Haiti’s Martelly wants community-based economic engines

A village approach with localized economic opportunities

BBBC Expo asks what should we build in HaitiA published discussion on the various housing solutions presented at the BBBC EXPO expressed competitive issues among participants. There seems to be a great deal of posturing among the building system suppliers to gain the attention of government leaders. When so much money from potential government contacts is at stake there will be some points of contention.

There are so many grand ideas that it might seem hard to find something in the effort that would meet the scale of Haiti’s poverty and its rebuilding needs. Even so, we feel that there is value in the back and forth discussions surrounding Haiti’s housing problems.

One Haitian architect and builder suggested that “I want something that will work in the culture of my country,” he said. “I don’t like foreigners bringing ideas that are not right for my country.” His concerns do have basis, when we consider how many of us “foreigners” are attempting to find solutions to their building needs.

To solve the rebuilding needs in Haiti they need many supporters in order to make a dent in the construction process. The builders of prefabricated homes are suggesting that speed of construction is the critical issue and are suggesting that a $20,000 to $40,000 price tags will get more people out of tents quickly. Others are arguing that at $2 dollars a day and no employment, the poor will not be able to have a house. Some wonder if a poor quality “box” is appropriate for a dignified life. We believe that there is room at the table for almost every suggestion as long as it is an improvement. There should be no room in the discussion for going back to what caused the rubble piles following the 2010 earthquake.

Haiti’s new president, Martelly wants to build villages on the outskirts of the cities, complete with their own economic engines of markets and services and factories. He hopes that this approach might circumvent some of the problematic land tenure issues of the cities.

We believe that the foundational issue in his village idea rest on the selection of the right economic engine. A weak economic solution will not create the jobs and the enterprise needed to obtain mortgages and purchase dignified homes, no matter what is presented at any EXPO.

CementTrust is focused on the quality of the foundation. Without a solid base it doesn’t matter if you build-up with pressed rice or aluminum and foam. As concrete experts we are interested in the complete concrete supply chain, from mining to block making to better quality control. Historically Haiti uses cement-based building processes, so why “swim up-stream” on this issue? We should improve the foundations and then start being creative with what is built upon them.

It is our suggestion that it is easier to take the existing construction skill-set and improve it with training and better tools. The economic engine that drives many construction economies around the world is built upon a foundation of cement-based construction supplies. There are thousands of Haitians who could be employed or trained to run concrete related businesses, if the economic engine of choice was based upon this material.

We are not going to change Haiti’s future for the better without many great ideas and the support of the Haitian government. We reach out to President Martelly with the hope that he chooses wisely while shopping for the appropriate economic engine to drive the rebuilding effort for his people.

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About cementtrust

I am a director with Cement Trust and passionate about improving cement-based production in the poorest nations of the world.
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