This post is a recounting of a conversation I had with Scott. This conversation was held long before the earthquake in Haiti that turned everybody into an expert. I would list Scott's full name except his brother still makes trips to Haiti and I don't want to be a party in any retribution that may be sparked by this post. You are just going to have to trust me that Scott exists and we had a conversation.
Infrastructure in Haiti:Scott shared with me that his brother had just returned from a week long mission trip in Haiti.
I commented on the deforestation in Haiti and opined that somebody needed to shoot all the feral goats.
Scott assured me that there were no wild goats on Haiti. He said that they were all owned by somebody, somewhere. In fact, Haiti is so poor that everything on Haiti seems to be claimed by several people.
|On a micro-scale goats are like a big drag-net that concentrate protein and turn it into a form that can be used by humans. On a macro-scale free range goats are devastating to the infrastructure of agricultural production.|
I asked for clarification. "You mean lumber, right?"
"Nope. I mean sticks. Pieces of wood you would be embarrassed to use as fence posts."
Scott went on to tell me that his brother made yearly mission trips to Haiti and that he (Scott) joined him one year. "I saw them with my own eyes. They were pouring a second story floor and they were supporting the forms from below with wood like this (making motion with hands describing posts with 4" kinks).
I got him back on topic regarding the deforestation.
Non-Governmental Agency after NGO go into Haiti. They would see a bald knob of a hill. They would inquire into ownership and be directed to somebody. The somebody would accept payment. All those college students and middle aged mid-Western women would go out and plant the little seedlings. Perhaps they would also hire some local help. Then the sunburned Americans would fly back home.
A week later the seedlings would be in the bellies of the local goats.
Perhaps the purported owner was an out-and-out scammer. More likely, he was a person who had a claim of ownership on the parcel.
People in the US rarely recognize how fortunate we are to have a court system that is speedy, impartial and definitive. In Haiti, cases can drag on for months, years, decades, even generations. The cynical say that cases drag on until one side no longer has the means to bribe the judge(s). Also, in Haiti, a strongman can nullify court judgements via possession. A case of might-makes-right.
In Scott's opinion, the ambiguous status of private property rights is the hub of Haiti's poverty.
Why would you invest the sweat to build a wall of rocks if the rocks might get stolen in the night? Why would you invest the sweat to build a wall of rocks if a strongman will claim the garden as soon as you finished building it?
|Sprouting lentil in bottom of deer track. Deer are one of Michigan's analog of Haitian goats.|
These are conversations I remember as I build the fence around my new garden plot. I ponder grand ideas of reshaping Detroit into a agricultural heaven. As rich and as favorable the west shore of Lake St Claire is for growing food, I wonder how it compares to the potential of a tropical island, a tropical island that Haiti sprawls across the west end of. I fear that the Marxists and strongmen who strangled Haiti have irreparably strangled Detroit.
I appreciate that I have been given the gift to be able to create a garden. Gardens are real wealth, not the wealth of paper and electronic credits and debits. I thank God that I live in a place where my claim to that wealth will be honored and protected.