Category Archives: Chemen Lavi Miyo

Tyera Miskadi – Families Just Months from Graduation.

Kerline joined the CLM program 16 months ago. At the time, she and her husband were living with their two young children in the barest of shacks on their land in Tyera. That shack, or ajoupaas such constructions are called in Creole, was really no more than a rough tent. Two poles in the back and two more in the front crossed at the top to hold up the pole in the middle, which supported the roofing material. A few posts stood on the other side of their yard, where construction had begun on a new home, but the couple had been able to make no progress.

They survived as day laborers, earning 50 to 100 gourds per day working in their neighbors’ fields. At least when work was available. Kerline’s ability to earn is limited. Her right arm has been misshapen since birth, and she can do very little with it. “We had no home, we didn’t have anything. We were much worse off. We couldn’t make progress. We just sold days of work.”

They chose goats and a pig as their two enterprises. Her boar is healthy and growing, and she wants to keep it until it is large enough that she can exchange it for a small cow. Her two goats are now five. They haven’t yet been reproducing. She’s only had one healthy kid so far. She was able, however, to buy two additional goats: one with savings from her weekly stipend, and the other with money from her savings and loan association.

Kerline would like to eventually start a small commerce. She knows that it’s the best way to ensure a steady income. But she has reservations. “I’ve tried commerce before, but people buy on credit and then they’re slow to pay. The women who succeed at commerce are the ones willing to raise hell to get paid.”

She’s thinking of the kind of business that some rural women run out of their homes. The CLM program has lots of experience of women who struggle to make such businesses work. The sort of women who enter the program are especially vulnerable because they lack the social standing that makes customers feel compelled to pay. The fact that they are thought to have received their businesses as a gift from CLM can make collecting what they are owed even harder.

Kerline knows that the simple solution is to run her business at local markets, rather than out of her home. Customers at the market do not generally expect credit, and it would be easy for Kerline to avoid giving it. But the challenge before her now is accumulating the 1000 to 1500 gourds she feels she’ll need to get started. (One thousand gourds is currently worth about $11.) She says she has no money.

She could easily sell one of her goats. Prices for goats – really for all livestock – have been very high, and even a small goat would sell for more than she needs. But she doesn’t want to do that. “I wouldn’t want to sell one and then lose the money.” 

She wants to keep her goats so that she can sell one when necessary to cover the expenses of sending her younger child to school. Her older child now lives a little way down the road, with Kerline’s sister. “She’s sending her to school for me. I have to make sure I can take care of the younger one.” So, she’s willing to wait until her husband can earn the money she’ll need to start a business at the local markets.

Guilbo and Guisman

Guisman and Guilbo are twins. They have lived all their lives together, first in their parents’ home in Tyera, then each in his own home with his own family on opposite ends of the yard they grew up in. They were once prosperous farmers, as Guisman explains, “We planted sweet potatoes, corn, and manioc. We could live from the harvest, and buy livestock with what was left over from what we sold.”

Guilbo was the first to run into trouble. He went blind, and lost his ability to farm. He sold the livestock and, then, even his land in efforts to save his vision, but nothing worked. He and his wife were left with children to support but without the means to support them. “Once you sell something off, it is hard to replace it.” The family lived mostly off of gifts from members of their church and their older children, who by then were married.

Guisman fell back into poverty shortly after his brother. He sold off most of what he had in a struggle to save his sick oldest child. Fortunately, the struggle was eventually successful. But then, like Guilbo, he went blind. He, too, began to depend largely on occasional gifts from members of his church.

The brothers qualified for CLM because of their poverty and their disabilities. Though about 95% of program members are women with dependent children, the rest qualify, whether men or women with or without dependents, as individuals with disabilities. This was an important change in the program that started with a pilot sponsored by Haiti’s Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities, using an award he received from Texas Christian University.

Both brothers have made modest progress in their 16 months. Guisman chose goats and small commerce. The return on the goats has been minimal so far. One of the three that the program gave him had a healthy kid, but another one died. The program was able to help him replace it, and now two of the goats are pregnant.

His wife used the capital the family received for small commerce to establish a business selling inexpensive footwear of various sorts. Proof that the commerce is succeeding is the pig that they have purchased out of its profits.

Guilbo has had a harder time. He chose goats and a pig, but both his goats died, and though the program replaced one of them, the replacement died as well. His sow has been healthy, and it is due to produce its first litter this month. If even only a few of the piglets survive, it will be a windfall. He’s hoping to use them to buy a cow. 

In the meantime, his family is living, like Guisman’s, on his wife’s small commerce. They already used its profits to buy a goat. Unlike her sister-in-law, however, Guilbo’s wife did not start her commerce with CLM assets. Instead, she used a small gift from the family’s church.

But Guisman points out how important the CLM program has been toward both families’ success. “The training we’ve gotten has made our wives’ businesses work. We learned how to manage a commerce well and how to use the income.”

Choosing New Enterprises

Once new CLM members have been selected and have received their initial six days of training, their real work in the program begins. A lot has to happen, almost all at once. 

Families must prepare to install a pit latrine in their yard. Very few have previously had access to one. They need to get the correct measure for the pit that they will dig from the CLM team, dig the pit, and assemble the rocks, sand, and water that construction requires. Timing is important, because if you dig your pit before the CLM team is ready to deliver the cement and begin construction, its walls can deteriorate, especially during rainy season.

They also begin to receive their weekly stipend, and have to make quick decisions about how they will use it. Most will use the majority of the money to supplement their food budget, but most also want to start to save by joining a sòl, a form of do-it-yourself group saving common throughout Haiti. Members make a fixed contribution every week, and one of them receives the whole pot as a lump sum. Case managers help members use the sòlto learn planning, requiring them to detail what they will do with the money. They follow up to ensure they’ve done what they say they’ll do.

But the centerpiece of the CLM program continues to be helping each family establish a reliable livelihood, a way to earn a living on its own. At their six-day training, members learn about the various businesses that CLM can provide, but then they must choose the ones they want to try themselves. Case managers and CLM members go through a process called “enterprise selection,” each member deciding what sort of productive assets she would like the team to give her.

