Video: Conflict Resolution in Guatemala (USAID, Mercy Corp, Walmart)

I wrote last week on how our community partner SCIDECO was able to buy the finca La Florida after decades of struggle and several conflicts.

The following is a video of how Mercy Corps is using mediation, together with economic development, to resolve land conflicts peacefully in Guatemala.

Duration: 5min 52sec

Duration: 4min 46sec

The second video in particular talks about how Mercy Corps, USAID and Walmart are working together to help local farmers move past traditional frijoles and corn for subsistence to fruits and vegetable that are in demand to supermarkets in Guatemala and the rest of Central America.

via Guatemala Solidarity Network

Related Article:
Wal-Mart comes to Guatemala [Entremundos]
Communities We Work With: La Florida (Guatemala)

Video: Dove's Onslaught Commercial gets the Greenpeace treatment

Onslaught(er) Lyrics

Written by Daniel Bird
Performed by Ohm square

There they go
There they go
There they go
There they go

There they go your trees
Are gone today
All that beauty hacked away

So use your minds

And use your voice to make them stay
It’s not a price you’ll have to pay

They cannot hide

There they go your trees
Are gone today
All that beauty hacked away

Just to soap your hide
Just to soap your hide

Whoa there go the trees
Whoa there go the trees
Whoa there go the trees

via Greenpeace’s Making Waves Blog

The Original Dove Onslaught Commercial

Duration 1min 18sec

via fubiz

Podcast featuring some companies that are working to make their supply chains more sustainable [Stanford’s Social Innovations Conversation]

With increasing pressures on firms to operate in socially and environmentally sustainable ways, corporate social responsibility has become a regular part of the business landscape. Now those pressures are extending to one’s entire chain of product and service suppliers. But just how do you make CSR work, particularly with your suppliers? How do you justify it financially, and how do you measure its effects? In this breakout panel from the Socially and Environmentally Responsible Supply Chains conference at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Bethany Heath of Chiquita and Mike Loch of Motorola discuss the benefits that have resulted from new supplier standards in the areas of energy efficiency, health, safety, and labor. Michael Jarvis talks about how the World Bank works with companies in emerging markets to help them meet CSR standards so that they may gain access to the supply chains, markets, and capital they need.

Subscribe to their feed.

Related Posts:
The Issue with Biofuels…

Wanted: Project Manager and Technical Lead [WorldBike]

I won’t be posting non-AIDG job-descriptions often (so don’t send ’em). They just caught me on a good day.

Job Posting: Project Manager and Technical Lead
Organization: WorldBike
Location: Kenya
Due Date: Only accepting resumes until May 1

Contact: Please direct questions or resume and cover letter to

Worldbike is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that designs, distributes, and promotes load-carrying bicycles as a solution to development challenges worldwide. We feel that cargo bicycles can meet the transportation and load-hauling needs of people throughout the world, without the high financial and environmental costs of cars and trucks. Worldbike designers have developed several unique cargo bike models and have tested them in developing countries.

Project Description
Worldbike is partnering with UN Habitat to build bicycle and metal-working shops in two informal settlements in Kenya—outside of the cities of Nairobi and Naivasha. The Project Manager will train Kenyans to build specialized bicycles for carrying, people, water, and trash. He or she will also support locals in developing small businesses using these cargo bikes. This is a pilot project that we hope to replicate in the future.

This is a one year contract for an independent consultant. Project to start in May 2008; the Project Manager will be on the ground in Kenya for approximately 1 year.

Description of Work
The primary objective for this position is to demonstrate the social, economic, and environmental benefits of cargo-carrying bicycles. This objective will be met through two primary streams of activities:

Establishing manufacturing and repair shops for Worldbike bicycles will include the following activities and objectives:

  • Monitor all activities within budget limits and timelines.
  • Identify appropriate locations, secure necessary permits, and hire locals to build one shop in each of the two identified informal settlements.
  • Train members of local youth and community organizations (semi-skilled and unskilled laborers) in the construction of Worldbike bicycles.
  • Recruit, hire, and manage appropriately skilled people (e.g., fabricators, mechanics, teachers, construction works, and translators).
  • Locate and establish supply lines with local suppliers of equipment and tools for fabrication, assembly, and maintenance of bicycles.
  • Modify existing cargo bicycle designs to serve specific local needs.
  • Work with Worldbike shop owners to establish best business practices to ensure shops are set-up and run as viable micro-enterprises.

