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Frère Franklin Armand : le paysan de Dieu
Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:29 pm
Frère Franklin Armand : le paysan de Dieu
27 avril 2009
Par Nancy Roc
Dans le nord-est d'Haiti, la poussière est omniprésente. Le sol est sec et l'aridité absolue alterne avec une végétation rase. Seuls les chèvres, les ânes et les cactus parviennent à s'acclimater à un paysage quasi lunaire. Difficile de croire, ici, qu'on se trouve sur une île tropicale. Le déboisement sauvage a totalement transformé le milieu ambiant en un désert qui s'étend, souvent, à perte de vue. La nature se meurt.
Toutefois, dans la localité de Pandiassou, à sept heures de piste de la capitale haitienne, Port-au-Prince, la vie fleurit grâce à un homme : le Frère Franklin Armand. Il a décidé, il y a 34 ans, de faire l'expérience de sa vie religieuse auprès des paysans les plus démunis d'Haiti. Humanisme, civisme et christianisme sont les trois idéaux qui ont guidé sa mission. « C'est dans les campagnes que vit 70 % de la population, mais depuis 1804 nos dirigeants préfèrent le pouvoir plutôt que de servir », déplore-t-il avec sa voix douce. C'est pour cela qu'au milieu des années 1970, il est arrivé au village de Pandiassou avec un souhait : se rapprocher de la population, travailler la terre, devenir « un paysan parmi les paysans », tout en propageant la parole de Dieu.
Au début, les paysans de Pandiassou ont observé avec scepticisme cet homme et ces femmes de Dieu qui n'ont pas peur de mettre leurs jeans pour aller labourer les champs. « Entrer en religion et salir ses mains ne riment pas ensemble », explique le Frère Armand, « mais la misère ne rime pas non plus avec l'Église », précise-t-il, en souriant. Il est persuadé que « le paysan haitien n'entend pas avec ses oreilles mais avec ses yeux ». Fort de cette conviction, en 1985, il a commencé à planter des arbres et des légumes partout, avec l'aide des Petites Sœurs et des Petits Frères de la Congrégation de l'Incarnation, qu'il dirige.
Ces religieux offrent leur vie à Dieu, en se mettant au service des pauvres du monde rural en Haiti. Ils travaillent avec les paysans à l'émergence d'une société où la valeur, la justice et l'amour du prochain doivent guider la vie de Pandiassou.
Un miracle continuel
Vingt cinq ans plus tard, le Frère Franklin a fait fleurir le désert. « Ici, le développement se fait par l'imitation », affirme-t-il. Et le bon exemple a été contagieux. Sous sa houlette, les paysans ont planté plus de 300 000 arbres, labouré des champs et creusé une centaine de lacs collinaires. Le plus grand est situé à Savane Diane : il a 30 mètres de profondeur et peut contenir 1 500 000 m3 d'eau. C'est le second lac le plus important du pays. Un véritable exploit. Aujourd'hui, les champs sont irrigués, les légumes poussent, les tilapias se multiplient dans les lacs et la famine a été repoussée. Les 30 000 habitants de Pandiassou peuvent faire pousser des plantes en serre, jouir de la brise fraîche que fournit la présence des lacs et d'une autosuffisance alimentaire. Dans le reste du pays, l'exode des paysans vers la capitale ou les plages de Miami se poursuit. Les habitants de Pandiassou, eux, choisissent de rester chez eux. Mieux, d'autres familles reviennent vivre dans cette localité. « Cette zone peut potentiellement devenir riche », souligne-t-il. « Le sol est profond et propice à l'agriculture, la terre est riche en argile et nous l'utilisons tant comme médicament que pour l'artisanat dans la région ».
