihoods. Many in this group have stated that the alternative land they found has not been as productive as the land from which they were displaced. The land from which they were displaced was known as the most fertile in the area, irrigated by the Trou du Nord river which now bisects the Park. As part of the Agreement, people with access to land could elect to receive specialized farming equipment and technical support to improve the productivity of their land. Everyone who chose Equipment also chose to have a motorized pump installed on their land, which included the digging of a well from which the pump would extract water as well as pipes to distribute the water.

In August of 2020, the Haitian government distributed motor pumps to 64 out of 90 people who had signed up for this option. They arranged for wells to be dug for 63 of those people. More than a year later, one person is still waiting for their well to be dug, and 13 people who complained about problems with the way their well was dug have still not had their wells repaired. Moreover, 26 and possibly more people are still waiting to have their wells dug and to receive their motor pumps.

Equipment Total: 90 beneficiaries
Equipment Total: 90 beneficiaries

This benefit has made a meaningful difference for those who have been fortunate to receive their equipment in working order. If the government could deliver this benefit successfully to 50 families, there is no excuse for taking more than a year to deliver this same benefit to the remaining 40 families.

The IDB and the Haitian government must urgently work towards finishing what they started. In an area prone to drought and weather exacerbated by climate change, these wells and motorized pumps are proving to be a vital tool to help farmers sustain their livelihoods. Beneficiaries have waited long enough and should receive these benefits as soon as possible before having to forego greater productivity on another planting season.

“The equipment can improve life because agricultural equipment is very important. Some people may not recognize that, but it is very important. Farming requires many things such as water, without water nothing is possible. Here is the problem, without water nothing is possible because there is no more rainfall and people are relying on that to irrigate their land. If I have the ability to irrigate the land, I will have hope that my life will change. The motor pump and the equipment can help change someone’s life if they are able to work and can make good use of them.” – A farmer who received equipment through the agreement

This farmer explains that the well he was provided does not reach a sufficient depth. He also explains that he was asked to sign a document confirming that his well was completed and operating to his satisfaction, but he did not understand the purpose of the document or agree with that assessment of his well.

This farmer explains that the motor pump he was given does not provide sufficient water flow.

Graduation

  • 189 participants are currently enrolled in this program to receive support in starting a small business, including training, health insurance, start-up assets, and access to microcredit.
  • The Kolektif, the IDB, the Haitian government, and the local implementer were able to reach an agreement to adapt the program methodology after currency exchange volatility and inflation eroded the original value of the program.

Those without access to land were offered training and support to start a small business as an alternative livelihood to farming. All participants in this category receive training, health insurance, start-up assets, and access to microcredit in the form of a zero-interest lending circles.

This program met with a lot of community resistance at the outset of implementation, particularly as currency exchange volatility and year over year double digit inflation eroded the value of the program and many believed that this program was not as valuable as the equipment program.

After extensive community consultation the Kolektif, the IDB, the Haitian government, and the local implementer of the program Sonje Ayiti, were able to reach an agreement to adapt Sonje Ayiti’s methodology to address important changes in economic conditions that were not foreseen at the time the agreement was signed. This proved to be an important lesson that implementation of an agreement to restore livelihoods can encounter significant delays impacting the value of the agreement. In this situation, all the Parties demonstrated flexibility and a willingness to listen in order to maintain the community’s trust in the process and ensure people received the same value they expected when the agreement was signed.

Sonje Ayiti offered training for beneficiaries on how to create sanitation products like detergent, dish soap, and disinfectants.
Sonje Ayiti offered training for beneficiaries on how to create sanitation products like detergent, dish soap, and disinfectants.

The program is currently underway with 189 participants. Participants have received weekly mentoring and four training sessions on entrepreneurship, veterinary care, savings and credit, and building confidence. Sonje Ayiti also helped create eight Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) or lending circles, which beneficiaries and the wider community can join. Additionally, many participants were able to access healthcare from a medical center, some for the first time. Initial feedback for the program has been positive. Many in the program expressed gratitude for being provided access to health insurance for the first time, and for being able to engage in economic activities generating income for their families.

