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Building an Agricultural Community: The Model Self-Sufficient Village in Haiti

(Huffington Post, May 18, 2010)
Building an Agricultural Community: The Model Self-Sufficient Village in Haiti

By Wyclef Jean
Grammy-winning musician and founder of Yéle Haiti

Many people are wondering what we can do, after we deal with the immediate
crises caused by the horrific January earthquake, to make sure the people of
Haiti can have a bright future. I'm the father of a young daughter, so I
especially worry about the kids.

The children of Haiti have a right to dream. They have a right to dream of a
future not where they live in shacks without clean water to drink or food to
eat, but where they have the necessities of a healthy life, a future where they
can learn to read and write and get an education. They have a right to dream of
having a family and being able to provide for those families. I know I don't
want to be sitting here five years from now asking, "Why aren't the children
any better off now than before the quake?" So I asked myself right now, in
2010, what's next?

I think the answer is in building permanent communities that run themselves.
You need to start with agriculture and establish a strong job base. You need to
teach people the skills they need to do for themselves. Once you make them
proud of themselves, and they're given a chance and they see that the dream is
real, they have something to work toward. It's like the philosopher and
astronomer Galileo supposedly said: "You cannot teach a man anything; you can
only help him discover it within himself."

Yéle Haiti, the charitable organization I started five years ago, is looking to
build a permanent agricultural community, and I'm really pumped about this.
It's going to be a farming community for about 5,000 people near
Croix-des-Bouquets. The idea is to introduce simple and sustainable techniques
for improved farming, education, health and other services that begin to spark
changes at the community level in other parts of the country.

And check this out: The government of Haiti is going to be our partner in this
project, and so are my professional Haitian brothers and sisters from around
the world, who will give back to their native country by lending us their
expertise. My hope is that this agricultural community will introduce simple
ideas that can be easily duplicated, and that it will launch a national
agroforestry movement. In doing that, we'll be creating permanent,
self-sufficient, strong communities that will benefit the entire country for
many, many years.

Keeping in mind this idea of sustainability and self-sufficiency, I am also
really excited about our plans for a large kitchen initiative to be based at
Yéle headquarters in La Plaine that will be modeled on a program we have run
for several years in Cité Soleil called Yéle Cuisine. The concept here is to
create jobs for local women and train them to improve the quality of the food
they prepare and increase the output of meals to 15,000 a day to help feed the
children at schools and orphanages in the area. Now, that's really going to
help people, right? Additionally, this program will focus on teaching women the
business skills necessary to bring in more money for the food they sell at the
marketplace every day. This program will help the Haitian people stand up on
their own two feet and help rebuild the structure of Haiti organically. We hope
to start construction on the facilities to house this ambitious program by

So, you see, even though we've been shipping containers full of cans of food
and ration kits to feed the starving -- and I want to again thank everyone who
has helped us get that food to them -- with this massive kitchen, our plan is
to not only feed the hungry but also teach skills and provide permanent jobs
that will help lead Haiti to a brighter future.

Here are some words of wisdom. (Bear with me while I quote a long-dead American
president, but what he says is still true a century later.) I read somewhere
that Woodrow Wilson once said: "We grow great by dreams ... Some of us let
these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through
bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to
those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true."

I won't stand still until the dream for a brighter future for Haiti becomes a
reality. We don't have any time to waste.

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