Community building will include the following activities and objectives:

  • · Organize community non-motorized transportation committee to sponsor and promote load-carrying bicycles.
  • · Develop public awareness campaign and distribute information and materials.
  • · Map current and ideal water and waste transportation routes.
  • · Work with local entrepreneurs to establish water transport and vending, and trash transport and disposal businesses using Worldbike bicycles.
  • · Organize training seminars on business and bicycle-related topics.


  • Work with UN Habitat to conduct baseline situation surveys in the settlements.
  • Coordinate with US-based team on measurement and evaluation metrics.
  • Collect data for evaluation measures and reporting.

Ability to handle pressure, deal with frustration, make decisions that have profound impacts (positive and negative) on other peoples’ lives, bridge language and cultural divides.

The selected candidate will have the best combination of these skills and experiences:


  • Experienced welder with ability to train others
  • Bicycle fabrication including frame modifications
  • Bicycle assembly and repair
  • Entrepreneurial (including nonprofit) experience/small business start-up experience
  • Project management and record keeping skills


  • Experience with research or project evaluations
  • Training or teaching experience
  • Knowledge of Swahili or other Kenyan dialects
  • International work or volunteer background in less developed countries

Compensation commensurate with skills and experience.

Link of the Day 042408: A worldwide increase in the cost of food [NPR]

Aid Groups Target Poor Nations as Food Prices Soar (The first report in a six-part series)

“The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year,” [Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization author Lester] Brown says. “And what we are seeing now is the emergence of direct competition between the 860 million people in the world who own automobiles and who want to maintain their mobility while the 2 billion poorest people in the world simply want to survive.”

via Kevin Bullock

Related Links:
Update: Food Riots in Haiti [April 17, 2008]
Eyewitness Accounts of Riots in Haiti
News: Food Riots in Haiti

Link of the Day 042308: Human Centered Design for the BOP [NYTimes]

In a recent NYTimes Magazine piece on whether cell-phones can end poverty in developing countries, we get introduced to Jan Chipchase, Nokia’s “human-behavior researcher”. His job is to be a “design and usability ethnographer“, to find out how users in different countries actually use their cell phones and help the designers back home figure out what features they need. He moves from a Vietnamese barbershop to a Mississippi bowling alley, from a Brazilian phone booth to the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.

This sort of on-the-ground intelligence-gathering is central to what’s known as human-centered design, a business-world niche that has become especially important to ultracompetitive high-tech companies trying to figure out how to write software, design laptops or build cellphones that people find useful and unintimidating and will thus spend money on.Several companies, including Intel, Motorola and Microsoft, employ trained anthropologists to study potential customers, while Nokia’s researchers, including Chipchase, more often have degrees in design. Rather than sending someone like Chipchase to Vietnam or India as an emissary for the company — loaded with products and pitch lines, as a marketer might be — the idea is to reverse it, to have Chipchase, a patently good listener, act as an emissary for people like the barber or the shoe-shop owner’s wife, enlightening the company through written reports and PowerPoint presentations on how they live and what they’re likely to need from a cellphone, allowing that to inform its design.

The premise of the work is simple — get to know your potential customers as well as possible before you make a product for them. But when those customers live, say, in a mud hut in Zambia or in a tin-roofed hutong dwelling in China, when you are trying — as Nokia and just about every one of its competitors is — to design a cellphone that will sell to essentially the only people left on earth who don’t yet have one, which is to say people who are illiterate, making $4 per day or less and have no easy access to electricity, the challenges are considerable.

This tactic is likely part of why Nokia is doing so well in emerging markets.

From CNET:

[In January], Nokia announced that it had sold a record 133.5 million mobile phones during the fourth quarter of 2007. This figure was up by more than a quarter from the same period a year earlier, boosting its overall market share to 40 percent.

