Saturday, June 14, 2014

Yard designs in team members' homes.

This past week I (Mark) started initiating the same process in Batey 7 that I have been following in Haiti with yard garden participants. Working with members of the team responsible for the clinic yard garden, we did a yard evaluation (50 points possible) then registered each person and finally, created a yard design showing the changes the participant and his family want to make.

The process takes time and we have some team members on vacation in Santo Domingo. We got four people registered and evaluated, but only three designs done.

A group of youth from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina will be working with the youth from Batey 7 starting June 22nd, God spare life, to help them begin transforming their yards.

Here are the three designs we finished yesterday. Everything in red represents the changes that the family wants to make. Round circles in straight lines generally indicate where they will set up vegetable tires on benches. Long rectangles represent vegetable beds. The ones marked "moringa" will be planted to Moringa oleifera.

Yard design of Rubio and Clinton Paredes. The area to the left represents the changes for which Clinton and Rubio will be responsible. The set of circles to the far right represent fruit trees, vegetables and medicinal plants that the parents of Clinton & Rubio have already planted. The drainage that is a serious health issue for the batey lies directly behind the Paredes house. Clinton and Rubio made 22 points out of 50.

Yard design of José Aquino. José is the coordinator of the clinic yard garden team. His goal is to create a space in his yard that has some of everything that is in the clinic yard garden. José has nothing growing in his yard right now, so he made only 5 points out of 50 on his evaluation.

Yard design of Brayan Dotel. Brayan is one of the first people who helped get the yard garden started in the clinic. Then because of school and other factors, he dropped out. José has gotten him interested again and when we went to visit Brayan's yard, he had already cleaned out the area, prepared the soil and begun planting plantain rhizomes ("platanos" in the design). Brayan has separated the area with dirt walls in order to irrigate the space. Brayan made around 11 points on his yard evaluation.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lessons on Community Development--a workshop to develop practical Christian Education Materials for Batey 7

"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 10: 5-6

The participants on Monday afternoon, after the first activity. From right to left (back row), Franklin, Leo, Esmiralda, Ambar, Maria Luisa, Clinton, Nayeli, Mark, Alberto, Meybi, Esperanza, José, Genesi, Yolanda, Santa. In front, Jenny, Annika, Keila, Ardell.

Wednesday, March 26th

Ardell Graner, Jenny and I arrived at Jenny and my home in Barahona at 9 PM, exhausted. We had just finished a workshop that Ardell had organized for us, training a group of thirteen youth from Batey 7 to develop Biblical-based lesson that will foster community development.

Ardell and her husband, Gordon Graner are mission workers who are also serving with the Evangelical Dominican Church (IED for its name in Spanish). Ardell and Gordon have been sent by the United Methodist Church (UMC). Ardell and Gordon came to the DR last April after serving for twenty-three years with UMC in Bolivia. Here is one web site: Gordon and Ardell. Here is another, with more details about their mission in the DR: Graner Family.  Jenny and I began the initial conversations with Ardell over six months ago. Our excitement for this idea was fostered by the work that Ardell led in Bolivia, working with young people who were responsible for Christian Education (Sunday School) in their respective churches.

The objective of the workshop was to come away with two things. One of these was for us to have written materials that the young volunteers carry out their work visiting homes in Batey 7. We needed educational materials that reflect the cultural, economic and social experience of the people of Batey 7. The other thing we hoped for was to have a cadre of youth who are serious in their commitment to a fundamental and integrated transformation of their community--who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. This team would need to be the hands and feet to carry out the program of development developed by the Community Development Committee and the Counsel for Community Health and Development (see previous blog).

Jenny writes: "As Ardell, Mark and I were planning for this workshop, we wondered if these youth would be able to write about their lives and their relationship with God clearly. There were able. We wondered if they would be able to present it in front of others, even if they could write it. They did present it, in role play after role play."

In Matthew 10:5-9. Jesus sends his disciples not to exotic lands where the language is different (!), but to their own people. He sends them without gold or silver, with only the power and knowledge that he shared with them, which he commands them to share freely, just as they had freely received. In the final ceremony Wednesday night, we asked the youth to respond to that challenge. Were they willing to take their new knowledge and capacities to their neighbors, to share with them transformational messages? The youth responded, "YES!" We asked them if they truly believed that what they have within them is more valuable than silver and gold. Again they responded, "Yes!"

