Haiti is a country steeped in centuries of cultural fear and mistrust. Although an independent republic since 1806, Haitians have yet to experience the trust that enables productivity through cooperation.
Depi nan Ginen neg pa vle we neg: Back in Guinee and ever since, Africans have no use for Africans.
This frequently cited proverb in Haiti is a tragic expression of the snare which has held its people in centuries of political and social upheaval. It is the inheritance of every Haitian child born: a view of the world that is rife with distrust and fear toward her fellowman. The cooperative model, in every way, is a counterpoint to all that Haiti has known itself to be.
A study of Haitian society reveals a difficulty with management, a difficulty with administration, a difficulty to work in any situation that requires cooperation, a difficulty in trusting: a difficulty but not an inability. FIDA both understands and accepts the cultural barrier that confronts the cooperative model. However, through time and patience, the model has known success. Through consistent, sincere, and transparent management, it has known success. Through trust and good faith exhibited in training and supervision of cooperative members and activities, it has known success. Members have come to know something of trust and good faith. And so, by increasing cooperative membership, increasing incomes, and introducing literacy and sustainable development practices for the communities that FIDA/pcH partners with, a crack is created in the cultural dynamic of distrust and fear which blocks enduring cooperation.
The cooperative model is particularly well suited for rural communities in Haiti. Often referred to as The Third Choice, it emerges as the response to addressing adversity when there 1) exists no national infrastructure or 2) no individual capacity to overcome extreme challenges. It is the experience of FIDA/pcH that change in Haiti is not sustainable without a structure to incubate it.
The true cooperative model then:
- provides much needed infrastructure at the rural community level where there exists none
- is designed to address economic adversity
- is a democratic model requiring transparency and accountability
- requires individual commitment and cooperation
- adheres to the Seven International Principles of Cooperative
The Seven International Principles of Cooperative
- VOLUNTARY AND OPEN MEMBERSHIP — Cooperatives are open to all who wish to participate, without gender, social, or political discrimination.
- DEMOCRATIC MEMBER CONTROL — Cooperatives are democratic institutions, in which all members have an equal voice in making decisions and setting policies.
- MEMBERS’ ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION — Members benefit in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative.
- AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE — There is no dependence on government or other institutions. If cooperatives enter into agreements with other organizations, the terms must ensure that the autonomy of the cooperative and control by the membership remain intact.
- EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INFORMATION — Cooperatives provide the education and training necessary for members to contribute effectively to the development of the cooperative and commit to sharing information toward the vision of expanding the movement.
- COOPERATION AMONGST COOPERATIVES — Cooperatives work together to strengthen the cooperative movement at local, national, and international levels.
- CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY — Through addressing members’ needs, cooperatives seek to bring about sustainable change in their communities.
“If Haiti is to survive, it must produce. If it is to be sustainable, it must embrace the cooperative model. If the cooperative model is to work, Haiti must learn to trust.”