Meanwhile, Nokia rival Motorola reported Wednesday that shipments of its handsets had fallen 38 percent during the quarter, pushing its market share down yet again to 12 percent, the lowest level since 2001. But Motorola isn’t the only handset maker struggling; Sony Ericsson has also had trouble growing its market share. The company, which targets the high-end market in Europe, only grew its market share in 2007 by 2 points to 9 percent.

Nokia reported that it saw the strongest growth in sales in the Middle East and Africa. Shipments here were up 52.3 percent. Asia-Pacific and China also saw strong sales growth, while sales in mature markets like North America fell during the quarter.

Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty? [NYTimes]

For more of Jan’s work/though process, you can read his intriguing blog Future Perfect. A good story to start with: Recycled, Upcycled: Remade. “Is it possible to make an upcycled mobile phone entirely from recycled materials… that consumers will want to buy?”

To go or not to go: How AIDG Haiti handled the uncertain security situation

When we first heard news of the food riots in Les Cayes on April 3 and 4, we told our Haiti team, Elizabeth Myre and Sunny Periera, to stock up on supplies (non-perishables, phone cards, water, gas, propane, etc.) in case protests spread to the North. When news came that demonstrators were storming the presidential palace in the capital Port-au-Prince, we discussed (not for the first time) the threshold level of violence and insecurity that would require a temporary withdrawal of staff.

No riots had yet occurred in Cap Haitien, but we were getting reports from friends and colleagues that small groups of people were throwing rocks at vehicles crossing the main bridge to get out of the city. This bridge, which passes by Shada and leads to the airport and Dajabon, is a major choke point. We also heard through the grapevine that burning tires had been placed across roads here and there.

As this was our first experience with widespread unrest in a country that we’re working in and because our colleagues in the civilian corps of the UN mission seem particularly concerned, we decided to send Beth and Sunny to the DR for the week. The reason we erred so strongly on the side of caution was related to the possible choices of action:

  • Stay put in Cap if it’s pretty certain that calm will resume in a week or so. Just stock up and stay inside.
  • If the security situation deteriorates, get a direct flight to Fort Lauderdale/Miami on Lynx Air, or
  • Get an indirect flight to U.S. or elsewhere via Port-au-Prince or
  • Overland to the Dominican Republic on public transport or with a driver or
  • Boat/chartered flight to DR or
  • If other routes prove impossible and staying in Cap is untenable/exceedingly dangerous drive into the countryside to Borgne. It tends to stay calm there and we have many friends who we could count on there.

Each choice had a different level of safety/ease associated with it and also different time-frames for decision making. To make things more difficult, we were getting lots of information on what was happening in the capital from news reports to blog posts to even uploaded cell phone/video footage [here and here]. A lot of the information about the situation in Cap however was part truth/part rumor, reports passed from friend to friend in a real life game of telephone.

Leaving Cap Haitien

Sunny is Brazilian and didn’t have a visa for travel to the U.S. at the time of the crisis so a flight to the States wasn’t an option. FYI: Sunny has a visa now. She got it during her and Beth’s trip to the DR. Luckily, the process which normally takes several months only took a week! In future, we will require all interns to have some type of US visa, be American citizens or otherwise exempt from requiring a visa to enter the United States.

As the violence in Port-au-Prince escalated, flights from Cap to the capital were canceled then PAP airport shut down altogether. Even if they had remained open, friends in the know advised us that heading towards the center of violence was probably not a good call, especially as the domestic and international airports are separate by a cab ride.

With flights unattainable, we looked into overland travel as the next prudent option. President Rene Preval hadn’t delivered any speeches to the public at this point. By April 8, we weren’t sure whether riots would spread to Cap at all or how quickly the security situation would deteriorate if they did. So we opted for safety first especially with the memory of friends’ experiences during the recent election violence in Kenya. We had heard rumors that burning tires and other such roadblocks cut off parts of the road from Oamaninthe to Dajabon, DR. In the end, a friend helped Beth and Sunny get a ride to the border. It cost a pretty penny though.