The process has changed in the past couple of years. Originally, members chose from a short menu of possible pairings: goats and commerce, goats and a pig, goats and poultry, a pig and commerce, or a pig and poultry. Occasionally options would be added, removed, or revised. We experimented with commerce and a horse. We added peanut and pepper farming. Members made their decision before the initial training, at the same moment they were offered the chance to join the program. Their decision determined what two three-day training modules they would receive.

But the CLM team eventually decided that too many members were inclined to make poor decisions. They just didn’t have enough information. And rather than let them make costly mistakes, their case managers were, too often, deciding for them, taking away members’ ability to set their course at the beginning of the program.

So, the training modules were streamlined to take just one day, and new members were offered a quick introduction to all the different assets that CLM can provide. With that information in hand, they are better positioned to decide for themselves what they would like to do. Case managers might ask pointed questions. In some cases, they might even ask a member to reconsider her initial choice. But they are trained to encourage the member to decide.

Tuesday was enterprise selection day in Lawa, in rural Gwomòn. The visits were led by the CLM team’s supervisor for Gwomòn, Gissaint César, a former case manager who was promoted to work as a supervisor in 2017. He went through the same process with each new member individually, at her home, starting by asking them to review the advantages of each of the various enterprises the challenges it presents. 

Jeanna spoke at length about both poultry and small commerce. The former gives you small assets that you can sell off quickly whenever you have a small, urgent expense to manage. If a child is sick, for example, you are sure to find a neighbor willing to buy a chicken, and that will generally give you the money you need initially to get the child to a doctor. Commerce, by ensuring a stream of cash, enables you to “pay a sòl or buy a little bit of food” when you need to.

But she chose goats and a pig, the goats because they are easy to care for and require no special food and the pig because they can accumulate value quickly. She specified that she’d rather raise a boar than a sow. “Piglets get into people’s gardens, so they throw rocks at them and kill them.”

Gissaint spoke to her at length about the choice, asking her to identify her goals. Jeanna explained that she wanted to be able to sell offspring from her goats to buy a larger animal. “I want a horse so I can get into commerce again.” 

She has been managing a business on and off for years, living in Senmak, where she sells drinking water and kerosene, any time she is not at home with a baby. Her husband would stay in Lawa with the kids. But when asked about her hoped-for horse, she makes it clear that she does not imagine returning to that life. “If I had a horse, I’d do my business from home. I wouldn’t have to leave my children anymore.”

Clotude sees her options as limited. Whereas Jeanna refers several times to the role that her husband, Nelso, will play with her in managing her new activities, Clotude comes back repeatedly to the fact that she is alone. Her husband is dead, and her older children live away from home. She’s alone in the house with three daughters, ages twelve, seven, and two. “I can’t leave.” At the same time, she feels a strong need to get something started. “I need to have something in my hands.” 

She’d like to raise a pig. If you take good care of one and get a little lucky, your wealth can increase fast. Boars gain value quickly as they grow, and sows produce saleable offspring more quickly than goats do. But pigs are also demanding. “To manage a pig, you have to have means in hand,” Clotude explains. They need to eat well. You have to take on the labor-intensive work of foraging for them, and even then you can have to buy pig feed regularly. 

So Clotude chooses goats instead. They don’t require much care beyond moving them around so that they are always tied up out of the sun and within reach of food. She says her twelve-year-old daughter Claudine can help her with that. 

She also chooses small commerce. She’ll sell groceries along the main path. It is her only option until she can find a way to leave her girls for longer periods. 

It is risky. Neighbors often want to buy on credit, and it can be hard to say “no.” If they don’t pay on time, you can run out of merchandise without a way to buy more. But Clotude is anxious to try. “Once it gets going, I can start buying a chicken or two now and then. Eventually, I’d like to buy farm land so I can plant sugarcane.”

Itana remembers much of what she learned at the six-day training. She has little trouble going through the advantages and disadvantages of each business with Gissaint. Goats are easy to take care of. Chickens are easy to sell quickly in a pinch. Small commerce is the one way to a steady cash income, and pig make money quickly.

Her initial reaction is to thank Gissaint for whatever he might decide to give her. “You have to take whatever falls your way.” But as Gissaint makes her understand that he is determined to leave the choice up to her, she relaxes enough to let him know what she thinks. She sees problems everywhere. Pig feed has been expensive lately. Small commerce can disappear if people buy on credit. And poultry is subject to disease and theft. So Itana asked Gissaint to give her goats, and nothing else.

At one time, this would have been a problem for the program. CLM used to insist that all members choose two different kinds of assets as a way to lessen their risk. But Itana knows what she wants, and Gissaint is willing to give it to her. Her plan is to use the first offspring from her goats to buy a pig. By then, with good management of her weekly stipend, she hopes to have the means to take good care of one.

Salmadè – Families Just Months from Graduation.

Rosenie lives in Lokari, one of the small neighborhoods that dot the northeast corner of Tomond, near the Dominican border. She’s been a widow for some time now, raising her three children on her own. Before she joined the CLM program life was, she says, difficult. “It was hard to keep the children in school.” She managed with a small business selling groceries that she would buy on credit. Sometimes she’d have to sell on credit, too, which could lead to trouble paying the merchants she bought from when the time to replenish her merchandise came. She also talks about not having enough food to eat. “Sometimes I’d have food for a day’s meal, and I’d have to make it last for two days or three.”

But those struggles are not what is most on her mind when she talks of the past. “They humiliated me. People around me wouldn’t talk to me because I was too poor. I live near my family, but they humiliated me too.”

When she joined CLM, she chose goats and a pig as her enterprises, and though she has seen only minimal growth from her goats – the two goats that CLM gave her are now three – her pig did well. It had a first litter of eight piglets. Neighbors killed three of them, saying that they were eating their crops. So, she quickly sold the other five to avoid further losses. 

She decided to throw the income from the sale of the piglets into her farming. The timing was right for her to plant peanuts. In fact, she removed the capital that she had built up in her growing commerce and threw that into her peanut crop as well. Now she has a large crop moving towards readiness for harvest. She and her children still struggle with day-to-day expenses, but she is excited about the progress she will be able to make once she can sell her harvest.