Jenny writes, "In closing, I invite you to read and reflect with us on the passage from Matthew....How often have we believed that wealth and material goods will resolve poverty and afflictions? How often have we come into a community like Batey 7 and told them what is best for them? Stop with us for a moment. Let's listen to our brothers and sisters. They have all the wisdom from their community to create a new reality."

Here are more of the photos:

Ardell began the workshop Monday afternoon in a clown suit, with no introduction and no talking, throwing rubber balls in the air. Eventually, one by one, participants began playing, too. Ardell explained when they were done that the point of that games was that this workshop is not about one person talking and others listening. It is about everyone participating, it is about having fun, about sharing and about being creative.

All of the participants put their hand prints on a large cotton cloth, signed them and drew something unique in the center of each print. We were all in this together and each of has something special that only we can offer.

Mark (left) working with (from left to right) Clinton, Genesi and Meybi on defining the problem of the legal judgement 0168/13 in the DR, which called into question the citizenship of thousands of Dominicans born to person of Haitian descent.

Still the first day, the youth in groups of three wrote down their understanding of each of ten issues that the Counsel for Community Health and Development has identified  of primary importance for the community. After a couple of rough starts, the youth did an amazing job of explaining to us what each of those issues means and why they are important in the community.

The issues are:
1) The community's environment
2) The right to be recognized as citizens and to have legal documents
3) Sexual health and education
4) The rights of children and adolescents
5) Hygiene
6) Employment
7) Self-esteem
8) Adequate housing
9) Agriculture
10) Spirituality

Three times a day we ate together in the center's dining hall. The center where we held the workshop was in Batey 9, about five miles down a dirt and gravel road from Batey 7. Our host was Pastor William from Batey 9's evangelical church of Christ. It is an excellent resource.

Tuesday morning, Ardell started the day with a powerful devotional that started with the participants decorating each one their own small clay pot.

Alberto decorating his pot.

After the youth finished decorating, we took a hammer and cracked the pots, as Ardell shared with them the pain that often comes from living. We are often broken by life's sorrows.

Nayeli piecing back her pot. Christ came to heal the world. As broken as we are, God desires and is ready to make us whole.

Meybi and Maria Luisa working to put their pots back together.

Ardell working with Nayeli to "heal" her pot.

Some of the broken pots.

Getting down to the nitty gritty. From left to right (behind), Clinton, Alberto, Ambar and Yulis work on developing a Biblical-based lesson agriculture that speaks to the situation in Batey 7. The three visitors in front of the group were part of a visiting delegation from First Presbyterian Church of Muncie, Indiana.

Each lesson had to include a greeting, a prayer, a testimony from the participants' personal experience, a Biblical reference and a reflection based on that reference.

Clinton, Alberto, Yulis and Ambar doing a role play, visiting a household to share the lesson about agriculture.

After everyone had completed their devotional, they presented them in role plays. Mark represented the family in this first exercise, as the agricultural group presented their theme. In all of the rest, the youth themselves became the person or persons in the house receiving the volunteers and sharing the lesson.

Alberto, putting together one of the Biblical-based lessons. After the first set of lessons, created by the youth in groups of four, they did a second set of lessons, working in pairs. Finally, each participant had to write their own lesson.

The youth presented in role playing all of the lessons developed in groups of four and those put together in pairs. Time ran out for the final set of lessons and we did not role play those during this workshop.

 We broke up the intensity needed for writing the lessons by playing games. This one was called "Shark." One person is the shark and "eats" all of the players by pulling out a ribbon tucked into their clothing. José, who is already a leader in the community, particularly among the youth, led the games.

José washing Yolanda's feet as part of a Biblical-based lesson that Jenny provided on hygiene. Jenny elicited from the group a list of important hygiene practices, then finished with the story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet. She noted that in that time, it was part of the local hygiene to wash your feet before entering someone's house, and the wealthy often had a special servant who was responsible for doing that. But Jesus' changed the dynamic when he washed his disciples' feet.

