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Celebrating our 10th Anniversary

EcoCafé Haiti celebrates our 10th anniversary, an adventure that started with a simple idea, to enable rural Haitians to be economically self-sufficient. That simple idea has grown in complexity and, as a result, has tasked those that are part of the company and the Ranquitte citizens that the company supports; nevertheless, it has proven to be a highly rewarding and fruitful endeavor.

Although economic self-sufficiency remains our top priority, in order to achieve our purpose, we needed to address firstly the Ranquitte citizens’ primary needs, to provide food for survival and to restore the heavily deforested environment back to good health. Although coffee cultivation/processing and export sale is the financial engine that serves as the means by which the purpose is achieved, it also pays for the corn/bean seeds that are delivered to over 3,000 families in Ranquitte annually and the payroll of 25 employees who devote 8 months of each year to terrace/reforest the hills surrounding the community.

To not provide corn/bean seeds for food security or to ignore the flooding of farms due to reforestation would serve as a distraction for the rural citizens of Ranquitte, albeit an understandable one. After all, how much effort would you devote to coffee cultivation in lieu of feeding your family or to the rebuilding of your home and food gardens that are flood-damaged during each rainy season?

Only by addressing the primary needs of Haitians can one expect to motivate the Haitians to cultivate/harvest their coffee and reap the benefit of the monies that accrue from the sale of their coffee to EcoCafé Haiti. Thus, when EcoCafé Haiti supports the Ranquitte citizens with their food crops and the repair/restoration of their land, it frees the farmers to earn income that can be used for food, medicine, children education, and the other necessities of life.   

With our trip to Ranquitte this September, we were able to assist with the repair of the water pumps that are needed for processing the coffee and watering our nursery plants, to assess this year’s coffee harvest by trekking up/down the mountains and meeting with the farmers, to inspect the 12+ acres of newly terraced hillsides, and to co-develop goals for the forthcoming year with our management team/employees and farmers.

Since 2006 EcoCafé Haiti has restored/terraced over 100 acres of deforested land back to good health, planted over 50,000 coffee plants and 10,000 trees, provided over $10,000 worth of corn and bean seeds to feed the poorest of the poor, provided full time employment to 25+ Haitians, and purchased over 50,000 lbs. of coffee from 200+ farmers. Mixed in with these accomplishments is a smattering of bible lessons taught to our employees and farmers, lessons that emphasize the importance of relationship between the Haitians and their environment, the Haitians and their God, and one Haitian to another.

Without the effort and dedication of EcoCafé Haiti employees, our coffee farmers in Ranquitte, the countless hours of stateside volunteers, and the generosity of EcoCafé Haiti supporters, none of this would be possible.

Is our work finished or just beginning?

Although we can boast of accomplishments, to do so would be somewhat disingenuous. As a management consultant and college instructor, one adage that I embrace in all that I do is that my role is complete when I am no longer needed. In other words, our work in Haiti is complete when we have made ourselves redundant. After all, our primary purpose is to enable the Haitian people to be self-sufficient. To do so means that stateside support is no longer necessary.

To wean our employees/farmers from dependence upon support from those in the US has proven to be more challenging than expected. We still provide financial oversight/management, perform the marketing to affect the sale of coffee to roasters in the US/Canada, and provide administrative support/guidance/planning.

To be frank, we have much work to do in order to achieve the independence to which I refer. For the Haitians to be independent and economically self-sufficient requires both motivation and capability. Although capability is possible through mentoring/instruction, the motivational element of the independence quest is far more challenging. After all, Haitian society has been conditioned to be dependent upon others over many decades, if not centuries, dependence upon the French slave owners who controlled the country for over 200 years, to the US occupation of Haiti in the early/mid-20th century, to the many foreign non-governmental organizations that have provided support ($, food, medicine, clothing, etc.) over the last several decades.

A good example of the Haitian dependent mindset occurred on our most recent trip. A water pump that we depend upon to provide water for coffee processing and nursery plant irrigation stopped working six months ago. Communicating with our Haitian employees via telephone/email to resolve the problem occurred over the ensuing several months, firstly defining the nature of the problem, secondly determining the exact cause and, lastly, defining a solution to resolve the issue--all without positive result. Upon our arrival in August, we addressed the pump problem, and resolved the issue within a few minutes after testing the pump. The Haitians concluded that the reason for our success and their failure was due simply to blanc loa. The term blanc loa (a Vodoun term) refers to the powerful spirit of the white people, a spirit that proved to be the difference between success and failure regarding repair to the water pump, a spirit that Haitians mistakenly believe only white people possess.