But when talking of her bad years, she emphasizes her humiliation, and what means most to her now is the sense she now has that she’s no longer alone. “I have friends now, the other CLM members, but other people too. They see that my life has changed.”


The CLM program has shown a consistent ability to help women improve their lives. Ongoing research is designed to show how dramatic and how lasting those improvements are and to help the program’s staff learn how they can do a better job. But there are some women who are able to use the program to make a decisive transformation, not just an improvement. Christela is one of them.

She’s just 22, and she had one young child when she joined the program. She lived with the child’s father, Chedner, and his two younger siblings in a shack on land that Chedner’s family had given him. Chedner supported them all. Christela’s young in-laws would help with chores, but neither they nor she were earning any income. Chedner would travel back and forth between their home in Lolimon, in far northeastern Tomond, and the Dominican Republic, where he’d do any farm work he’d find. “He couldn’t stick around. He’d go off to work in the DR, but then come back with little to show for it,” Christela explains. 

His mother, too, became a CLM member, which is just to say that she didn’t have the resources to help the couple or her other children either. Though Chedner went to school, she couldn’t help him continue, and she had to stop sending her other children as well.

Like Rosenie, Christela and Chedner chose goats and a pig. But whereas Rosenie’s goats have stagnated, Christela’s are producing. She now has six. When her pig recently showed signs that it might be sick, she and Chedner decided to sell it right away. They’re using the money to buy another goat. “Chedner’s smart,” Christela brags. “He pays attention to the animals, and when one of them looks sick, he calls my case manager, Manno. Then we decide whether to sell it and replace it with another. We talk together, and we decide together.”

The couple managed their cash stipend carefully, and it enabled them to make weekly deposits into their savings and loan association. That, in turn, made it possible for them to borrow money to invest in a first peanut harvest. Christela and Chedner worked hard together in their field, and the harvest was strong. They were able to put together income from that harvest with savings from their association to buy a small cow.

The key to all the changes in their lives has been the way the family’s participation in the program has made it possible for Chedner to stay at home. “He finds work. We have money so we can farm, and he has the livestock to manage.” And Christela foresees further progress. “We’ll work even harder. We’ll take care of what we have. We’ll work together.” Christela is excited about sending their baby to school for the first time in September. “She’s not three yet, but she speaks clearly. She’s definitely going to go.”

Christela, her girl, and her cow.

Eliène and Odak – Six Years after Graduation

Eliène and Odak live in Grandlo, a collection of homes dispersed along and above a hillside that faces the small Partners in Health clinic in Bay Tourib. Bay Tourib is a broad rural section in far western Tomond. The CLM worked with 350 families in the region from 2011 through early 2013, in close partnership with Partners in Health.

Odak was born and raised in Grandlo, but Eliène grew up with her parents in downtown Mayisad, a major commercial center in the northwest corner of the Central Plateau. When she was young, her parents kept her and her brother and sister fed by farming land they rented outside of the downtown area. They even sent her brother to school, but not their two girls.

As a teenager, Odak left home for an apprenticeship in auto mechanics in Ench, the region’s largest town. One day, his boss took him to fix a truck in Mayisad, and that’s when he saw Eliène. It was love at first sight, and she quickly went off to Bay Tourib with Odak. At first, she moved into Odak’s mother’s house. He was living there with his mother, a younger brother, and a nephew. He was the sole source of income for them all. They then moved into a two-room shack made of rocks and mud. Its roof was made of the pods that palm seeds grow in. Without any cement to solidify the walls or tin to cover the roof, it was barely shelter, but it was theirs, though her mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and nephew moved in with them.

By the time the CLM team met them in 2011, they had two children. They were managing to send their eldest, a boy, to school, but their girl was still too young. And Odak was keeping the family fed with farming and odd jobs, at least most of the time. But it was hard. As Eliène says, “We didn’t really have an income. We didn’t have the means we needed.”

The couple received two goats and a pig from the program, and they continue to keep both types of animals today. But their real progress came through small commerce. They would go down to Tomond on Thursdays to buy merchandise Eliène could sell at the market in Koray on Saturday. When they saved up enough to buy a horse, her commerce was able to grow. 

She finally was able to expand it further. She began buying plantains in Tomond and selling them in Petyonvil, the suburb directly up the mountain from Pòtoprens. In Petyonvil she could buy carrots, potatoes, and leeks, all of which grow well in the tall hills southeast of the capital, and bring them back for sale at Koray. That way, she made money at both ends of her trip. 

Each time she became pregnant, however, she’d have to give up her business for a while, and the couple would depend entirely on Odak. He continued to farm and also to do odd jobs: he saws trees into construction lumber with a two-person saw and sometimes another builder will hire him to help build a simple home. 

But his main activity, like his wife’s, is commerce. He buys and sells fighting cocks. He can find them for all sorts of prices – 1500 to 8000 gourds – in Tomond and the other nearby markets. Then he brings them for sale to Pòtoprens. He can make quite a profit.

They have had their setbacks since graduating. In 2017, Eliène became pregnant with what would have been the couple’s fourth child. She followed her pregnancy closely. The Partners in Health clinic was just a short walk from her front home, so when she began to feel as though something was wrong, her monthly check-ups became biweekly, then weekly. As she entered her seventh and then her eighth month, her blood pressure was much too high, and her hands and feet were swollen. She was showing signs of preeclampsia. The Partners in Health team in Bay Tourib sent someone up the mountain to get a phone signal so they could call the driver who serves the clinic, and the truck rushed up to bring Eliène down to the larger clinic in downtown Tomond. From there, she was sent directly to the public hospital in Ench. Doctors were able to save Eliène, but not the baby. 

Unlike a Partners in Health hospital, a public one like the one in Ench must charge for most of its services, and for a couple like Eliène and Odak, three days there amounted to a serious expense, almost 20,000 gourds. At the time, that was over $320. It might not seem like a lot for a three-day hospital stay, but it was enough to wipe out the income from very good bean harvest they had that year. 

In 2018, the couple had a different type of problem. Eliène caught Odak with another woman, and left him. “I heard the rumors,” she explains, “and then he went with her to Pòtoprens. So, I left the kids with his mother and left for Pòtoprens, too.”

