Haiti: Improving rural conditions

Among all American countries, Haiti comes last according to the UNDP Human Development Index. The majority of the eight million Haitians are employed in agriculture, but there is not enough land, and peasants are not able to survive on their harvest. Some Jesuits have been working to improve the conditions of the rural poor and to envisage a better future for Haiti, the ?Pearl of the Antilles.? For twenty-five years now in the village of Dulagon, a project of support for agricultural communities (PARA, Projet d?Animation Rurale Agricole), directed by Mathurin Charlot SJ, has aimed at testing new methods of semi-industrialised production together with a more efficient use of water. A more organic approach to agriculture has been promoted, and reforestation emphasised. This is crucial in a country where the erosion of arable soils and the minimal retention of rainwater are serious problems as a result of widespread deforestation (charcoal is the main fuel for cooking). An evening school has been set up for the farmers, whose rate of illiteracy is at least 60 percent. ?All our programmes and projects are oriented to the welfare of farmers,? affirms Jérôme Charles, who in 1992, along with Jean-Marie Louis SJ, founded a support group for rural development (GADRU, Groupe d?Appui au Développement Rural). The group makes feasibility studies for projects that have been financed by the German Catholic development agency ?Misereor,? and monitors their implementation. GADRU also promotes ?agro-ecology,? with the aim of a more sustainable development, especially in relation to soil conservation. [HL30304]