by Brendon Anthony
April 19, 2017
Observing the Land
Over the past few years that Harvest Craft has been engaged in development work and learning more about this process and what generates success, we’ve landed on a few particular observations. We by no means have all the answers, but these are some conclusions we have come to hold.
These conclusions include the need for both relief and developmental work, the need to engage in developmental work holistically, and to work on tackling both reducing problems at the same time you are providing solutions.
A number of Harvest Craft's empowerment projects take place in Haiti and a common question in recent years has become: “Where did all the money go?” The world searches for evidence that the money donated in response to the earthquake a few years back was well spent. Books have been written about it, with titles such as Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti and Catastrophe in Haiti: The Crisis that Capitalism Created, and countless articles published, with headlines like “Has the International Community Failed Haiti?” (BBC News) and “What Does Haiti Have to Show for $13 Billion in Earthquake Aid?” (NBC News).
Even the American Red Cross has come under scrutiny. In June 2015, NPR published a piece entitled, “In Search of the Red Cross’ $500 Million in Haiti Relief”. According to the piece, “NPR and ProPublica went in search of the nearly $500 million [the Red Cross raised] and found a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success... The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people, but the number of permanent homes the charity has built is six.”
In this same piece, author Laura Sullivan echoes the sentiments of Jonathan Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, noting that “the aid story is one of good intentions and bad policy, short-term fixes without a ground-breaking long game, Band-Aids over self-sufficiency.”
Poverty, Inc., a free documentary featured on Netflix and other streaming sites outlines the short-term mindset of NGO work. The documentary outlines in a concise manner the handout culture and offers up some long-term perspective for breaking the vicious cycle of poverty.
A Pointed Analogy
It isn’t enough to continually be sending cancer patients through chemotherapy. There needs to be researchers looking for cures simultaneously. Now, the necessity of chemotherapy is evident, but if that is the only solution to an epidemic the future of those receiving that diagnosis may feel quite hopeless. However, if at the same time patients that are receiving positive diagnoses and treatment for this disease, they know cures are being tested and sent into trial, there is a certain hope for cancer patients both current and future. The same is true in addressing social justice issues such as poverty, joblessness and sex trafficking.
Contextual & Community-based Problem Solving
Efforts must be made in the relief and in the development sector. After a hurricane hits a nation, there needs to be immediate relief through the provision of water, food and shelter. But, furthermore in order to achieve a firm foundation for that nation to get back on their feet, there needs to be simultaneous investment in repairing hospitals, constructing schools and revitalizing agriculture in the region. Complex problems and devastating tragedies have no simple solutions. Multi-faceted and highly integrated solutions with the local community are needed to address these persistent difficulties and realities. The community inclusion and relationships play paramount roles in initiatives being empowering or enslaving.
A New Development Model
We’d like to suggest an additional perspective. One that moves the development model one step further; one that looks beyond mitigation, but addresses prevention. We’d like to suggest a Harvest Craft cornerstone philosophy, it's the idea of preventative and redemptive development.
Human trafficking is a horrific industry that thrives all over the world, even here in the United States, and we’d like to showcase a narrative that connects not only how environmental stewardship and social justice connect, but how preventative and redemptive measures can ensure empowered development for those affected by this harsh reality.
Imagine a farmer in Haiti. A 50-something man who has been growing rice for decades; it is his occupation, it is his culture, it is his life. But, lets say a hurricane comes through and devastates his field, wiping out his crop for the year. Now he has no way to make an income, because he has invested every last penny into the seeds, fertilizers, equipment, and labor to run this operation.
Or, lets say the rice that has been overproduced in developed countries has just been shipped down to his community at insanely low prices that he can’t compete with; or worse it’s being given away for free. A farmer cannot compete with free. He can’t compete with a handout.
Now, this farmer has 6 children, 4 boys, 2 girls. That’s 6 mouths to feed, 6 kids to send to school, to dress, and to take care of. How is he to achieve this given either the natural disaster wiping out his crop, or being forced to sell his crop at a loss?
Now, at the same time a man comes into his village and poses to him a business proposition. He notices the stress on this farmer’s face, he notices his financial situation, he notices his two young beautiful daughters, and he makes an offer. An offer that any farmer, man, and father would immediately refuse if he had sufficient resources. But, given the devastating impacts of nature or other governments, it’s an offer he actually considers.
Now, he may say no at first, but that same businessman continues to come around, preying on the weak, waiting for the farmer to change his mind. Until one day, the farmer regrettably concedes and sells his two daughters. He does it in a last resort to help support his other dependent children, his devoted spouse and his fragile parents.
What can we do?
Prevention – Preventative development seeks to ensure that this never happens. It means planting trees on the outskirts of his property to form a protective barrier from tropical storms. It means diversifying his production by adding chickens, pigs, or cows to his agricultural operation as an insurance against when natural disasters strike and when foreign aid is dumped, collapsing local markets. It means preventing prowling businessmen from even daring to propose the purchasing of his daughters. However, these harsh realities still exist. We cannot help prevent this from happening everywhere, and so our work is not complete with preventative development, it must continue on with redemptive development.
Redemption – Redemptive development means partnering with organizations that rescues these girls. It means partnering with those who conduct the therapy and treat these women who have been abused, mistreated, lied to, and manipulated. It means making sure they never have to return to this horrific past and they can move forward in a new redeemed life.
How do we cultivate change?
The truth is, is that a lot of the girls that are rescued from the sex trade end up relapsing and returning to the industry. Not out of desire, but out of the same reason they were sold off, desperation. These girls were taken from their families at such young ages, without education, without skills, without the tools needed to live an independent life. They know only one way to make money.
Redemptive development means equipping, educating, and empowering these women with vocational skills in the food system from agricultural production to cooking the food to selling it in markets. This new skill set can set them up for new career paths; ones that not only provide income, but healthy food to sustain themselves with.
The Empowerment Model
Harvest Craft desires to engage in preventative and redemptive development. We are currently engaged in these activities in both Haiti and Cambodia by equipping farmers and sex trafficked victims with food production systems and tools. We are educating them on livestock production, fruit tree propagation and management, and micro-enterprise training and administration. And lastly, we are empowering them. We are empowering farmers to never have to make horrific decisions. We are empowering young women to realize they do not need to return to their previous life.
We want to prevent desperate decisions and redeem harsh realities. Harvest Craft engages in preventative and redemptive development.
Do you want to be a part of it? Learn more here.