She eventually came back because she missed her children. “If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have returned.” But she doesn’t regret coming back to Odak. “The woman called, and when I answered the phone, she swore at me. So Odak took the phone and swore right back. He told her never to bother him again.” Odak is happy with the decision to give up the other woman for Eliène. He says he doesn’t want another woman again. “I thought about my wife, my children, and the children’s education.” Eliène has the last word, though: “If it happens again, “I’m leaving and I’m not coming back.”

Their latest challenge occurred late last year, when Eliène became pregnant again. She had wanted to use contraception, and Odak was supportive, but she found that none of the available options was right for her. “They made me sick. I’d lose weight. I’d get anemic.” Early in the pregnancy, it was clear that something was wrong again. Her check-ups were monthly, weekly, then even daily. Eventually, the lab technician in Bay Tourib noticed something in a urine test that showed she was developing preeclampsia again. She was only six months pregnant, but Partners in Health rushed her to the hospital in Kanj, which sent her to the University Hospital in Mibalè.

She got to Mibalè on Thursday, and doctors performed a caesarean section the following Monday. She was only six months pregnant at the time. Their boy, Dawensky, spent over a month in an incubator in the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit, but he and his mother are both fine. He will be released to go home as soon as he weighs 1.5 kilos. While at the hospital, Eliène made sure she would have no more pregnancies.

This second visit to the hospital hasn’t been without costs. Both mother and father have had to be in Mibalè for two months, away from their children. The hospital provides Eliène with her meals, but Odak must buy his. Their commerce capital is gone. When he and Eliène can finally go home, they will probably need to sell some livestock to get their businesses started again. 

But thanks to the fact that healthcare from Partners in Health is nearly free-of-charge, they will return home with assets there waiting for them that they can depend on to get themselves started again. And they are anxious to get started. They had purchase a small plot of land in downtown Ench to build a new home. They know that their children can get a better education there. They also feel that it is important to get away from the jealousies they feel hounding them in Grandlo. But it has been hard to save up the money to build the new house, and the last two months have only set them farther back than they already were. 

With Dawensky

Guerline Gracia – Six Months into the Program

Guerline met the CLM team during the fall of 2018, when they were going through the selection process in Kaye Pen, the neighborhood of southern Thomonde where she has lived her whole life. From the first interview, the team felt that the mother of three needed the program, and they told her that they’d come back to talk to her some more.

She answered that they need not bother. She was going to move away. “I wanted to leave my husband and look for work as a maid in Port au Prince.” Her husband Joseph, she explains, was a tafyatè, a hard drinker. “He bought liquor with anything that came into our hands. I couldn’t save up enough to buy a chicken. Life was bad. I was ready to leave him because of rum.” She was having trouble keeping her children fed, and though they were sending their children to school, they weren’t able to pay. The debt to the school was mounting. The principal had been willing to keep the kids, but at the end of the last school year, he refused to release their report cards.

The CLM staff asked her to stick around a little bit longer. “They said it would be good for me.”  She agreed to do so, and is very glad she did. Her progress has been strikingly quick. 

The team gave her two goats and a pig. And though none of the three has reproduced, her holdings have multiplied. She has purchased four female turkeys and a donkey.

She bought the first two turkeys when they were quite young for 1250 gourds, which is currently just under $14. She used 1000 gourds of savings from her weekly stipend, and her husband gave her the other 250. She saw someone pass her house, on their way to market to sell them, and she decided to make an offer. Prices can sometimes be lower under such circumstances because it saves the seller the trouble of carrying heavy birds a long way. She bought the other two as mature hens in successive purchases for 1000 gourds each.

The donkey cost her 5000 gourds, and she still owes 1000, but she knows it will be useful when she establishes a small commerce. She’d like to sell groceries out of her home, and having a donkey to take to market will save her the 250 gourds she would have to pay a motorcycle taxi to bring her home from market with merchandise. She used 2500 gourds savings from her stipend for most of the down payment. Joseph gave her the other 1500.

He seems to be a hardworking man. He farms family land, and runs a business selling religious books – bibles, hymnals, and Vodoun texts – at local markets: Nan Mango, Koray, and Thomonde. And since the couple joined CLM, he’s stopped drinking. Guerline credits the program. She says he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. But she also explains that Joseph had a dream, and it led him to go to a friend, who offered him an herbal remedy to stop his drinking.

Guerline is now excited about the future. “I hope my animals will reproduce, and I’ll be able to buy a cow. Even just the turkeys should be able to do it. Big males sell for a lot.” But she doesn’t have a plan for the cow. “I’ll keep it just in case I have a problem.”

Marie Charles

Marie Charles lives in Nan Panyòl. Normally, that would mean that she lives in the Dominican Republic. “Panyòl” mean Spanish, and “Nan Panyòl”is one of the ways that Haitians refer to their neighbor. But her home is in a neighborhood of Tomond, on the highway that leads from Pòtoprens, though Central Haiti, to Okap in the north. She is a single mother, living in the front room of a dilapidated house, with a rusted tin roof, that she rents.

Some CLM members seem destined for quick success when you first meet them. They show an energy and an optimism that promises hard, focused effort. Given the tools and the training that the program is able to provide, progress is highly probable for such women. The program’s 96% graduation rate reflects its staff’s hard work, but also that it is well-designed to meet the needs of women who are ready to make use of it. And many are ready.

Marie seems very much like one such woman. She shows a number of good signs. She is optimistic and energetic. She keeps herself and her clothes clean. Her baby, Jackson, is always clean and decently dressed, too. She is minutely attentive to him, carrying him around with her and keeping up a happy banter. She appears to be taking her case manager’s talk about the importance of hygiene and of talking with your baby seriously. She chose goats and a pig as her two enterprises, and explains her choice simply. “I know they’ll have young. That’s why I chose them.” It is, she says, the first time she has ever owned livestock, and she is happy about it.

But beneath her enthusiasm, there are troubling signs. Her case manager, Ricot, describes the way she quickly agrees to any suggestion that he makes, but then does nothing. Much more seriously: She is a single mother not of one boy, but of three with three different men. All three children live with her, but she seems neglectful of her two older sons. She is not sure about their ages, but tends to leave them lying on the bed in her house, without dressing them or even keeping them clean.