Although we were pleased to resolve the pump problem, it was disheartening to realize that the Haitians still believe that they remain dependent upon us for their needs. Despite ten years of effort, an incident such as this has us question whether our work is just beginning.

Employee and Coffee Farmer Meetings

As we do each year, we had separate meetings with our employees and coffee farmers. The primary purpose of these meetings centered on developing goals for the forthcoming year, reiterating the purpose of the company, and emphasizing the contribution of each employee or farmer toward achievement of the higher level goals/purpose. Based upon the response from each group, we believe we accomplished what we set out to do.

Unlike past coffee farmer meetings, we did not acknowledge those coffee farmers who produced the most coffee and we did not hand out cash bonuses to those farmers for a job well-done. To do so would have been somewhat pretentious because of the lackluster results from last year’s harvest, a harvest that yielded only several hundred pounds of finished product.

In lieu of cash bonuses and usual farmer accolades, Mike English, our esteemed partner and advisor, brought tee shirts from his company, Fathom Offshore, a company that makes handcrafted fishing lures for salt water game fishing. Providing those fashionable tee shirts to our farmers proved to be as cherished as any cash bonus received in the past. The farmers were almost riotous over which tee shirt best suited their needs, arguing with one another over style/size and color. Note: the red tee shirt proved to be the most desirable of the lot. Go figure!

EcoCafé Haiti’s role to effect change and offer a lasting solution

EcoCafé Haiti’s mission is to enable economic self-sufficiency in rural Haiti (through coffee cultivation, processing and export sale), to restore the environment back to good health, and to feed the poorest of the poor, a tri-fold holistic mission statement. Each element of the mission is connected to the other, and all three need to be addressed simultaneously. To restore the environment (ecological problem) without addressing the economic problem (poverty), to resolve the economic problem without feeding the poor (society problem), or to attempt to do either without addressing the relational issues (spiritual problem) simply repeats mistakes of the past.

Although we started the company as an economic development endeavor, the purpose/mission of the company expanded to address the primary needs of the Haitian people for food and shelter, needs that superseded the benefits/efforts associated with coffee cultivation/sale.

Per Frederick Herzberg, motivation emanates intrinsically, the inner satisfaction that results from achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and the nature of the work itself. This is distinct and separate from those factors that are the sources of dissatisfaction, usually lower level needs such as food, safety, or shelter, for example. Herzberg’s two-factor theory postulates that managers need to eliminate the potential sources of dissatisfaction while simultaneously providing an environment that leads to intrinsic satisfaction. By reducing and potentially eliminating the Haitians’ concern for food and shelter, we do away with the primary sources of dissatisfaction. Now, the task shifts to provide each farmer and each employee with the opportunity to experience the self-satisfaction from their contribution to a higher cause—economic and social independence. 

Concluding remarks

Haitians need food before they can justify expending energy to cultivate coffee plants. Food and coffee cultivation both require topsoil that does not wash away with the monsoonal rains, topsoil that can be preserved with terracing and reforestation. Therefore, each part of EcoCafé Haiti’s purpose is intricately dependent upon the other parts. More important, each element of the work we do is based upon relationships that need to be restored, the relationship between humans, between humankind and the environment, and between humankind and their God/creator.

With God’s grace and your support, we are in the midst of fulfilling our vision for rural Haiti. So, if you find it in your heart and have the ability to support our efforts, your donation in any amount would be greatly appreciated. If you choose to support the program through donation, kindly send a check to Christian Flights International, 309 S. Bragg Street, Perryville, Kentucky 40468. Be certain to write “EcoCafé Haiti” in the memo section of your check. As in the past, your donation is fully tax-deductible.

Thank you for your support, prayers, and blessings. Without you, this program would not have gotten off the ground. More important, without you, the people in Ranquitte, Haiti would be far less able to lift themselves out of their precarious condition.

Tom Durant



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