Clinton working on a special art project, yet another way for the youth to express how God was touching their hearts in the workshop.

Yulis with her chocolate drink, as part of the Feast of Agape that Jenny led, one of the traditions of the Moravian church, where she is a member in Nicaragua. The Feast was part of the closing ceremony which included a commitment, spoken together, to share their new skills in Batey 7.

Ardell and Yulis.

Jenny writes, "During the two and a half days of the workshop, we were responsible for thirteen young people between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. And we didn't know them very well. But during the workshop, we exchanged laughs and we played games together. And we discovered and were sometimes surprised by their gifts." Most importantly, we became friends.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A New Committee in Batey 7

A shot of the drainage ditch to the northeast of Batey 7. The community is entirely surrounded by sugarcane fields which are cut periodically by deep drainage ditches to assure that the land, which is extremely flat, maintains its productivity. This particular drainage is within a few feet of the last row of houses and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and, whenever it rains, a receptacle for human waste.

New committees are not something Jenny or I (Mark) would normally get excited about.

But this one was different. This past February, Jenny participated as an observer in the formation of the "Consejo de Desarrollo y Salud Comunitaria" (The Counsel for Community Health and Development) in Batey 7.

This new group came about when the Community Development Committee (CDC) invited Batey 7's Youth Group for Development Club (Club Juvenil de Desarrollo) to a joint meeting. The CDC is the group with which Jenny and I have been working using the strategies we are learning from CHE (Community Health Evangelism). The second week of February Jenny arrived at the afternoon meeting with newsprint, markers and masking tape, but she assured the joint group that her only role would be to help write what people were saying.

As they talked, participants shared the goals and activities of their respective groups.  One thing they discovered was that both groups have identified the malignant drainage ditch as one of the priority  problems for Batey 7. But even more than that, the participants felt that they could work better together. So they set a date to meet again, and February 27th, they created the Counsel for Community Health and Development, with the executive committee made up of an equal number of representatives from each original group.

Each committee will continue to exist and work on their own agendas. But every two weeks, the executive committee of the counsel is scheduled to meet to discuss the points they have in common.

Neither Jenny nor I know for sure what will come of this, but coming as we do from two different Reformed traditions (Moravian & Presbyterian) and two different professions (health & agriculture), we really do believe the PC(USA) World Mission philosophy that we work better together. We think this new development has to be a good thing--adults with their experience and maturity working together with the youth, with their energy and vision. Pray with us for this new initiative, that it may become a powerful engine for transformation.

Kelvin (right, in black and white shirt), the assistant coordinator for the youth group, explains some of the goals and objectives of Batey 7's youth group.

Participants in the joint meeting of the Community Development Committee and the Youth for Development Club when they formed a new initiative, the Counsel for Community Health and Development.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Triunfadores de Jardineria de Batey 7--The Triumphant Gardeners of Batey 7

Part of the work Mark has been doing to support Jenny's work in Batey 7 and the Good Samaritan Clinic is a yard garden project, working with a group of youth to develop the space in the clinic complex. Mark started with this work in May 2012. Here are some pictures. Photos by Hypatia Bent, Mark Hare and Susan McLarty, all rights reserved.

The yard design that the crew put together last year. Buildings, in blue, or sometimes yellow, are (from left to right), the IED church, the kitchen and store room (bottom center), the clinic itself and the future house for an on-site doctor (upper right). Odd-shaped blue's are existing vegetation. Green are things we planned. The small rounds are vegetable tires. The curved area behind the clinic is what is called a "mandala" and was planned as a medicinal plant space. Moringa tree beds are near the coconut in the bottom right hand corner. The sun rises in the upper right hand corner of the complex and generally sets in the lower left.

Preparing vegetable tires. Juanito, with machete, is the leader of the Triumphant Gardeners. Juanito has also been the stable member of the group, which has changed membership completely in the 17 months since we started. The current team seems to be excited about what they are accomplishing and they have become reliable workers. As a result, the garden work is taking off.

Malabar spinach growing out of the vegetable tires planted along the side of the kitchen/storehouse. Unlike temperate spinach, Malabar spinach likes hot weather and heavy rains. The hot weather is no problem and the heavy rains  are provided by the team members.

