Monday, May 16, 2011

The Road (now) More Traveled

The Inter-American Development Bank is funding this road project in the south of Haiti, aiming to cut travel time and transportation costs, and to improve living conditions in the southern provinces. This 50-mile stretch of road connects Les Cayes and Jeremie and several villages in between. A Brazilian company, OAS, is doing the construction. The road is far from complete, but is already transforming commerce and daily life in the area. Travel time has been cut in half; fewer trucks are breaking down, so less food is spoiled; and farmers are planting more crops in anticipation of more dependable farm-to-market transportation.

All of this is great, but in reality the project's impact is a little more complex. I was hoping to find a solid development project to photograph that had a clear cut, positive impact (and perhaps cure some of my own disillusionment about development work). Instead, I came across locals displaced by the road who have yet to be reimbursed for their houses and land by the government. OAS is responsible for reimbursing those whose land and houses are unintentionally damaged by the construction and they have; but the government hasn't come through on their part of the deal. The road also improves transportation into the most forested part of the country, and the forests will probably diminish with increased access to the charcoal market in Port-Au-Prince. One of the heavy equipment operators told me he thought that the way the road was being built was terrible and it would wash away quickly.

Time will tell what this road does for the region. Most of the folks I talked to were really excited about the improved road, but I'm not sure I've found my perfect project yet.

-posted by Ben


Shannon and Kendoll Link said...

Hello Ben and Lexi,
My husband and I have been asked to be missionaries in Haiti at a Chrisitan orphanage. We are trying to get as much information (and praying fervently) about what this would mean for our family. I would love to correspond with the two of you to find out what we should be prepared for in the process. We are a family of 5 our children are 4, 6, and 12. Ken (my husband) and I have spent a combined 10 weeks in Haiti over the past year, and it has been life changing.... any information you could pass aliong would be wonderful.
My email:

terri said...

for what it's worth, i traveled this road last summer and it made my life a lot easier. i totally appreciate the conundrum though. "progress" always has some unintended backlash. at least you allow yourself to notice that and be affected by it. that makes all the difference.

good luck finding a project that doesn't have a down-side. i suspect you'll be looking for a very long time for something like that.

Alexis said...

Oh my gosh, Terri, I CAN'T WAIT to travel this road once it's complete. The last time I went it took me 14 hours! I like to think of development as drawing individuals, communities and nations into more equal, respectful and mutually-beneficial relationships (which contributes to justice, helps to alleviate poverty and creates the conditions for peace). I do think that there can be development that is fully good, but you're right that it's hard to find.

terri said...

lexi, you won't believe the difference. i had friends with me who had traveled that road several times in the past to get to pestel and they were so happy to see all the improvements!

i personally had never been beyond cayes before and i loved seeing all of the lush green along the road to jeremie. i sure hope they find a way to preserve that.


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