Another reason a trip to the DR was in order was because we needed fiberglass and resin for the biodigesters we would be building once Chase, our biodigester intern, arrives. He’s scheduled to head to Haiti from Guatemala this Saturday. Recently we were having a lot of trouble getting these supplies in Cap or from the capital. Beth and Sunny obtained them easily from the DR and brought them back via taxi, taptap and taxi. Also, through a curious twist of fate, Sunny happened to meet a woman who imports resin and catalyst while waiting in the consulate for her visa. She might be able to get stores to us wholesale. Hopefully this isn’t a “too good to be true” situation.

Update from Beth now that they are back in Cap

Now that Sunny has a visa to go to the US, we both agree that we’re willing to stay in Cap until it becomes clear that we’re in danger here in the city. The issue before was that the route to the DR also had to be safe.

To be determined: What help the UN mission in Haiti can offer to foreign nationals.

Link of the Day 042108: Water Trucks in Haiti [PBS Frontline]

Filling our water tank
A Truck delivering water to our offices in Haiti.

Part of a 2004 PBS Frontline story by Shoshana Guy on the Struggle for Water in Haiti. [Full story: Flash Version | Text Version]

Water Trucks – “God Before Water”

Massive water trucks, belching black smoke and sloshing water down their sides, dominate the teeming streets of Port-au-Prince. The trucks, which can carry 3,000 gallons, are painted in bright greens, oranges and yellows with the business names displayed on the windshields in big blocky letters. Some have religious names, like Merci Jehovah and Gradier Dieu. Other truck owners like to rhyme their own name or that of a celebrity with l’eau, the French word for water: Madou Eau, Joe’s Eau and Ronaldo-Eau.

The business of trucking water began in the early 1970s. And what started as an enterprising idea involving a few trucks has turned into a huge and profitable business. The trucks have become one of the main distributors of water throughout the city. They deliver to anyone with a cistern. Private homes and institutions order trucks of water to meet their daily cooking and cleaning needs. Individuals that own cisterns in poor neighborhoods buy a truck of water, then sell it to others by the bucket. And big water companies, like Sweet Water, for example, buy the trucked water, treat it, then sell it as drinking water.

A truck of water can cost anywhere from $30 to well over $100 for the consumer, depending on where in the city you are located. Port-au-Prince rises at a steep angle from the sea; the higher up the hill you are, the more you pay for water.

I spent several days hanging around the truck filling stations, trying to get a sense of the profitability of the business and hoping a driver would take me along on a delivery.

I finally found my ride at a filling station named Penguin. After getting permission from the company officials, I walked out into the trucking yard. The sun beat down relentlessly. A small tin shack served as a restaurant. Every 15 minutes, empty trucks pulled under the four huge white pipes that gushed water pumped from a 200-foot well. While the drivers waited their turn to fill, fights broke out regularly about who was in line first.

No one seemed eager to have me along, but after about 45 minutes, the driver of Dieu de Vant Eau, which translates as “God Before Water,” agreed to take me. God Before Water is a beat-up white truck with orange and blue stripes and a huge cross on the door. I happily climbed up and squeezed in with the driver, Erik Orlis. He was a skinny man with an antelope-like face who constantly wiped his brow with a blue rag. The truck trembled and shimmied into gear, and we were off. Orlis told me that God Before Water can make between $3,000 and $4,000 a month. Orlis takes 10 percent of that, making his wage between $300 and $400 a month. In a country where the average wage is a dollar a day, this is big money.

We bumped along the road, and I envisioned an interesting ride through the city, but the fun was over before we even started. Orlis and God Before Water were only delivering to a kindergarten around the corner. I guess that’s why he agreed to take me.

Back at Penguin, chief engineer Roosevelt Poteau claimed that the water trucks were not profitable because Penguin’s overhead was too high. “The [cost of] petrol rises, and the cost of electricity is too much. We are not making a profit from the water trucks,” he informed me. But based on how much money Orlis and God Before Water seemed to be making, I was skeptical.

