There are some very caring people who are working hard to make the Haitian situation improve as quickly as possible. Houses are being built by well-meaning groups working side by side with Haitian workers. Foundations are being set and blocks are being stacked in an effort to make people more comfortable. Yet, there is something still missing from the Haitian construction scene and it needs to show up soon!
If you examine this image you will find the rock, the sand and the bags of cement which are the basic components of concrete construction work anywhere in the world. You will see the buckets for holding water and the shovels for moving raw materials around the job site. You will also find plenty of willing hands ready to finish the work. But there is something missing in this job site photo and it is why building a better Haiti will be so difficult.
Click and enlarge the image, if you think it will help you find the missing element…
In the US and in other industrialized nations, there would be a concrete mixer sitting conveniently in the middle of the workspace. This modern tool would ensure that the materials can be consistently well-blended. If it was a robust machine, it would also include measured batching buckets to insure an accurate recipe for all the ingredients in the mix.
But the robust mixer is missing in action on Haitian construction sites. Instead you will find a spot on the ground where all the concrete mixing takes place.
When you look closely at this image you will see a light-colored stain on the ground. This is what passes as a concrete mixer in Haiti. It is a spot on the ground where shovels blend the materials in a recipe that will never be good enough. This light-colored spot is the birthplace of the rubble piles in Haiti.
Millions of cubic meters of cement have passed through these spots, as the Haitian people developed their homes and buildings. Because of their low incomes, the Haitian’s have used less cement bags than they should and have added too much water to the mix. This spot on the ground produces some of the poorest concrete on earth, yet it is still being used to rebuild Haiti today.
Many organizations justify this continued action by suggesting that contractors or experienced masons are working the shovels. But logic and 20-million cubic yards of rubble in Haiti suggest that this is not right.
It is hard to invest in an expensive, and yet better solution to the concrete mixing problem in Haiti. Especially when budgets are tight and there are so many in need of a home. Yet, if we are serious about Building Back Better, then now is the time to put the real mixers into the picture for Haiti.