The CLM program has neither the tools nor the expertise to evaluate intellectual disabilities. Marie’s two older boys clearly have developmental issues. The older boy is said to be able to walk, but he is entirely silent. The middle boy does not walk at all, but he keeps up a seemingly-meaningless babble. And then there is Marie herself: Her inability to follow through on the things that she agrees to do and the cheerfulness of her disregard for her two older boys might reflect developmental issues as well.

The program regularly works with women who seem to have intellectual disabilities. It would be surprising if the very poorest segment of the population did not include its share of such cases. For some, that might be part of the reason they are so poor. But without specific tools to diagnose or evaluate such issues, case managers and their supervisors generally confront them as they find them, treating them as they treat any of the many unique circumstances that program members face. 

Marie is part of the fourth set of fifty families that Ricot has worked with, so he has a lot of experience to draw on. In Marie’s case, he is working increasingly to include her mother in their conversations. Marie herself reports that, though she has longed lived outside her mother’s home, she has always counted on her mother to provide for her and the boys. None of their fathers helps her. Her mother has no other children, so she seems to have been able to provide ongoing support. The older woman makes and sells charcoal and grows vegetables that she sells at the small, roadside market nearby, in Palmis Tanpe.

Ricot’s ability to keep Marie’s mother engaged gives him a sense of hope for Marie. “The mother is always available when I need her.” They have arranged to build a small house for Marie and the boys on family land, and thanks to the mother’s management, Marie’s latrine is already completed. Now that the rainy season has started, Marie is anxious to begin her own vegetable farming, and it is easy to imagine her being able to depend on her mother’s help.

But Ricot may have his work cut out for him to help Marie with the older boys. Malnutrition screening, an important feature of the CLM program, has been delayed by an accident that disabled the program’s nurse. And even if screening, which will happen soon nonetheless, leads to a referral for one or both of the boys, Marie will probably need help staying focused enough to do the necessary follow-up.

(Note: I have replaced the name of this CLM member and her boy with pseudonyms.)

Boukankare – Ten Years After Graduation

Simone Fleurimond lives in Lachose, one of the many small neighborhoods that dot southern Boukankare as it stretches from the mountains of Tit Montayn, Mannwa, and Balandri towards the Artibonite River. She’s been there for a couple of years, since moving from Montas, the nearby corner where she lived when she joined the CLM program in 2007. She was part of the first cohort of CLM families, the ones who participated in Fonkoze’s pilot of the program. The cohort graduated in December 2008.

When she joined the program in 2007, her life was hard. “I had no one. I didn’t have a husband.” Her two girls were in school, nevertheless. She sent them by farming land she would rent. She would sell part of her harvest to earn the cash she needed, but it was a struggle to come up with the money to pay for school every year. “Sometimes we didn’t have food to eat.” She tried to get ahead by taking care of a pig for a neighbor. That would have earned her a piglet, which would have given her a start towards building up something of her own, but the pig died.

The program gave her goats and poultry to raise. She keeps goats even now, more than ten years later, and occasionally keeps chickens as well.

She graduated the program with her livestock, and transitioned into Fonkoze’s Ti Kredi program, an approach designed with more accompaniment and fewer barriers to participation to overcome than the institution’s standard credit programs, and she graduated from that program less than a year after graduating from CLM. She still carefully preserves both of the certificates that she earned. 

Even before graduation, her life began to change in important ways. She took up with a man. She had been living on rented landed, and moved with him and her children to a plot that belongs to his family. That is where she now lives. 

Then her daughters moved away. Her younger sister was living near the coast in Arkaye, and when she had twins she asked Simone for one daughter, Sheila. As a single mother, the sister needed a babysitter and promised to send Sheila to school. Sheila lived with her aunt and went to school for several years, helping take care of the twins. 

Simone sent her other child to live in Mibalè, so that the girl would be able to attend better schools than she had access to in Lachose. The girl stays with a neighbor who has a house in town, but Simone still supports her, sending money, food, and cooking fuel to the household regularly.

Sheila recently had to return to her mother’s home. Her aunt died, and a neighbor took her in together with the aunt’s twins. Sheila had a good relationship with the woman, but the woman’s husband began to flirt with her. Sheila says things got worse and worse until he tried to force himself on her, so she had to leave. 

Simone now is figuring when she will get Sheila into school and how she will pay for it. Until recently, she was managing most of her expenses with a business selling fried snacks at the intersection of dirt roads just in front of the cluster of homes where she lives, but the business depended on capital she borrows from a friend, and the friend needed her money back.

She is still part of Fonkoze’s loan programs. In fact, her latest loan was substantial, for 30,000 gourds. But she does not get to use that money. Her husband uses it to manage his business, a shop in the neighborhood that sells rum and crackers, mostly wholesale. Simone is getting increasingly frustrated with the arrangement. “I’m not really his wife. He has another woman. And he doesn’t really help me with his business. I’m going to leave him. He can take out his loans in someone else’s name. If I can just find a plot of land, I’ll manage to build a house. Then I just have to get Sheila back in school.”


Mariane Florvil was part of the same cohort. She entered the program as a widowed mother of four, supporting her children on her own. They were all living in one little straw shack. 

She grew up with poverty similar to what she and her children were living with. She never knew her mother. The older woman had become pregnant immediately after giving birth to Mariane, and she died in childbirth. An aunt took Mariane in and raised her.

When part of the program, she established businesses raising goats and poultry. The poultry never worked out for her. CLM gave her local hens and a large, purebred rooster. But the hens died, and someone stole her rooster. But goat-rearing became an important part of her livelihood. She would have two or three females, and raise their kids, selling a few of the goats each year to send her children to school.

The regular need to sell one or two eventually took her to her limit. She sold her last goat this year to pay her children’s school fees. But she did it with a plan. She found a neighbor willing to let her take care of his goat. When the goat has a litter, she’ll be entitled to one as payment for her work, and that will help her get started again.

She did not use the goats to manage her day-to-day expenses. She did that through farming and small commerce. She would buy a rantor two of land. That’s the right to plant and harvest a plot of land for a single season. She still depends on her farming, planting okra as a cash crop. Normally, she can grow it in both wet and dry seasons near the river, and plants it in her own yard when there’s rain to water the plants. But the intense drought over the last year has hurt her badly. She says that the last rantshe purchased was a total loss. She plans to plant another crop when this year’s rains begin. She is making charcoal that she’ll sell to earn what she needs to invest.