At Baron filling station across town, the trucks were lined up 20 deep. People gathered to bathe and collect water from the runoff under the trucks. A skinny girl in underpants stood under the stream of water leaking from the truck while a teenaged girl in a strapless bra top soaped her hair. When the full trucks moved off and the new ones pulled in, there were a few seconds of water gushing out at full power, and everyone ran to fill their buckets. “Get lost,” a trucker screamed at them. “You’ll be run over or electrocuted.” The water collectors scattered, but resumed washing and filling their buckets seconds later. “This is the closest place to get water, and it’s free,” 14-year-old Joanne Mica told me.

I walked the line of trucks to see if I could find owners and drivers who wanted to talk profit. After speaking with several recalcitrant owners, I found Lucien Pierre. Pierre is a sparkly-eyed 65-year-old who spent years in Brooklyn driving trucks and cabs. He returned to Haiti in 1980 when a friend told him of a profitable business he could get into selling water from trucks. He has expanded slowly and now owns four trucks. He told me that his drivers are making roughly the same as Orlis but that after all of Pierre’s overhead, his business is making him the equivalent of roughly $300 a day. During the rainy season, business is slow but the rest of the year makes up for it.

“What if CAMEP [Centrale Autonome Metropolitaine d’Eau Potable, government water service] gets organized and starts getting water to the people?” I asked, referring to the government-owned water service.

“We’ll make trouble for them,” he laughed. I told him that Penguin filling station said they weren’t making money. “They’re lying,” he responded simply.

At the three filling stations I visited, all the managers said they were filling 50 to 60 trucks a day at around $3 a truck. That calculates to gross earnings of roughly $900 to $1,000 a week. And since there is no water ministry to regulate the trucking business, they pay no taxes on the water.

“I will say that it is a free business for them to have water from the ground,” said the general secretary of CAMEP, Benoit Frantz. CAMEP wants to install meters but since they are also a commercial enterprise and not a water ministry, some do not feel that they have the authority to regulate the water truck business. “Here we have an organization that is taking water and selling water, and this would be disloyal competition to ask these purveyors of water to pay a tax,” argued economist Gerald Jean-Baptiste.

In all fairness to Poteau, Penguin’s chief engineer who said the water trucks are not profitable, Jean-Baptiste did say that there are so many trucks in the business now, many are complaining that their profits are diminishing.

“But it’s a good business?” I asked Pierre.

“If I leave New York to come and get it, sure it’s good,” Pierre responded, smiling.

Video: Get 'em Outside [No Child Left Inside Coalition]

Duration: 5min 35sec

From the video: “A study found that young people could identify 1000 corporate logos bu fewer that 10 plants or animals native to their backyards.” [Citation needed. Anybody?] to increase environmental education opportunities at your school. Celebrating environmental education and its impact on children’s learning, health and leadership.

Related Posts:
AIDG’s Environmental Education Center: Proyecto Futuros Verdes (Xela, Guatemala)
Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do [TED]
No child left inside: reclaim outdoor play [Boing Boing]

Communities We Work With: La Florida (Guatemala)

Finca La Florida near Colomba in Guatemala
La Florida. View from the plantation house.

All of my ancestors lived in poverty.
They all worked on the fincas
And left nothing for their children

I may live in poverty as well
But I hope that my children can harvest
The fruit of my labour here
And break the circle of poverty

The campesino Jose Abel of La Florida [link].

My last weekend in Guatemala before heading back to the States, I went on a mini TecoTour to La Florida with Carlos Poza (tour leader) and 8 very cool volunteers. La Florida is one of our newest community partners as well as a favorite place of many of our interns. It’s a three hour jaunt from Xela to Colomba with the last hour and a half following a windy cobblestone road past coffee fincas, bamboo, jungles and waterfalls. The finca currently grows cash crops such as coffee, cacao and macadamia. They also plant corn, tomatoes and various fruits and as well as raise sheep, pigs, cows and bees. Their honey is excellent.

Don Lencho
Don Lencho

Saturday evening of the tour, Don Lorenzo sat us down and told us the story of SCIDECO (Sociedad Civil Para el Desarollo de Colomba – Civil Society for the Development of Colomba), the cooperative that owns La Florida. The following is a mixture of the story he relayed to us that night, supplemented with additional information from Chris Michael and Prensa Libre.

