In December 2018, the Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè – a collective of Haitian farmers and their families representing nearly 4,000 people – signed a historic agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Haitian government to restore their livelihoods. The agreement came seven years after these farmers and their families were forced from their land to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park (CIP), a large industrial facility financed by the IDB, the U.S. Government and others. Almost overnight, construction of the park uprooted the Kolektif from 250 hectares of the most fertile agricultural land in the area, leaving them in a state of extreme financial and food insecurity. Farmers, some of whom had farmed the land for generations, had used the land to grow nearly all of the food they ate and sold extra produce in the market to pay for their children to attend school and for medical and other emergencies. After being displaced, farmers struggled to meet their basic necessities.
After unsuccessful attempts to address their concerns directly with the Haitan government and the IDB, the Kolektif filed a complaint to the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (MICI) of the IDB in January 2017 to demand accountability and remedy for the harm caused by the displacement. The subsequent MICI-facilitated dialogue process between representatives of the Kolektif, the IDB, and the Haitian government ultimately resulted in the December 2018 agreement. The agreement is primarily intended to support the farmers and their families to establish sustainable livelihoods. It provides each affected household with the option of: land (limited to the 100 families most in need); modern agricultural equipment and training; support for micro-enterprise focused on women and the most vulnerable members of the community; or vocational training scholarships. It also provides each household with school kits and the opportunity to be employed at the CIP. Finally, the agreement aims to address long standing environmental and social problems at the CIP and improve management of those issues.
Haitians have faced multiple overlapping crises over the last two years including horrific gang violence, the President’s assassination, fuel shortages, and growing economic and food insecurity. These crises have laid bare the tenuous and vulnerable situation that the CIP has put Kolektif members in, and the urgency of remedying this decade-old harm. The IDB and Haitian government must take the following urgent actions to ensure they fulfill the promise of the agreement to restore farmers’ livelihoods.
In December 2018 when the Kolektif signed the agreement that promised restoration of their livelihoods, they were jubilant at the prospect of their long fight for just compensation to be over. No one thought that implementation of the Agreement would be easy but we did not anticipate the multitude of challenges that would present themselves to significantly delay the process – including a pandemic, the assassination of the Haitian president, several fuel shortages, and growing insecurity from gang violence grinding the Haitian government to a halt. Many members of the Kolektif who we interviewed this year told of their struggles to afford healthcare, school fees, or more than one meal a day. This humanitarian crisis has only strengthened the importance of the Agreement and the need to ensure that every individual who is entitled to livelihood support receives it.
Today, many farmers have finally started to reap the benefits of the agreement, but progress has been slow. And for those who have not yet received their benefit, delays have come with a significant cost as livelihoods continue to deteriorate.
Below we share lessons learned from this implementation experience to continue to guide our work as we fight for every family to get the benefits they are owed and to help other communities who may be going through a similar process.
For the farmers of Tè Chabè who were displaced to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park, their small plots of land were their life boats. They used their land to grow a diverse, bountiful, and healthy diet for their entire extended families, which often numbered 10 or more people. This included crops such as beans, okra, cassava, plantains, mango, pumpkin, peanuts, and rice among others. Their land not only provided food on the table, it was their main source of income and savings. Extra crops were grown and sold in the market to pay for their children to attend school, for vital medicines and medical care, and for any other emergencies the family might encounter. In short, their land was their entire livelihood, and when that was taken away, entire families’ lives significantly deteriorated and became much more precarious.
Given the importance of land to this community of farmers, this aspect of the agreement holds the most significance to them. After being forced from their land, many did not want to return to agricultural work, but about half of displaced families wanted to receive replacement land for what they had lost. In the end, compromises were made, and it was agreed that 100 of the most vulnerable displaced families would receive this benefit.
Four years after signing the Agreement, the Kolektif has celebrated 28 families receiving land as compensation, with 18 of those families receiving land in 2022 alone. This is a huge milestone in a country where land rights are often incredibly fraught with often informal, inconsistent, and confusing land titling and registration processes. Fifteen families received public land and three families received private land titles.
But 72 families identified as the most vulnerable among the displaced farmers are still waiting for land. Most of the 28 families who have received land received it in the form of public land owned by the Haitian State. These families are obtaining exclusive and significant rights to use the land for farming, but many families are concerned about the government’s lax enforcement of public land rights. One beneficiary who received public land had his land immediately seized by a neighbor through the use of force. The slow government response in approving and protecting public land has led many families to fear that they will never get the land they were promised.
