Latin America / Livelihoods / Pro-Poor Livestock / Trade / Women

Livestock ladders for the poor in Haiti: The exhilaration of new possibilities

Participant in semi-intensive "cut-and-carry" goat production model using soil conservation fodder production plots. Holding the first of the improved breed baby goats.

Participant in semi-intensive ‘cut-and-carry’ goat production model in Haiti using soil conservation fodder production plots; a man holds the first of the improved breed baby goats in a development project run by Developpement Economique pour un Environnement Durable (photo credit: Nick Hobgood’s Flickr Photostream).

‘Nearly a year after the earthquake in Haiti, more than one million people are still living in tents and reconstruction has barely begun—and that’s a useful reminder of the limitations of charity and foreign aid’, says the New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof. ‘Those nations that have managed to lift themselves out of poverty have done so mostly with trade, not aid—with giving people jobs and a ladder, not handouts and an elevator.’

To make his point, Kristof takes his readers to a village in the Haitian interior where an aid program is making a difference—by helping people help themselves. Like many other similar effective programs around the world, this one relies on farm animals. That’s because raising and selling livestock and their high-quality products is so often a ‘transformative’ business.

Watch a video about Odecile Jean, a 35-year-old woman with five children, ages 5 to 15, who formerly lived day to day, surviving on odd jobs, and who now, just 13 months later, is running three businesses—lumber and charcoal, goats and poultry and mangoes—feeding her family two hot meals a day and sending all five of her children to school.

In a different village, Kristof met a 20-year-old single mother in the program who, he says, ‘had let baby goats die of negligence, and who celebrated her first earnings by buying a makeup kit. But after hounding by the caseworker, the young woman has gotten the hang of supporting her children, and is exhilarated by new possibilities.’

‘What Haiti needs above all these days’, concludes Kristof, ‘is these kinds of livelihoods for its people, not just shipments of food and clothing.’

Read the whole article at the New York Times: Ladders for the poor, 5 January 2011.

2 thoughts on “Livestock ladders for the poor in Haiti: The exhilaration of new possibilities

  1. On second thought forget teaching anyone to fish–teach these people about family planning and birth control first. How come these women always seem to have 5 kids? What good are livelihoods if these women are always barefoot and pregnant? The baby daddies immediately vanish into thin air. They couldn’t care less about earning a living, much less in supporting a family. So the cycle of poverty goes on and on and on and all the well meaning charity in the world just won’t solve the problem of over population.
    Stephanie Mcnealy

    • @Stephanie: There is a lot of evidence that indicates the best way to reduce the numbers of births per woman is to raise the level of education of girls and women and to help women climb out of poverty. Children help the very poor in many ways (they labour on family farms, they support the elderly in their old age, and, if they do well in school, they can get jobs whose incomes help support the whole family). Conversely, most upwardly mobile and better educated women have fewer children–and fewer needs for many children. So one practical way of encouraging poor women in Haiti and elsewhere to have fewer babies is to support the education of girls and women’s rise out of poverty through small farm and business enterprises, as described in this New York Times feature article.

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