Mark (behind), Juanito and a friend looking at an amaranth seedbed in one of the tires. Team members have harvested cherry tomatoes, eggplant, amaranth and green peppers from the tires, along with a lot of the spinach.


Leo, one of the staunch team members, watering the Malabar spinach. The crew had three watering cans (two provided by the Westminster group), but all three are broken. Watering cans are one of those things that are easy to find in Haiti but hard to come by in the DR.

Batey 7 team members with a folks from a visiting work brigade, after four days of building the Mandala behind the clinic. The work brigade came from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

Westminster PC group and Batey 7 team members. And Mark (in back, center).

Mandala. The center is planted with lemongrass, aloe and basil.We are still working on finding sources of medicinal plants to fill all of the mandala beds, so in the meantime the team is using the space for vegetables such as eggplant.

Tree bags planted with moringa seeds in a rooftop tree nursery. Mark and Clinton are covering the bags with banana leaves to maintain humidity while the seeds sprout.

Leo watering three beds of moringa trees, transplanted from the rooftop tree nursery about three months prior to this picture, taken in August 2013. The rooftop tree nursery worked extremely well.

Moringa trees produce highly edible and highly nutritional leaves that can be cooked like spinach, included in salads or used in stews and soups, or cooked together with rice or cornmeal dishes. The mature leaves can be dried and pulverized and added to foods as a nutritional supplement. Moringa leaves are very high in beta carotene, iron and calcium. When the fresh leaves are used, they are also very high in Vitamin C. Moringa leaves also provides a significant of protein that has all of the necessary enzymes. Roots, bark and flowers also have medicinal values. The young seed pods can be eaten cooked and the mature seeds can be processed for oil. Crushed seeds are also used as a natural flocculating agent for clarifying dirty water as the first part of treatment.

The Batey 7 team has a lot of work left to do to make their plan a reality, but they are moving forward, and that is very exciting, especially considering that Mark can only spend, on average, two days a month with them.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Trash-clogged Drainage Ditch in Batey 7--A time for community development

Would you ever think that a trash-clogged drainage ditch would be an opportunity for development? If you said, "Yes" you are way ahead of Jenny and me (Mark) in the field of community development.

Here is how it happened.

Jenny is working with the Dominican Evangelical Church (IED, for the initials in Spanish) as a Community Health consultant. Jenny still thinks this is a bit odd, because she has had no professional training in community health and development. However, her last job in Nicaragua before beginning to serve in Haiti and now in the DR with the Presbyterian Church (USA), she was doing a lot of things in the field of reproductive health that relate intimately, so to speak, with community health. Also, Jenny is good at "reviewing the literature." That is, she looks for relevant reading material and pulls ideas out that make sense to her context. And Jenny is good at learning on the job.

So about a year ago, Jenny and I took what she had learned (and shared with me) about CHE (Community Health Evangelism) and we presented it to folks in Batey 7, together with Dr. Soraya and Santa, the director and pharmacist, respectively, of the IED clinic in Batey 7, Good Samaritan Health Clinic. CHE is a Christ-centered model for integrated community health and development.We got a good response at the first meetings, so we had a second meeting. Then another. Then, with help from our PC(USA) colleague, Jo Ella Holman, we were able to get in touch with Flor de Leon and her husband, Hiran, who are CHE trainers. Flor and Hiran and an associate came and did a seminar with folks from Batey 7. And the response was good.

The next step was training for Jenny and Dr Soraya and Santa and me in Santiago, about 5 hours away from Barahona. That happened this past April. One of the things we learned about during our four days of training with Flor and Hiran was the idea of "Seed Projects." For me, a "seed project" would be something about teaching folks how to save seeds. Not exactly. In this context, it is a small project that can be done quickly, requires no outside resources (or very minimal) and has a high probability of success. The initiators of seed projects should be the members of the Community Development Committee. This committee is the central unit in the CHE strategy. Made up of recognized community leaders who are chosen by the people of the particular community, it is the group responsible for determining the core issues that are keeping their community down as well as developing the program to address those core issues.