The most critical challenges facing this process now are: (1) delays in the government’s bureaucratic process to review documents and communicate decisions to the beneficiaries; (2) the high standard of documentation being required, which is meant to follow all legal requirements, but is far more demanding than the local custom and practice; and (3) fuel shortages and a worsening economic and security situation which prevent travel to land plots for surveying and delay other necessary steps in the land process.
What is needed now is urgency. The IDB and the Haitian government have important roles to play in supporting people to obtain the higher standard of documentation demanded by this process and for shepherding those documents through the bureaucratic review as swiftly as possible. These families were displaced in 2011 — 12 years ago. Justice delayed is justice denied, and with every year and every day that goes by, these families experience not only the denial of their just compensation but also an ever-spiraling downturn towards hunger and greater insecurity.
Some farmers who were displaced, managed to find other land they could farm to continue their livelihoods. Many in this group have stated that the alternative land they found has not been as productive as the land from which they were displaced. The land from which they were displaced was known as the most fertile in the area, irrigated by the Trou du Nord river which now bisects the Park. As part of the Agreement, people with access to land could elect to receive specialized farming equipment and technical support to improve the productivity of their land. Everyone who chose Equipment also chose to have a motorized pump installed on their land, which included the digging of a well from which the pump would extract water as well as pipes to distribute the water.
In August of 2020, the Haitian government distributed motor pumps to 64 out of 90 people who had signed up for this option. They arranged for wells to be dug for 63 of those people. Although some of those first beneficiaries had problems with their wells, those issues were successfully addressed this past year. In 2022, 26 more people received equipment.
This benefit has made a meaningful difference for those who have been fortunate to receive their equipment. Unfortunately, fuel shortages have impacted individuals’ ability to operate the pumps and fully reap the benefit of this program. This has highlighted how the multiple crises in the country have continued to prey on the vulnerability of this group.
The IDB and the Haitian government must urgently work towards finishing what they started. The nine people who are still waiting to receive equipment have been in the dark for years, without clear explanations for why they have not received wells and pumps. Some of them are sick and struggle to afford medical bills, and many struggle to eat more than one meal a day. In an area prone to drought and weather exacerbated by climate change, these wells and motorized pumps are proving to be a vital tool to help farmers sustain their livelihoods. The last nine beneficiaries have waited long enough and should receive their equipment as soon as possible before having to forego greater productivity on another planting season.
Those without access to land were offered training and support to start a small business as an alternative livelihood to farming. All participants in this category receive training, health insurance, start-up assets, and access to microcredit in the form of a zero-interest lending circles.
This program met with a lot of community resistance at the outset of implementation, particularly as currency exchange volatility and year over year double digit inflation eroded the value of the program and many believed that this program was not as valuable as the equipment program.
Last year, after extensive community consultation, the Kolektif, the IDB, the Haitian government, and the local implementer of the program Sonje Ayiti, were able to reach an agreement to adapt Sonje Ayiti’s methodology to address important changes in economic conditions. This proved to be an important lesson that implementation of an agreement to restore livelihoods can encounter significant delays impacting the value of the agreement. In this situation, all the Parties demonstrated flexibility and a willingness to listen in order to maintain the community’s trust in the process and ensure people received the same value they expected when the agreement was signed.
The program provided 189 participants with weekly mentoring and four training sessions on entrepreneurship, veterinary care, savings and credit, and building confidence. Initial feedback for the program was positive, and many in the program expressed gratitude for being provided access to health insurance for the first time, and for being able to engage in economic activities generating income for their families. But the hardships of the past year have made it difficult for many to maintain their small business. Many participants we interviewed in 2022 spoke about needing to use any profits from their small business on basic necessities like food or school fees for their children.
An economic adjustment is needed. Twenty-one more families are still waiting for this livelihood support. To ensure that they meaningfully benefit from it, the IDB and the Haitian government should make appropriate adjustments to the program to account for double-digit inflation, which has eroded the value of what was promised.
The final option for restoring livelihoods involved receipt of a scholarship for one year at a qualified technical training institution to study a trade. This was a difficult option for most people to access because attending school for a year meant possibly incurring more costs (for example in transportation) while delaying the ability to generate income for an entire year.