She was also earning money selling cooking charcoal, buying it by the sack in the countryside and then transporting the sacks into town. But the work became impossible after she came down with shingles. The disease sapped her of much of her strength, and makes it painful for her to move around in the midday heat. 

She still uses the one-room house she built while a member of the CLM program, but it is not where she lives. It is now her kitchen. Her oldest daughter is a tailor and she’s helping her mother build a nicer, larger house next door. 

Marie Michel (on the right) with her son, Delikson.

Marie Marthe Michel, too, was part of the CLM pilot in 2007 and 2008. She and her husband were raising their seven children.

She and her husband worked day labor when they could find it, and she would occasionally do small amounts of laundry for wealthier neighbors. They rented a small plot of land to farm. Sometimes they’d have nothing to live on except small gifts they would receive from friends. Though four of their children were in school, the family would often go a day or more without a meal.

Joining the CLM program, she says, made a big difference right away. “Life just wasn’t the same. They gave us a stipend at the start and livestock we could take care of.” 

Marie Michel’s livestock – mainly goats – didn’t really take off. Now and then one would die. She found she couldn’t count on it as a source of income. But she also established a small commerce, selling groceries in the market and out of her home, like spices, bouillon cubes, oil, rice, and beans.

In 2009, her husband died. She sold out the rest of her livestock and all her business capital to pay for the funeral. She had to figure out how she would raise her children on her own.

But she was determined to succeed with them. “I always had hope. You can’t lose hope. You’re a woman.” She began to invest more time in her farming, but that hasn’t proven to be a good solution for her. “I’m getting older. I can’t keep working in the fields. I’m not strong enough.”

So, she borrowed 1000 gourds from a friend and started a small business. She makes and sells akasan, a Haitian beverage make from corn. It’s a popular street food, especially in the mornings. She sets up her stand directly across the river from the Nan Dal market, at one of the sites where the canoe-ferries load and unload.

Three of her children are still in school. The four older ones – kids in their late teens and 20s – stopped so that their mother could focus on the other three, and they are moving forward. Delikson is in Haiti school now. “I want him to finish and learn a profession. He wants to study agronomy.”

Boukankare: Eight Years After Graduation

Sonie Desir graduated from CLM in December 2010. She, nine children, and one grandchild live with her husband in Tijedi, a corner of east-central Boukankare.

She joined the program in 2009, shortly after Fonkoze completed its initial pilot. Before the family was part of CLM, she had really struggled. Though her husband would fish in the nearby river, she depended mostly on gifts of food and small amounts of cash from family and friends. They would eat when they could. “We couldn’t have a meal every day.”

It was similar to the poverty she had known growing up. She was raised by her mother without her father’s support. The older woman counted on selling day labor to feed Sonie and her brothers and sisters. If she was able to find work one day, her children would eat a meal the next.

When Sonie joined CLM things began to change. “They fed me when we were together for training, they gave me livestock, they help me build a house.” 

After she graduated, she joined Fonkoze credit, and she remained in it for three or four cycles. She doesn’t remember exactly how many. But she didn’t like the program, and she eventually dropped out. “I don’t like getting mixed up with the State.” She knows perfectly well that Fonkoze isn’t a government office, but for her — and for many rural Haitians — “the State” includes anything with the smell of officialdom. A structured office with computers and paperwork and official-looking staff is an uncomfortable place. It can feel as though it’s part of the same apparatus that includes courts, police, and even prisons. A structure that seems in place to take, rather than to support.

Her husband’s ability to contribute to the household has deteriorated over the years. Fishing was always a hard business, but according to Sonie it got much worse as groups of thieves learned to steal a fisherman’s catch while he is in the water, fishing for more. Her husband was earning less and less from his work until he finally gave up. He hasn’t taken down his net from where it hangs in the shrubs next to their home in a couple of years.

For several years after Sonie was part CLM, she ran a small business, actually a series of businesses. She tried several different ones, but her capital eventually dried up. She’s had trouble with her livestock as well. While she was in the program, she kept goats and poultry. She was able to increase, initially, the number of goats she owned, but some of them died and she sold the others off, one by one. They had become her principal way to pay for her children’s schooling as her husband’s fishing income and then her small commerce dried up. She now has just one. There is also a small pig in the yard. It belongs to one of her boys.

Her four younger children are still in school, but she’s only paid this year’s tuition for three of them, and she’s not sure how she’ll pay for the fourth. He’s in eight grade, and she owes 2,250 gourds, or just under $30. She’s afraid that he will lose the year. There is a much less expensive, public school nearby, but she has always wanted her children to be at a private school. “The public school teachers don’t always come to school because the government doesn’t pay them on time.” 

Her husband helps now and then by driving a motorcycle taxi. He doesn’t own one, so he looks for drivers who need to take a day off, so he can rent their motorcycle. He and Sonie also look for labor in neighbors’ fields. It can help them pay off the merchants that sell them groceries on credit.

Even in the face of daily struggles, the couple has achieved a lot since Sonie graduated. They were living in the one-room house that they built with help from CLM, but it was on a small plot of land that they rented. Paying rent every year was a drain on their resources. They finally were able to put a down payment on their own plot of land. It’s an eighth of a hectare, with plenty of space for their new, larger house. They’ve planted several rows of coconut trees. “We like coconuts, and they give you something you can sell at market to but food.” They’ve also begun planting plantains an other staples. They\ve paid 22,500 gourds so far, and they owe another 15,000.

Having lived with a latrine as part of the CL M program, Sonie and her husband decided to install one in their new yard, too. It was a nuisance. The land was too soft the first place they tried to dig one. The walls of the pit wouldn’t hold up. But the second one is fine. Sonie also continues to treat her family’s drinking water. “I was using tablets after my CLM filter broke, but the children’s school distributed filters.”

Andrémène and Jean Benoit

Just south of Sonie, over a couple of small hills, lives Andrémène Raphaël, a mother of five. Like Sonie, she has moved since she was a CLM member. As part of the program, she had built a one-room house on a rented plotted of land, but when her husband died, his family gave him a small piece of land for her to live on with the children. She built a slightly larger house on it with the family’s help, and that’s where she now lives. She no longer pays rent.

