The Peace After the Storm
Located in the mountains of the Artibonite, the rural communities of Wopisa and Wondo are almost entirely dependent on crops and livestock to provide nutrition and a source of income for their families. At times walking almost 3 hours just to reach a market or clean water, these communities faced significant economic and social barriers even prior to Hurricane Matthew. After the storm washed away homes, crops, and livestock, the damage from the storm combined with these pre-existing barriers to create a situation that was truly dire.
When needs for basic survival are great, well-intentioned relief aid can contribute to unrest and dissension between community members. Families fight for aid or feel forgotten as they watch neighbors benefit from relief they also need, but haven’t received because they don’t qualify for participation in relief projects targeting only the most needy members of a community.
During MCC’s Hurricane Matthew response, local leaders in Wondo and Wopisa expressed their need for long-term food security. There was a desire to rebuild gardens, livestock, and strengthen their community as a whole. Local leaders saw the potential for these communities to respond by supporting one another rather than fighting for aid. In response, MCC launched a 2-year food security project that would provide opportunities for peacebuilding in both communities.
“In MCC, we try to make sure that these community relationships and realities are taken seriously, and we leave the communities stronger than we left them,” says Paul Fast, Haiti Country Representative. “We design the projects to have high coverage within the communities we serve, so we aren't making as many arbitrary judgements about who is in, and who is out.”
Working alongside families considered most vulnerable and directly impacted by the hurricane, MCC provided livestock, locally sourced seeds, fencing, and immediate food and material aid to a total of 575 families. Families were grouped together based on region, sharing the work and supplies so that everyone, even those physically unable to do manual labor, would be a part of the success.
“One is obligated to look out for the other,” said Ilerne Joseph, member of MCC partner ODR (Organisation pour le Developpement de Rondo). “They have to work together for the project to work. Previously, there was community tension. But this project has brought communities together.”
As crops began to grow and sustain despite rain and wind, even non-participating families asked to learn and adopt the farming techniques being used. Participants are enacting change in neighboring communities by teaching the sustainable agricultural practices they have learned in the project. Cases of malnutrition are falling in both communities as rotating crops are providing a variety of food year-round. Gardens have been rebuilt and improved, and participants feel a sense of achievement and confidence for the future of their communities.
Alexis Kreiner is from Akron, Ohio. She graduated from Malone University in Canton, Ohio, with a degree in Communication Arts-- Public Relations. Alexis is serving in capacity building and as a teaching assistant at TIMKATEC School in Port-au-Prince.