Appropriate Technology In Lambi Fund Projects
At the Lambi Fund of Haiti, we focus on supporting Haitians who are determined to solve their own problems. Members of grassroots organizations identify local needs and submit proposals to the Lambi Fund to address those needs. Instead of imposing outside solutions, as so often happens, Lambi Fund staff members engage in dialogue with the local groups about the proposed projects. Together they develop solutions that take into account the specifics of their local environment and situation.
In other words, we ensure that the projects use appropriate technology. By this we mean: the tools and methods fit the culture, resources and infrastructure of the people using them.
PIGS: Haitian Peasants' "bank accounts"
The slaughter of the Creole pigs by the Haitian government in the 1980's, spurred on by U.S. concerns over swine flu, is a classic case of the use of inappropriate methods. After destroying animals who were the only investments poor peasant farmers had, the government made some ineffective attempts at replacing the well-adapted Creole pigs with high maintenance American breeds. Unlike the Creole pigs, the foreign pigs couldn't survive on table scraps, and needed little shelters to live in; farmers who could barely afford to feed and house their own children could in no way provide for these pigs. The government project was a complete disaster.
To ameliorate this situation, the Lambi Fund works with peasant organizations in pig husbandry projects that provide peasants with pigs suited to the local conditions. These heartier breeds quickly adapt to the food available to them, and can then provide a source of meat or income for the farmers. After only two years, 36 pigs in one project produced nearly 300 piglets which were distributed among members of the organization running the project.
The right tools for the job: Tills and Plows
What is "appropriate" can differ even within rural Haiti. For example, Lambi has funded motorized tillers for some grassroots organizations, and funded traditional ox plows for others. With both kinds of tools, peasants are able to prepare larger amounts of land in less time than with hand tools, thus increasing their crop yields. They also save money by renting the machinery from their own organization instead of from local wealthy landowners. This means greater economic empowerment for the rural poor.
It might seem strange that the Lambi Fund provides some groups with more "modern" gasoline powered tillers while other groups receive old-fashioned animal-driven plows. The reasons for using both types of technology lie with the needs of the local community. Haiti is a very mountainous country, and the land is often shot through with rocks. In many areas, a motorized tiller could never work the soil. The members of the organizations know they will work more efficiently with plows, and will receive the added benefit of free fertilizer from the use of oxen. In other areas, the motorized tillers are completely suitable. While they can't be used on rocky or hilly land, they are ideal for rice cultivation in the flat lowlands.
However, without proper training, the machinery would soon break down and become useless. No matter what the project or equipment being used, the Lambi Fund provides extensive training and access to technicians to ensure success over the long term.
Milling Grain and Turning A Profit
Other examples abound of this principle at work in Lambi-funded projects. In some places, local women's groups have requested and been granted numerous hand-powered mills to process their small corn harvests; these mills were placed in several villages throughout the countryside, providing accessible, easy-to-run equipment for their use.
As an added bonus, the women placed pens of chickens beneath the mills to eat the grain that falls to the ground, providing an extra source of protein for the women's families. In another area, Lambi covered the costs of providing one large diesel-driven mill, housed in a permanent structure. In each case, we made use of local Haitian expertise to assemble the mills in ways that fit the local geography, and took into account the local population and the amount of corn to be milled.
Technology for Justice
In a world dominated by high tech innovations, it's easy to overlook what really is appropriate. Because we emphasize partnership and dialogue with Haitian peasants, the Lambi Fund is able to support their initiatives in ways that fit their reality and will continue working over the long term. Your gift to the Lambi Fund empowers our Haitian partners on many fronts: to better feed themselves and their families, to improve their standard of living, and to defend themselves against economic and social exploitation.
Please join us in ensuring that these small scale but highly effective development projects can continue!
Consider your donation towards appropriate technology, a powerful way to generate, above all, social justice.