Only the three youngest children live there with her. Her oldest daughter is married and lives in Pòtoprens, and her second lives with an aunt in Mibalè. The girl moved to Mibalè in 2010, shortly after Andrémène’s husband died. The family thought that they would help out by taking one of the kids and sending her to school, but Andrémène goes to see her frequently.

When she first joined the CLM program in 2009, Andrémène was getting by as a sharecropper, farming land that was not theirs. “I had nothing. I didn’t have a goat, I didn’t have a chicken. My husband was crippled. He couldn’t work. All our needs fell on me.”

Her husband died during her last months with the program. After the funeral expenses, she struggled, depending on support from her family. In 2012, she took to managing expenses for her and her children with a small business selling basic groceries, but she just couldn’t sustain it. “All the little household expenses in a home without a father” were too much.

But as a CLM member, she learned to take care of goats, and she still has one nanny-goat. Her boy has one that a neighbor allows him to take care of. When that goat has offspring, the boy will get a kid as payment. Andrémène makes sure that both goats get attentive care. They are tied in a shady area near their home, and she and her boy bring food to them.

That still left Andrémène needing a steady income. She needed a way to keep the children fed and handle other smaller needs. So she sought and found families willing to hire her regularly as a laundress. Laundry in Haiti is hard and time-consuming work, and a family need not be especially wealthy to hire someone to do, or at least to help do, theirs. Andrémène’s clients are in Mibalè, the closest large town, and they generally hire her for large loads. She goes three days per week. Her pay typically depends on the amount of soap required, and her clients’ clothes usually need six to eight bars, plus powdered detergent. She earns from $18 per week to twice that. Of course, if she is sick or she has something else that keeps her from work, she earns nothing.

She’d like to get back into business again, though she doesn’t know what she would sell. And despite her steady income, she hasn’t been able to save. “I have to spend a lot. Sending the kids to school isn’t cheap. You have to give them something to eat before they leave in the morning, and then have to give them something when they get home. And they need 25 gourds every day for a snack. If I try to give them only 15 gourds, they aren’t happy. If I couldn’t manage my money, we wouldn’t be as well off as we are.”

Her dream is to keep sending her children to school. She wants them to graduate from high school and then learn a profession. When her oldest boy, Jean Benoit, is asked what he’d like to be, he says that he wants to be a doctor. “He always says that,” his mother adds. “He says that if I’m sick he wants to be the one to take care of me.”

Lawa, a Neighborhood of Gros-Morne: The Troubled Cry of a Community in Distress.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019. It was 9:45 when Annel Estimable, a CLM case manager, and I met in downtown Gros-Morne to head across the river that runs alongside the city. We were going to Lawa to verify a list of families who had already been tentatively selected for the CLM program. 

Getting to the area was almost impossible on our motorcycle, but skill as a driver granted us the luxury of a ride halfway to our destination along an improvised path through a dry, rocky gully. After that, it was an hour’s hike to the forgotten and despised corner of Gros-Morne’s 7thcommunal section, Moulin.

At 11:20, I started my work at a household with nine members, a small, one-room house covered in straw. (See the photo above.) It’s home to a father and mother, with their children and grandchildren. At this hour, the kitchen still gives off an air of abandonment. Between the three rocks that would normally hold up the pot, there’s nothing to suggest that the fire had been lit even the previous day. Two five-year-old boys – an uncle and his nephew – play naked in the yard, covered in white powder as though from rolling in the dust. They were trying to cut up a stalk of sugarcane that they would afterwards taste instead of a breakfast. 

I sit powerless in the face of this sad sight, forcing myself to interview Serena Nicolas, who, despite it all, maintains a constant smile. Maybe she does it to drown her hopelessness, or maybe she sees a glimmer of heaven-sent hope behind this visit. Though she and her husband have been living together for more than 25 years, they have no productive assets worth mentioning. The family earns its income through agricultural day-labor, but the prolonged drought gripping the area has eliminated such work for the first part of the year. No work. No hope of access to cash. Buying food on credit is the only alternative, but as mounting debt begins to harm the sellers, trouble sets in.

Her neighbor, despite her desire to share and show solidarity, typical qualities in the Haitian countryside, has her own burden to manage. A mother of three children whose father died more than 20 months ago, Clotude has had to depend on herself now. It’s a fight that’s too hard for her. Just feeding her household is a terrible challenge. She lives every day with her children’s lack of education, of healthcare, of opportunities to flourish. It has come to feel like destiny. She has just one question constantly on her mind: how to appease the hunger of the children she loves. Her 14-year-old girl has never been to school. No need to even mention the other kids. It was 1 PM, and she has given nothing more than a small stick of sugarcane to each child. She hadn’t fed them anything the previous day. She didn’t know what she would do for the rest of the day or, for that matter, for the rest of the week. As I left her home, she told me, with her generous smile, “M pa gen anyen pou m ba w.” (I have nothing to offer you.) It struck me hard that, despite her sharp and chronic deprivation, she thought of wanting to share. 

At 1:34, my route brought me to the home of Tibolo, the one man working to feed a collection of families including the one he grew up in, his wife’s family, and his own family as well. His wife Jeanne, who’s been nursing their infant for ten days, hadn’t eaten anything since the previous evening. She described the families’ ways, how they all depend on the labor of a single man. Twenty-two people to feed with about five cups of rice per day. Telling me the story leaves me thinking of a similar story, the miraculous tale of Jesus multiplying five loaves of bread to feed 5000 people. Tibolo seemed to have learned the secret.

Only one of her five children goes to school. In fact, hers is the only one of the three families to have managed such a feat. The school meets in the bowels of a Roman Catholic chapel, where the classes sit in beat-up benches and desks in rooms without anything to separate them, studying in a single, great cacophony. That is where the sons and daughters of peasants have to consume the bread of instruction, risking ridicule at the hands of those who correct the entrance exams that determine whether one can go to high school, something few such children can hope to achieve.

The day was long, and the cases I saw were similar. Circumstances that elicit indignation, shame, and frustration are everywhere in rural Haiti. And the dominant class – the state and its accomplices – seem proud of it.

