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