In the case of Batey 7, the folks Jenny and Santa and Dr. Soraya and I had been meeting with formed themselves into this Community Development Committee. After we cambe back from our training in Santiago,  we began to apply what we had learned about identifying problems and analyzing their root causes with this committee, but we also knew that we needed to help the committee move into some kind of  specific action that addressed the issues about which they were talking.

So that's the history and finally, here are some pictures to help show you where we came from to get to today, when the Community Development Committee of Batey initiated their first seed project.

This is not CHE related. This is Jenny's new lab table for the small medical lab she is helping develop at the clinic. This table has an interesting story. It took us literally one whole day, from about 9 AM to 4 PM to get the furniture maker to finish it and hand it over.

This is a problem tree, helping committee members to take a broader look at the problems they identified during a previous meeting. The problem is trash in the drainage ditch. Causes members identified include lack of understanding on the part of community members, lack of consistent trash pickup, no trash cans and the fact that the ditch is very near the homes and so is convenient for dumping trash. The "fruits" of the problem include diseases, which is aggravated by the fact that children play around the ditch. The trash also causes bad smells and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. As diseases increase, children are affected and therefore do poorly in school and finally, because children do poorly in school, the community can't progress. What is not mentioned directly here is that whenever it rains heavily, the ditch overflows and floods the latrines, then carrying all of the raw sewage out into the community.

To understand this story better, it may be helpful to read the first two blog entries about land issues with which folks in Batey 7 deal Also helpful to know at this point is that the land  on which Batey 7 is located is very flat and very near sea level, so these drainage ditches are the only way to keep water out of the community and the ditches are the only way to keep the soil drained enough that sugar cane can grow well. The drainage ditch in question is maintained, or should be maintained by the sugar refinery company that produces sugar cane all around the batey.

Mayra, the clinic's auxiliary nurse, explaining the work her group did in analyzing another issue in the community, malnutrition.

 As part of this analysis, the committee was asked to turn the problem around. That is they were asked to state the problem as if it were solved. In this case, no more trash clogging the drainage ditch. How to get there? Put trash cans in the community, make sure the trash truck comes on a regular basis, talk with the people by the ditch about the importance of not throwing trash there, make the ditch farther away so people would have to walk farther. Fruits of eliminating the trash clogging problem--no bad odors, fewer mosquitoes, fewer diseases, children do better in school, the community progresses.

After several more meetings the committee decided to try a two-step approach, as their first "seed project." The first step they decided to work on was a survey in the community to find out which proposed solution to the trash/ditch problem people like the most. Jenny, with Santa's input, helped develop the survey, then the committee reviewed and approved it.

Here is the first page, general information about the person responding.

Here is the final, listing the four possible solutions. The idea was that each household would select one as their preferred option.

About fifteen youth arrived between 7:30 and 8:30 this morning to help with the survey. Here, the group divided up the community in a Google Earth photo, sending each person to a particular sector to do about 15 surveys. These youth have done previous surveys for other organizations in the area and have some decent experience. Specifically, it was Sean, a Peace Corps Volunteer, who helped organize this particularly group to share their skills with the committee.

Here are the divisions the leader of the group made. Mark helped survey twelve homes in the far lower right corner section. The clinic compound is in the upper right hand area. The baseball field is the open area in the upper right hand corner and is one of the first places that gets flooded when the drainage ditch overflows.

Yanirda and Noel, two youth leaders, helping to tabulate the results at the end of the morning. A total of 244 households were surveyed, with 178 women responding and 68 men. The option for solving the ditch problem selected most often was number one, filling in the current ditch and re-digging it farther away from the homes. The ditch belongs and is the responsibility of the sugar company.

Santo Carvajal (far right) reviewing the results. Santo was one of the members of the Community Development Committee who remained present the whole day to follow along with the process.

Surveyors sharing food and drink after the work was done.

Esperanza (far left) serves drinks to the youth. Esperanza is one of the Community Development Committee members who helped prepare the food for the youth.

What is the second of the committee's two-step program? They will take the results of the survey and put together a petition that they will take back to the community and ask members to sign. Once they have that, the plan is to send a commission to negotiate with the heads of the sugar company and pressure them to resolve the problem, since the ditch is on their land and it is their ditch.