Graduation Total: 189+ beneficiaries
Graduation Total: 189+ beneficiaries

Vocational Scholarships

  • Three beneficiaries received a scholarship for technical training and are currently enrolled in their program of study.
  • Though other programs have received adjustments to account for delays and the deteriorating value of the agreement, this program has not and people need additional support to fully realize the benefit of their program.

The final option for restoring livelihoods involved receipt of a scholarship for one year at a qualified technical training institution to study a trade. This was a difficult option for most people to access because attending school for a year meant possibly incurring more costs (for example in transportation) while delaying the ability to generate income for an entire year.

Only three people chose this option, and they are all currently enrolled in or completed their program of study. One young mother has not been able to pay the transportation fee to attend classes because the cost of fuel has increased significantly since the agreement was signed. One person needs additional tuition support to ensure they finish the full program and can benefit from their degree. One person graduated from their program in December 2021 and expressed optimism about his studies translating into a job providing more economic security.

“This [scholarship program] will improve my life because I have already chosen to study accounting. I think after completing my studies, if I will find a job, it will help me grow financially.” – A beneficiary of the vocational scholarship program.
Vocational Scholarship Total: 3 beneficiaries
Vocational Scholarship Total: 3 beneficiaries

Employment

  • Affected households initially nominated 315 people for jobs at Caracol Industrial Park, but only 45 individuals were hired and provided with sewing jobs (14% hiring rate). At that time, companies opted not to provide preparatory technical training to nominees before engaging in hiring.
  • After the IDB and the UTE agreed to pilot access to training at the Park’s training center, approximately 68 individuals were provided with training and 25 of them were hired for sewing jobs at the Park (37% hiring rate). This training program should continue so that other affected families have the opportunity to benefit from it.

The Caracol Industrial Park that displaced farmers was meant to create jobs that would allow additional members of families to contribute to household income outside of agriculture. The agreement promised that in addition to the main livelihood supports (land, equipment, small business training, vocational scholarships), one member from each affected family would be eligible for employment at the Park after receiving preparatory technical training. The majority of the jobs would be in sewing, with 30 being in more technical roles.

This benefit was meant to be implemented immediately so that households would have quick access to additional income while the main livelihoods support got underway. However, companies at the Park opted not to contribute to providing preparatory technical training before engaging in hiring, and out of 315 applications only hired 45 individuals (14% hiring rate).

As with the graduation program, circumstances had changed, which meant the value of the agreement had changed. While it was not the fault of any of the Parties that the companies were no longer contributing to training at the Park, it did mean that people were having a much more difficult time accessing jobs. Eventually, the UTE and IDB agreed to guarantee access to training at the Park’s newly established training center to help ensure access to employment at the Park. Approximately 68 people were provided with training through the training center, leading to 25 people being hired (37% hiring rate). Unfortunately, this happened right as the COVID pandemic hit and the program has not been continued since then. The training program was received positively by the community, and we hope that this program will continue to provide opportunities to the families who have not yet been able to benefit from it.

Employment Total: 315+ beneficiaries expressed interest in a job at the CIP
Employment Total: 315+ beneficiaries expressed interest in a job at the CIP

School Kits

  • Each family was provided with two school kits, which included notebooks, backpacks, pencils, pens, and geometry sets; however, 90% of all distributed backpacks tore and broke within days of receiving them.
  • The IDB and UTE consulted the Komite on a new backpack to distribute, and have since made these backpacks available to all families.

One of the most difficult trade-offs that families had to make when they lost their land and their livelihoods is whether they had enough to meet their basic needs and pay for the fees and costs needed for their children to attend school. In Haiti, schools charge a fee for attendance and often require that students pay for other costs such as books, supplies, and uniforms.

