Haiti’s political turmoil has created logistical problems for the international community’s efforts in engaging with relief and development organizations in this Caribbean nation. That has not disconnected the long-term relationship the resident farmers of Bois Jolis, Haiti and the University of the South have shared. “In the face of political instability, Zanmi Kafe’ (Friends in Coffee) has been able to rely on the expertise of our Haitian collaborators to continue operating, a mark of real sustainability,” commented biology professor Deborah McGrath. Sewanee has a carbon offset program that allocates Green Fund sources to these farmers who in turn raise trees and prevent the cutting of existing ones. There is immense pressure to cut trees to produce charcoal for cooking, this program curtails that practice. The responsibility of distributing these funds accurately and providing transparent accounting is now their responsibility.
Deborah McGrath of the Department of Biology, Pradip Malde from the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies, S. Dixon Myers in the Office of Civic Engagement, student Haiti Outreach Trip participants and student academic year and summer interns, constitute the work of Zanmi Kafe’ and additional programs of the Haiti Institute in Sewanee. Faculty, staff and students have not been able to enter the country for the past twelve months due to Haitian protests over the government administration of public funds related to an oil trade agreement with Venezuela. The unsafe travel through Port-Au-Prince and other metropolitan areas has stifled efforts to visit the country.
“We have experienced many setbacks since the beginning of this relationship in 2004 with our Haitian associates; hurricanes, earthquakes and food shortages,” Myers exclaimed. He continued by saying, “what started from an invitation from several Haitians who had come to seminary in Sewanee, has continued with the development of strong friendships in the country, that we cannot abandon.”
Bois Joli farmers receiving carbon offset, Sewanee Green Fund payments in December 2019. Also known as Payments for Ecological Systems, PES.