The Lakou in Haiti is the primary place where an extended family cooperates to ensure the family´s survival. Some Lakous are spiritual places maintained in memory of revered Ancestors. Lakou Souvnans and Lakou Soukri are among such places. Other lakous offer economic stability as places where members can find housing, nourishment, and sustenance. In rural Haiti, when a child is born, his or her umbilical cord is often planted with a tree in the Lakou to establish that child´s place as a respected member of the community sharing the Lakou.
In this documentary prepared by a missionary group named New Life for Haiti, a widow and mother of eight children, Ti Rose, describes the difficulties of her life. Despite adversity, she explains that her life is filled with joy and that her family has kept faith with God, ¨Nou kenbe Bondye¨. Among her blessings are her family, her home, her garden, her faith. Lakou Grandye celebrates women like Ti Rose and encourages our community to support the millions of Lakous in Haiti like hers that are facing many challenges brought on by government neglect. Today, rural families are facing a new threat with predators seeking to displace them from their homes and their land.
In this documentary, we see some of the problems families are facing in rural Haiti:
1. Lack of money. In Haiti, the sources of money are the government, churches, missionary groups, NGOś, and the Diaspora. There are few jobs in the country because there is no pre-existing infrastructure to attract jobs. Without clean water, electricity, sewage, and sanitation, few companies want to establish themselves in Haiti where government corruption takes a large bite out of any funds that could be used to improve the standard of living. 2. Too many mouths to feed. Eight children suggests that Ti Rose did not have access to birth control to limit the size of her family. She says that 3 of her children are in Port -au-Prince. Are they older children contributing to the household income? Or are they younger children who may be living in homes in the city as restavèks to relieve their mother´s burden. Eight children is an unsustainable size for a family in Haiti. 3. Unsafe homes. Ti Rose´s home is a makeshift home that does not follow any code in a country that faces threats of hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes. The roof of Ti Rose´s house is leaking. The house may not survive the next hurricane. 4. Lack of latrines. This family needs a latrine but cannot afford to build one. They do not have access to any community latrines. 5. Lack of clean water. The family relies on a spring for water. The water is not filtered and can cause illness. They need a cistern to collect rain water, but this is costly and they cannot afford it.
6. Lack of fuel. The family uses wood as cooking fuel. Charcoal is a costly alternative that is contributing to the deforestation of the country. Environmentally friendly fuel alternatives are needed.
7. Lack of services in rural communities. Ti Rose must walk 3 hours to get to the nearest market. She does not own a horse or a mule, or a motorcycle, or a bicycle.
8. Health care is expensive. Medical care is unaffordable. Ti Rose must be her own doctor providing her family with herbal remedies made from the leaves and herbs gathered from her garden.
9. Schooling is expensive. Paying for schooling is difficult enough for one child, imagine paying for eight children. In Haiti, only about 10% of schools are public. 90% of the schools in the country are run by private groups and many schools are of poor quality. Many schools are run by churches and missionary groups who take advantage of the lack of educational services to proseletize rather than to educate.
10. Gardens need inputs to increase yield. Ti Rose grows yams, sweet potatoes, corn, and beans in her garden, but it is barely enough to sustain her family. She needs help to increase her garden´s yield. A more bountiful harvests will allow her to sell more produce at the market and provide her enough money to buy goods she needs such as flour, oil, sugar, and spices. It also appears as if she owns no livestock. In the past, most rural families owned some goats, pigs, and chickens which gave them greater food security.
Rather than truly helping families like Ti Rose improve their lives, there are predatory elements in the Haitian government seeking to dislodge families in order to lease the land to multi-national companies. Some families are offered a small amount of money for their land, or a job with the company seeking to buy them out. Families left landless sometimes have to move to city ghettos where their quality of life deteriorates in a crime filled environment filled with food insecurity as well as personal insecurity. Already in the north of Haiti, a company named Agritrans S.A. has dislodged many families and is seeking 4000 hectares of land-- the size of Port-au-Prince - to build a mega-plantation for banana export. Please spread the word to family members and friends in Haiti. Protect yourselves from predators. Protect your land. Protect your Lakou.