The struggle during the war years

SCIDECO’s initial struggle began with an attempt to organize finca workers operating in the Colomba area. In early 1982, La Organisacion Campesino por Tierra (the Peasant Association for Land), as they were called then, was created to unionize campesinos and obtain better treatment and wages on plantations. During this time period, the normal daily wage for plantation workers was about 25 Quetzales for men and 12Q for women. Finca owners often didn’t pay as promised; exploitation and sexual abuse of female workers were not uncommon.

In 1982, Guatemala was 22 years into its brutal 36-year civil war. It was a dangerous time to form a union, as any attempt by laborers to organize could be interpreted as guerrilla activity, which was often punishable by swift a execution.

Over the next several years and as the union grew in size and strength, the membership decided that they wanted to own a finca of their own and attempted to purchase the nearby La Esmeralda. Despite the help and support of the local Catholic church, these early plans failed. The union lacked the necessary capital and wasn’t officially registered with the Guatemalan government. In addition, the primary government program designed to help campesinos obtain land, INTA (Instituto Nacional de Transformación Agraria – National Institute for Agrarian Transformation), was underfunded. In 1990, SCIDECO was officially born and restarted the long process of trying to buy land.

Here is where things started to get really difficult for SCIDECO’s members. Some were indeed accused by finqueros (finca owners) of being guerrillas fighters or communists; others where fired from their jobs on other plantations and blacklisted. Many members fled, going to Xela, Palmera, Mercedes, San Juan, Pensamiento, etc. etc. But still they planned.

In 1996, the Peace Accords were signed and the war was over. The UN-backed accords called for many reforms, including agrarian land reform and resettlement of displaced persons. With help from USAID, the Guatemalan government budgeted $9,000,000 for the Land Fund (Fondo de Tierra), which was to replace INTA. Around this time, international coffee prices tanked hitting records lows. Many finqueros had to abandon their farms. Some cut wages. Some of the more unscrupulous types stopped paying their laborers altogether.

The war is over, but a new fight looms

In 2000, Rafael Monson, the owner of La Florida, was having financial problems. He couldn’t pay his mortgage. Bancafe put a lien on the property and later reclaimed it. October 11, 2002, the 50 families in SCIDECO decided to peacefully occupy the abandoned plantation. After over a decade of negotiations with the government, they felt this was the only way.

According to the farm’s records, there had been 200 plus families living on the farm; only 34 remained after bankruptcy proceedings. SCIDECO asked some of these families if they wanted to join in the occupation. Most refused. They were afraid. There had never been any successful attempts in the area before. Police and hired guns were given license to crack heads and in some communities campesinos had been killed. For more than two years SCIDECO members lived in ramshackle houses on La Florida and in constant fear.

Seven months into the occupation another group, El Esfuerzo [the Effort], laid claim to sections of la Florida. The plantation, itself, was 47 acres, with more than enough land to accommodate both groups. In fact with only 50 families, it would have been very difficult for SCIDECO to farm/operate the entire property. So they formed a commission and asked El Esfuerzo if they wanted to join forces with them. No dice. So it was decided that they should fight separately and whoever got a loan from the government first, could keep the property. SCIDECO tried to negotiate with Bancafe and MAGA, but with two groups vying for the same land, the bank and government were having none of it. Their response was essentially ‘work it out amongst yourselves; you both need to peacefully withdraw’. Feeling that they would never get the land, both sides left.

5 months later, however, in April 2005, La Florida was successfully purchased by SCIDECO through a government loan of 6.5 million Quetzales (USD $850,000). They have 8 years to pay off the debt and 0% interest. Huzzah!

Shortly after receiving title (the paperwork delivered in a grand fashion by the President Oscar Berger), another community group from San Marcos (Acaflor – Asociación Comunitaria Agraria Florida ) asked if they could get some of the land. Much of it wasn’t being used at the time because there weren’t enough families to work it. SCIDECO said sure, but (and there’s always a but) Acaflor members had to participate in the collective activities of the group. Depending on time of year and proximity to the harvest, the families at La Florida would work from 6 AM to 1 PM for the collective and after that they could work their own piece of land. This is not what Acaflor had it mind. They didn’t share SCIDECO’s vision of a community cooperative; they instead wanted to divide the property and own individual plots. For SCIDECO who had been struggling and striving together for 2 decades, this was non-negotiable. And in 2006, so began a longstanding, sometimes armed, conflict between the two community groups. Death and lynching threats sprouted.

Through negotiations mediated by the local Catholic church, the conflict has recently been resolved. This past March, SCIDECO agreed to sign away land to Acaflor if the government agreed to forgive their debt. It has been. They don’t owe a penny.

AIDG, XelaTeco and La Florida

AIDG and XelaTeco will be helping La Florida’s community meet their energy needs. SCIDECO has registered for a UNDP Grant that would allow them to upgrade their inefficient electrical distribution system and extend it to their homes. This is the same program that awarded Nueva Alianza funds for their hydro-electricity project.

Wilma feeds her parrot Tomas by candlelight.
At night, the families eat by candlelight. Here, Wilma feeds her parrot Tomas.

We have installed a biodigester as an outreach project for the community that will provide gas for the communal kitchen. The system will not only generate fuel, but also offers a sanitation remediation solution. Lacking other options previously, they had had to dispose of animal waste in the nearby river.

Several SCIDECO families are also interested in obtaining rocket box stoves as they find the smoke from traditional cookstoves and wood fires to be irritating to their eyes and lungs. They are currently talking with XelaTeco about financing options.

Rosalinda and Josefina help us with stove testing.
Rosalinda and Josefina testing the rocket box stove in the community kitchen.

Jose and Sergio David
Josefina’s son Sergio David with TecoTour volunteer Jose.

Traditional cooking methods
Traditional cooking methods over an open fire.

Related Posts:
Communities We Work With: Comunidad Nueva Alianza (Guatemala)
Tortillar en La Florida!

Related Links:
La Florida
One Year Later: La Comunidad La Florida and the Campesino Struggle for Justice [pdf]

Update: Food Riots in Haiti [April 17, 2008]

Follow-up after riots in Haiti

  • 6 Haitians died and dozens were injured during the course of the riots. [Reuters]
  • Haiti’s prime minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis, was sacked on April 12th.
  • A Nigerian United Nations peacekeeper was killed execution style in the capital. 3 Sri Lankan peacekeepers were shot in a separate incident, though their wounds were not life-threatening. [United Nations News Service]
  • President René Préval announced new food subsidies on imported rice, but the price of other staples, such are beans, have not been reduced. The cost of a 110 lb bag of rice has dropped from US$51 to US$43. [Alterpresse, Reuters]
  • International aid agencies have pledged more food and financial assistance.
  • The World Bank has approved a US$10m emergency grant to help ease the effect of increased food prices [World Bank].
  • US lawmakers have urged action on Haiti. Some, including NY Democrat Gregory Meeks, called for forgiveness of Haiti’s international debt. FYI: An estimate 47% of Haiti’s current international debt burden was incurred under the brutal Duvalier regimes. [Voice of America]
  • Pan American Development Foundation, an affiliate of the Organisation of American States, will make available 400 tons of fortified rice, worth more than US$1.5m [Economist].
  • A story I read last week (sorry I don’t remember which) remarked that many Haitian citizens were frustrated that the MINUSTAH forces weren’t engaged in more development and humanitarian initiatives while they were in the country. Such activities are currently outside their mandate, unfortunately. However on April 11, members of the Brazilian contingent distributed food aid to residents of Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince. ‘ “It’s very nice of them. I didn’t know where else I was going to get food today,” said Willy Desamore, 28. But he said the package would last just a day for himself, his mother and six siblings, all unemployed.'[Time Magazine]

Related Posts:
Eyewitness Accounts of Riots in Haiti
News: Food Riots in Haiti
To go or not to go: How AIDG Haiti handled the uncertain security situation