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Communities Choose for Themselves in Haiti

July 31, 2007

July 31, 2007 -- Which is more important for a rural community’s development: making the roads passable or buying machinery for productive activities? Investing in new techniques for agriculture or building a youth center to encourage young people to stay in the village?

In Carice, a remote municipality (commune) in the mountains of northeast Haiti, community leaders decided that what they needed most was clean water. So they backed a proposal from a local women’s organization, Solidarité Femmes Larose, to install a water pump for their community.

With a grant of $17,900 from the World Bank and training and technical assistance from the Centre d’étude et de coopération internationale (CECI), a Canadian organization contracted by the Government of Haiti, the women have been able to install the pump and have learnt how to keep it in good working and financial order. Thanks to their efforts, 250 families in their community now have access to potable water.

“The pump has improved people’s health. Children here don’t suffer from typhoid or diarrhea anymore, so their mothers are less worried,” says Islanne Jean Simon, the coordinator of Solidarité Femmes Larose, who talks of replicating the initiative in other parts of the commune.

Community Driven Development
The water project in Carice is one example of how communities in Haiti are deciding their own priorities. Other communities have chosen different activities, ranging from soil conservation to building a fruit processing center, buying a plough, or building a community school.

All these initiatives are part of the Haiti Community Driven Development (CDD) Project which is financed by a $38 million grant from the International Development Association, the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries, and $2.3 million from local community-based organizations. Over five years, the CDD project will finance approximately 1,300 small-scale investments in 55-65 rural and peri-urban municipalities, benefiting 42 percent of all communes in Haiti and some 195,000 people.

The idea is to allow communities direct control over resources so as to improve outcomes at the local level, and foster social cohesion and good governance. “In Haiti, the Government, the World Bank, local governments and other development actors are working closely together to support the decisions communities make,” says Henriot Nader, the national coordinator of the CDD project. “Our aim is to help local people take the lead in improving their lives and those of their families.”

How it Works
The CDD approach begins with local community-based organizations identifying the investments. Democratically-constituted project development councils then decide which are the priorities in line with available resources.

“The selected investments receive an average grant of $17,500 and are prepared, implemented, supervised, operated and maintained by the local community organizations,” explains Garry Charlier, World Bank task manager for the Haiti CDD project.

A Government agency, the PL-480 Management Office, is responsible for contracting local service providers, such as CECI and the Pan-American Development Foundation, to provide the local communities with the training and technical assistance they need.

The World Bank and the Government of Haiti work together to ensure overall supervision of the project. This is part of the Bank’s broader commitment to help Haiti improve living conditions, strengthen governance, and consolidate the rule of law.

“The beauty of the community-driven-development approach is that the projects are ‘bulls-eye’ in terms of targeting the real needs of the local population,” says Mathurin Gbetibouo, World Bank country manager for Haiti. “By getting members of the community to work together towards a common goal, these projects can also be a factor in peace and reconciliation,” he adds.

Improving Lives
The efforts of communities in Haiti to improve their lives are producing tangible results. For instance:

  • Rehabilitated roads have reduced transport costs and improved access to markets and basic services for inhabitants of Carrefour Virgile-Bidouze, a village in southwest Haiti
  • A fruit processing center at Gens-de-Nantes, near Carice, has provided jobs for local women and increased their financial independence
  • In Brodequin, a small commune in the south, a goat breeding project has boosted the livelihoods of rural families

“The communities are really taking ownership of their projects and are reaping the benefits,” says Gbetibouo.

Promising Investments
For each sub-project that is selected by the project development councils, several other promising investments are identified that do not obtain funding. For instance, in Carice, the water pump project competed with three other projects, including one to build a mill and one to improve animal health. The CDD project team is eager to rescue the best “runner-up” proposals. “We are willing to work with the Haitian Diaspora and other donors to find ways to fund these investments,” Charlier says. “Together we can make a difference.”

This is the first in a series of multimedia features on the Haiti Community Driven Development Project that we will be publishing over the coming months.