What does all of this have to do with community development? This is an issue that sets nearly every one in Batey 7 on fire. Every meeting that Jenny and I have led since this issue became the central focus has been dynamic, energetic and energizing. Without really knowing what we were doing, we started something important to people. That is pretty cool, especially since my first take on it was, "What a dull problem! This isn't that important." Ha! If the next step, the petition and the commission succeed, it will demonstrate to the committee and the people of the batey that they have the power to recognize problems and to make real changes. And that is exactly what our work is about.

What can you do to be part of this? Pray for the committee as it writes the petition, asking that they (and Jenny and Mark) might be inspired by the Holy Spirit to find words that will reach the hearts of the people of Batey 7 and, especially, the hearts of the directors of the sugar company. And, as you are moved, support Jenny's work by providing funds that can help us to continue to receive and provide more training with CHE.

Thank you for checking us out. God's blessings on you.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Land Occupation in Batey 7--additions and corrections

Jenny and I (Mark) had a meeting with the Community Development Committee (CDC) on Wednesday, June 5th, and we got some additional information about the occupation that Jenny photographed through the Clinic's fence. Some of the information below comes from part of an article written by Hogla Enecia, who is listed in Facebook as being the director of the HIV project in Fundación Futuro Sur. All of the information has been corroborated by friends from Batey 7.

Members of the consortium security fired guns three times, threatening the group of men and women from Batey 7 (in the Dominican province of Independencia) who were demanding land to build houses. They also used teargas on the participants of the protest. The consortium is the private company from Guatemala that farms the fields of sugar cane and runs the sugar refinery.

The consortium's security members were accompanied by one of the company's supervisors identified as Yorki Feliz.

A pastor of the pentecostal church of Batey 7, Rock of Salvation, acted as spokesperson for the group, saying that a number of organizations had tried to develop housing projects in the community, but because of the lack of land, they were unsuccessful. The pastor noted that they had sent letters to the State Sugar Council (CEA, Consejo Estatal del Azúcar), which has final authority over the land designated for sugarcane production, but never received any response. In the post on Tuesday, I mistakenly indicated that it was the IAD (Instituo Agraria Domincana) that would have final authority.

In terms of the importance of the protest, folks participating in the CDC meeting observed that the population of Batey 7 has grown, but the land available has not. There are as many as four generations living in the same small houses that were originally intended as temporary housing for the sugarcane laborers coming from Haiti to cut cane for six months.

On the way back home from the Wednesday meeting, Jenny and I caught a ride from our friend who works with the consortium. He observed that the company is unlikely to redress the grievance because that would open the door to all of the other bateys with the same situation. He made the interesting observation that the one exception that he knows about is a batey where some of the people continuously burned the cane in the field where they wanted to build, effectively eliminating the cane each year before it could be harvested.

The exercise that Jenny led in the CDC meeting on Wednesday was to identify and prioritize problems in the community. One of the problems that was mentioned was the lack  of land, but it did not come out as one that was the highest priority for those in the committee. The problem that received the highest priority was a problem in the community's drainage system that results in sewage getting washed out of latrines when rains are heavy. The second highest priority was malnutrition and the third was houses in very bad repair. Next week we will do problem trees for each of these, looking at causes and effects. The next step after that is to begin to identify projects that can begin changing the root causes of the problems the committee determines to be critical.

Jenny and I have had enough training with CHE, and enough experience in Batey 7 to feel like we know how to keep moving forward. But if we told you we knew where that "forward" will end up taking us and them, we would be lying. If this isn't the Holy Spirit blowing through, we are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Claiming land in Batey Seven

On May 21st, while Jenny was at work in the Good Samaritan clinic in Batey 7, community members of Batey 7 moved onto state land immediately adjacent to the community and claimed it for themselves. Photos by Jenny Bent. Text by Mark Hare.

Members of Batey 7 laying out plots on a couple of acres of sugarcane fields adjacent to the community.

While Jenny has not been able to confirm all that she has heard, what she understands is that a non-governmental organization (NGO) offered some of the families in Batey 7 new homes, with the stipulation that they themselves would have to acquire the land for the houses.