Only three people chose this option. One enrolled in courses but could not attend classes because the cost of fuel had increased significantly since the agreement was signed making travel to school impossible. She has pleaded for support to help her access this benefit to no avail.
One person needed additional tuition support to finish the second year of the program to fully benefit from the training. The IDB and Haitian government supported this person with that request. One person graduated from their program in December 2021 and expressed optimism about his studies translating into a job providing more economic security.
The Caracol Industrial Park that displaced farmers was meant to create jobs that would allow additional members of families to contribute to household income outside of agriculture. The agreement promised that in addition to the main livelihood supports (land, equipment, small business training, vocational scholarships), one member from each affected family would be eligible for employment at the Park after receiving preparatory technical training. The majority of the jobs would be in sewing, with 30 being in more technical roles.
This benefit was meant to be implemented immediately so that households would have quick access to additional income while the main livelihoods support got underway. However, companies at the Park opted not to contribute to providing preparatory technical training before engaging in hiring, and out of 315 applications only hired 45 individuals (14% hiring rate).
In response to advocacy from the Kolektif, the UTE and IDB agreed to guarantee access to training at the Park’s newly established training center to help ensure access to employment at the Park. Approximately 68 people were provided with training through the training center, leading to 25 people being hired (37% hiring rate). The training program was received positively by the community. During the COVID pandemic, the training program was stopped and has yet to resume.
This training program must be continued to fulfill the promise of livelihood restoration as agreed by all the Parties. The Final Agreement saw employment at the CIP as an integral remedy for those who were displaced by the Park. Ending the program now would be a grave mistake, going against clear progress and depriving Kolektif members from full access to the income-generating activities to which they are entitled. The Kolektif have requested common sense interventions to improve the program, such as having a point person at the Park’s hiring center to consult for jobs and providing certificates for those who have completed the training course.
If the IDB and UTE cannot fulfill their obligations in the Agreement, they must provide an alternative — the harm they caused to the Kolektif cannot be remedied without this additional income-generating support.
One of the most difficult trade-offs that families had to make when they lost their land and their livelihoods is whether they had enough to meet their basic needs and pay for the fees and costs needed for their children to attend school. In Haiti, schools charge a fee for attendance and often require that students pay for other costs such as books, supplies, and uniforms.
The agreement intended to provide some measure of support to families to lessen the burden of school costs by giving each family two school kits, which included notebooks, backpacks, pencils, pens, and geometry sets. This was the first benefit people received, and many families expressed dissatisfaction when their backpacks tore within days of receiving them.
This proved to be the first test the Parties would face in terms of how they would deal with challenges presented during implementation. The Komite conducted a survey within the community to assess the size of the issue and presented the results of their survey and physical evidence that indicated the problem affected about 90% of all distributed backpacks and therefore all backpacks should be replaced. The IDB and UTE accepted these results, consulted the Komite on a new backpack to distribute, and then made these new backpacks available to all the families.
This moment provided an important lesson for the Komite, as they realized that it was important to check the quality of items before they were distributed to try to catch these issues earlier in the process when they were easier to address. They have since insisted on seeing items such as water pumps, and agricultural tools, before they are distributed to assess their quality.
“The Bank continues to work to improve the social and environmental management of the CIP and considers the Kolektif’s support in this task to be crucial.”
Farmers who were displaced by the Park also complained about the lack of information and consultation related to the environmental and social impacts of the Park. They continue to worry about the Park’s impact on vital water resources such as pollution of the Trou-du-Nord River and contamination of local groundwater. For years the local community has complained about the immense trash piles where solid waste from the Park was disposed, and which caught on fire in 2020 contributing to harmful air pollution for all those living next to the trash piles. Fires at these trash piles continue to be a problem affecting the communities living nearby.
The IDB in the 2018 Agreement committed to continuing to improve in the areas of solid waste, wastewater treatment, stakeholder engagement (inside and outside of the CIP), emergency response and implementation of the EHS system. These issues have yet to be fully addressed, even though the IDB’s policies require mitigation and remediation.
As the Bank recently committed an additional $65 million investment in the Park, all eyes will be on the UTE and IDB to see if they will hold to their promise to resolve these issues before more money is disbursed to a project that is not able to meet its minimum obligations to prevent and mitigate social and environmental harm.
The Kolektif urges the Bank and the Haitian government to follow through on their Environmental & Social commitments in the Agreement, which include: