Haiti Fund, Inc., was founded in 1990 for the specific purpose of choosing one watershed in order to improve both the nutrition and health of the local populace. It was a simple problem, requiring a simple solution. Reality, however, was very different. For years and years, trees had been cut down causing almost a complete denudation of forests in the area. This, in turn, caused severe erosion to the point where there were no trees except for the very few spring-fed gullies and brooks. As a result, Haiti Fund refocused its efforts in environmental reclamation and reforestation as a way to re-create soils
Jack Hanna, the founder of CODEP, had in mind that the best way to achieve improved health, nutrition, and self-sufficiency among subsistence farmers was to show them how to farm such that they could have nutritious food and an abundance to sell in local markets to provide sufficient income to support themselves. Since most families live in close-knit communities, it seemed the best way to do this was to provide a program where the entire community (typically 15 -25 adults) could participate as seemed best for them. CODEP offered to provide tools, techniques of planting, and a small stipend if the community would provide land and would work as volunteers at least one day per week. This system worked well, but the trees were often cut as soon as they got to be 8 – 15 cm in diameter. To stem this issue, incentives were offered providing tin roofs, water catchment systems and cisterns if the trees were not cut down. This worked well and we now also provide incentive homes for those who meet these standards over long periods of time.
There have been a series of people who have led the CODEP project, but the best way to characterize their efforts is to note that, over the 23 year period, Haitian members of CODEP have grown to increasing levels of responsibility and authority. This is evidenced by the current organizational framework where almost all decisions in CODEP are made by the Haitian management team.
It is refreshing and enervating to witness the way in which our Haitian partners take pride and joy in their accomplishments, the possibilities for the future, and the gratitude they have for the contributions and support of Haiti Fund, Inc. in this process.