Since land within the existing boundaries of the batey is virtually non-existent, the families moved onto and claimed for themselves land adjacent to the community which is currently planted to sugar cane.

Women from Batey 7 watching as Dominican police who tried to intervene in the situation are forced to leave.

The history of the Dominican bateys is complicated. The bateys were originally government settlements built, starting in the early 1900's, for Haitian laborers who were brought into the area to cut sugarcane for the state-owned sugar industry. The season for cutting sugar cane is about six months and after the six months, most of the laborers returned to Haiti. Those who remained married, had children and  began establishing stable communities. Almost all of the inhabitants of Batey 7 are second or third, or even fourth generation settlers.

 In the eighties and nineties, sugar prices dropped worldwide, and the Dominican sugar industry became relatively unprofitable. Fewer workers from Haiti were brought in, and much of the original land was left uncared for. During this period, many of the settled batey families began producing crops for themselves on the semi-abandoned land. The Dominican government tacitly allowed, but did not encourage this. The government was careful to prevent families from building homes on the sugarcane fields because Dominican law recognizes the right for people to legally claim land who have successfully built their homes on and fenced in parcels of land.

After the police left, the Dominican military was brought in to deal with the situation. Jenny says that before the military came, all of the Batey 7 men involved left the area to reduce the likelihood of a violent conflict.

Some time early in the new millennium, the Dominican government signed a long term agreement with an international consortium, ceding to the group all of the rights to the sugar cane processing facilities here in Barahona, and renting to them all of the original sugar cane fields.
The consortium successfully revived the sugarcane processing facilities and began applying sophisticated agricultural techniques to improve production in the sugar cane fields as well as working to improve the sugar content concentrated in the stalks of the sugar canes. Jenny and I have a good friend who works as an agronomist for the consortium and has educated Mark on a variety of the techniques employed by the company.

At the same time, according to our friends in Batey 7, the consortium began eliminating the crops that batey-dwellers had planted during the downturn of sugar and began replanting the fields to sugarcane. Intentionally or not, this had the effect of boxing the people in Batey 7 (and presumably other bateys as well) and forcing them to depend entirely on the consortium for their livelihoods.

Women from Batey 7 confronting soldiers from the Dominican military.

While the Dominican government does insure access to primary education in the bateys, secondary education is more difficult, and very very few people from Batey 7 make it to the universities. Among other difficulties are the limits that the Dominican government puts on recognizing children born in the Dominican to Haitian parents who have no legal documentation. Virtually none of the original sugarcane laborers would have had any legal documents. Nor do the laborers who continue to come each season have any. So, while the consortium does provide a large number of jobs, the original batey settlers generally have access to only the lowest-paying jobs which are, at best, seasonal. My friend, Juanito, from Batey 7, had steady work with the consortium for at most four months during the zafra, that is, the harvest period.

It is clear to Jenny and to me that the current status of the batey inhabitants is precarious, walled in on all sides not only physically, but also socially, economically and politically.

Women from Batey 7 huddle to the left, while police, military and other officials discuss the situation on the right.

That is the background that Jenny and I know. What we do not yet know is whether leaders from Batey 7 have ever made any formal attempts, working within the system, to acquire land. Since the consortium is operating on State land, presumably the Dominican institution that governs the rights to land, the IAD, might have the authority to grant community members access to additional land.  IAD (Instituto Agraria Dominicana--the Agrarian Dominican Institute) is a branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and is responsible for the country's program of agrarian reform.

It appears that the situation is a dynamic one that Jenny will be following, asking questions of the leaders within the batey, as well as looking for other sources of information and perspective.

Stay tuned!!!

P.S. A note about the photos.  While passing though on her way to work some weeks ago, Jenny passed by an ongoing protest near the Tamayo crossroads (Tamayo is a town about five miles from Batey 7). While passing through, she learned from one of the motorcycle taxi drivers that one of the soldiers or police had grabbed the phone of an observer who was taking pictures and threw it on the ground, destroying it. That incident made Jenny decide to be cautious and remained in the clinic yard and to photograph through the fence. 

Please share your comments and observations!!!