And what of the women in all this?

The women stay at home, while the men wander. They wander to places where they are not directly subjected to the sound of their children’s hungry whimpering. To places where luck might bring them to share a shot of local liquor, a bit or fried dough, or a little bread. But the women, despite the horrible suffering brought on by days without nourishment, suffer just as much by watching their offspring groan and cry with hunger, by watching them starve. 

Facing this hideous situation, I can’t keep myself from asking certain questions: Where in the constitution, in the list of human rights, in the various treaties and conventions are the rights of this forgotten segment of the population inscribed? Aren’t they also Haitians? Should they always remain on the margins of social programs, of access to quality education? What do the slogans – and I really mean “slogans” – mean: universal rights, education for all, social justice?

The women whom I met this day, despite their helplessness and hopelessness, hold onto their desire to share. Do we live, then, in a nation where the culture of sharing is the business of the underprivileged? The state, human rights organizations, feminist movements, peasant movements: When we will arrive at a real advocacy on behalf of the majority of the population? When will the misery of peasants’ lives cease to nourish comedies in Haitian theater and films and instead find its place in the nation’s plans for the future?

To those who have positioned themselves comfortably within this sad reality, I say “Enough!” It is time to realize that on the day when the despair turns into rage, violence will be the weapon this forgotten mass takes in hand. I know that, on that day, repression will be disguised as the law, as the establishment of order, the order according to which the dominant dominate most easily. But the dominant class will be the great losers because the disinherited have nothing more to lose.

Hébert Artus

Marie Maude Fontus: One Year into the Program

When the CLM team first met Marie Maude, she could hardly have been poorer than she was. A single mother, she was raising seven young children by herself. Her first husband died, leaving her with their five kids. She then had two more with a second man. But when she saw that he wasn’t willing to do his share of work to help the family, she split from him. At the time she joined the program, she was living with her kids in a house that someone was simply letting her use. She would wait for neighbors, family members, or friends to come by with gifts of food or money. When no one gave them anything, she and her children would have to do without.

Things took a turn for the worse when the home’s owner sold it out from under her, informing her that she would have to leave quickly. She collected and nailed together a couple of support posts, and began weaving together palm leaves to make the walls. A group of visitors whom CLM staff brought out into the field was so distraught when they met her that they immediately pitched in to buy her enough tarpaulins to provide good, temporary cover for the roof and the walls.

She chose goat-rearing and peanut-farming as her two activities. The goat-rearing developed slowly. The CLM team’s struggles to purchase livestock for her cohort meant that the goats she received were too small to reproduce right away. She used savings from her weekly stipend and earnings from her first peanut harvest to buy another goat, but it died. When one of the three that Fonkoze gave her finally had a kid, the kid died. Now, finally, another one of her CLM goats in pregnant. 

Her first crop of peanuts was profitable, but a drought through the summer meant that the second crop was small. When she sold it, she used as much as she needed to pay her children’s school tuition. Then she took the rest of the money, and bought more peanuts to sell. But when she left the market, she had less money than she started with. She had to change her approach.  

And then she was presented with an opportunity she hadn’t anticipated. A large, US-based organization decided to build a small community of homes close to where she lived. These homes would be much more substantial than anything she could have managed with the support that CLM was offering. The organization was building solid, four-room houses with a kitchen and a bathroom, investing thousands of dollars per family. 

It was an opportunity she couldn’t miss, but it wasn’t easy to qualify for one of the homes. She needed to hand over ownership of a plot of land to the organization, something she couldn’t do without legal title to land. She had begun to purchase a small plot in better days, but had never been able to pay off the balance. She needed more cash than she could muster to complete the purchase. So, she took out a 5000-gourd loan from her Village Savings and Loan Association, and got the title.

But that loan created additional challenges. On one hand, she’d need a steady income to repay it on time. On the other, she had counted on just such a loan to get a small commerce started. 

She was eventually able to establish a business when a friend offered to take out a 15,000-gourd loan in her own name from a local microfinance institution. She gave the money to Marie Maude. She asked nothing for herself, only requiring that Marie Maude pay back the loan and all the interest on time. Marie Maude was both excited and surprised. “Before I was part of CLM, no one would have lent me 50 gourds. They could see that I wouldn’t be able to pay. Now they see my goats and they see me saving every week, and they know I can.”

She invested the money in a highly profitable bean business. But the way she buys the beans at an especially low price means that she can’t buy them very often. She earns regular, but not frequent, lumps of cash. She felt she needed another business that would produce a steadier income stream.

So, she took 5000 gourds from her bean-business’s profit and started two separate activities. Haitians call one “bese leve” and the other “kase lote.” On Mondays, she goes to the large market in Kas and buys produce from farmers by the sack. She might buy sour oranges or avocados – whatever is in season – or she might just buy plantains. When she has enough, she sells the whole load to a Madan Sara. That’s what Haitians call the market women who buy up produce in the countryside and bring it by truck for sale in Pòtoprens. This business is an example of bese leve, which means “bend down and lift.” You bend down to pick up small loads of produce and lift them into the truck the madan sara uses to ship them to the capital. 

Her “bese leve.” A load of plantains and sour oranges. (Photo by Johanna Griems.)

After completing the sale, she takes the money and buys again, but this time it’s kase lote. That means “break it up and put it in piles.” It’s a name for buying produce wholesale and selling it retail. Marie Maude buys okra, tomatoes, and other vegetables. She sells these retail in the market in Ench on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursdays, she goes to the market in Tomond, where she does the same thing she does in Kas, selling the vegetables she buys in Ench on Saturday. It’s a lot of work, a lot of running around.

Selling her okra “kase lote” in Ench.

But she’s succeeding beyond anything she could have imagined. Her children now eat three meals every day, and all seven are in school. She’s sold one of her goats in preparation for purchasing a cow, and she’s confident she’ll be able to repay her loan when it becomes due in April. “The program taught me to manage what I have. I used to spend everything that came into my hands. I’ve learned that I have to save, too.”

And she’s excited about the turn her life has taken. As I take her picture, she is quick to quip, “I have to smile, because people need to see how happy I am.”