The agreement intended to provide some measure of support to families to lessen the burden of school costs by giving each family two school kits, which included notebooks, backpacks, pencils, pens, and geometry sets. This was the first benefit people received, and many families expressed dissatisfaction when their backpacks tore within days of receiving them.

This proved to be the first test the Parties would face in terms of how they would deal with challenges presented during implementation. The Komite conducted a survey within the community to assess the size of the issue and presented the results of their survey and physical evidence that indicated the problem affected about 90% of all distributed backpacks and therefore all backpacks should be replaced. The IDB and UTE accepted these results, consulted the Komite on a new backpack to distribute, and then made these new backpacks available to all the families.

(left) An affected community member holds up one of the original backpacks provided that tore almost immediately after receiving it.  (right) The replacement backpacks that were distributed after the community gathered extensive data about the original bags' defects.
(left) An affected community member holds up one of the original backpacks provided that tore almost immediately after receiving it. (right) The replacement backpacks that were distributed after the community gathered extensive data about the original bags' defects.

This moment provided an important lesson for the Komite, as they realized that it was important to check the quality of items before they were distributed to try to catch these issues earlier in the process when they were easier to address. They have since insisted on seeing items such as water pumps, and agricultural tools, before they are distributed to assess their quality.

School Kits Total: 328 households received school kits.
School Kits Total: 328 households received school kits.

Environmental & Social Safeguards

  • Affected families continue to worry about the Park’s wastewater contaminating vital water resources and trash piles contributing to harmful pollution.
  • In the 2018 Agreement, the IDB committed to improving in the areas of solid waste, wastewater treatment, stakeholder engagement, emergency response, and implementation of the EHS system, but these issues remain largely untouched.
  • The Haitian government and the IDB must meet their minimum social and environmental obligations before the Bank distributes an additional $65 million investment to the Park.

“The Bank continues to work to improve the social and environmental management of the CIP and considers the Kolektif’s support in this task to be crucial.”

-Agreement

Piles of trash from the Park before the fire in 2020.
Piles of trash from the Park before the fire in 2020.

Farmers who were displaced by the Park also complained about the lack of information and consultation related to the environmental and social impacts of the Park. They continue to worry about the Park’s impact on vital water resources such as pollution of the Trou-du-Nord River and contamination of local groundwater. For years the local community has complained about the immense trash piles where solid waste from the Park was disposed, and which caught on fire in 2020 contributing to harmful air pollution for all those living next to the trash piles.

The still smoldering heap of ash after the trash piles of solid waste from the Park caught on fire in 2020.
The still smoldering heap of ash after the trash piles of solid waste from the Park caught on fire in 2020.

The IDB in the 2018 Agreement committed to continuing to improve in the areas of solid waste, wastewater treatment, stakeholder engagement (inside and outside of the CIP), emergency response and implementation of the EHS system. These issues have yet to be fully addressed, even though the IDB’s policies require mitigation and remediation.

The Trou-du-Nord River is an important water source in the community and runs through the Caracol Industrial Park.
The Trou-du-Nord River is an important water source in the community and runs through the Caracol Industrial Park.

As the Bank recently committed an additional $65 million investment in the Park, all eyes will be on the UTE and IDB to see if they will hold to their promise to resolve these issues before more money is disbursed to a project that is not able to meet its minimum obligations to prevent and mitigate social and environmental harm.

The Kolektif urges the Bank and the Haitian government to follow through on their Environmental & Social commitments in the Agreement, which include:

  • Improving in the area of: solid waste, wastewater treatment, stakeholder engagement (inside and outside of the CIP), emergency response and implementation of the EHS system;
  • Strengthening the grievance mechanism inside and outside the CIP. This will include seeking a place to receive requests for information and/or written grievances in a confidential manner;
  • Engaging a laboratory to perform independent water analyses to be shared with the Kolektif and published online; and,
  • Providing detailed updates to the Kolektif on environmental and social issues during meetings of the Monitoring Committee, which will be included in the annual public monitoring report produced by MICI.
X