Au-delà d'une communauté
Frère Franklin Armand doit avoir raison : 60 différentes espèces de manguiers ont été plantées, ainsi que du tamarin, du sucrin, des campêches et de nombreux arbres en voie de disparition dans le reste d'Haiti. Le combat du Frère Armand, véritable paysan de Dieu, n'a pas été vain. Ses actions ont dépassé les frontières du village. Dans tout le pays, il a implanté des projets similaires. Récemment, le gouvernement haitien lui a confié la mission de creuser 150 lacs collinaires, afin de limiter les inondations qui frappent Haiti à chaque saison des pluies. Il doit réaliser ce mandat avec un budget de plus de 20 millions de dollars!
L'année dernière, ce religieux aux airs de Nelson Mandela a été officiellement proclamé « trésor national vivant » par la Fondation Françoise Canez Auguste. Pourtant, il reste humble : « J'ai plus reçu des paysans que je ne leur ai donné. C'est à ces hommes et ces femmes qui n'ont rien que je dois tout. Ils m'ont inculqué le sens du travail et de l'endurance. Je suis d'une nature tranchante; le paysan m'a appris à être pragmatique en tout, à composer. Il m'a enseigné le vrai sens du mot « communauté », un mot qui est la clé essentielle de la compréhension de Dieu », reconnaît-il.
N.B : ce reportage a été rendu possible grâce à une Bourse Nord-Sud attribuée par la Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec et financée par l'Agence canadienne de développement international (ACDI)
Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:40 pm
Just checking to be sure...
So this is not exploitation or colonialism? This is not White Folks coming in and playing at helping the poor for their own selfish reasons? It doesn't look like it to me, but maybe some people would call it so. I mean, as a Catholic, I might not be seeing things as others see them.
Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:00 pm
Exploitation? Not as far as I can tell! What is your point of reference?
Colonialism? Not in the least!
White Folks coming in and playing at helping the poor for their own selfish reasons? I just don't see where that is coming from. I am familiar with the Pandiassou development projects and I can assure you that they represent the type of development that Haiti's communities sorely need. They empower the local population. That empowerment is based on smart planning, hard work, and long term community interests. This is NOT handing food in exchange of faith, religious conversions, or the buying/selling of political influence. And why are we talking of White Folks here? Frère Armand and his order are Haitians. People from all over the world have come to assist because they trust his vision: Cubans, South Americans, North Americans, Europeans, and likely Asians and Africans as well. It was an International Fraternity out there assisting Haitians hand in hand. So that particular reference to "White Folks" is puzzling...
Unless you are referring to the Nota Bene which acknowledges the fact that this particular press report was financed by some Canadian entity, I don't understand the nature of your remarks. Then again, what would the financing of the report have to do with exploitation, colonialism, or helping for selfish reasons?
Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:04 am
[quote]By the way, I stumbled upon a book titled “Desire for Development: Whiteness, gender and the helping imperative” by Babara Heron which deals with this matter in great detail. It would help many of us make better sense of these Clinton, Bono, Tarzan initiatives and why they are not really about improving lives of impoverished peoples as they are about colonial continuities – “stabilizing” the status quo.[/quote]This is from one of Jaf''s postings--about Clinton and "what he said equalled what he did not say".
I did look up the book, and discovered a lot of it is on line, which I read. It may have stung a little and I am trying to sort out for myself if it is a shoe that fits me. Anyway, that is where the "White Folks" comment came from.
There have been discussions on this board about how it sometimes seems like the US media is only looking to report on the worst tragedies in Haiti and that Haiti can never shake the label of the "poorest of the poor." There can almost be a kind of voyeurism about how bad things are in Haiti. So maybe my comments are way off base, but I am trying to sort out for myself what kind of help is good help and what kind of help is bad help and how people in this world of "haves" and "have nots" can work together in a mutually respectful way to make things better for people who are suffering.
I read the article and maybe my French isn't all that strong and I misunderstood. What I read seemed to me that Frère Armand is doing a really good thing. But I have run across other things that have looked to me like they have been good and then somebody on the board has pointed out that, no, this is in fact really a form of colonial exploitation and I have felt like, "huh?"
So I am trying to sort it all out.
I continue to learn a lot by reading this board and I in no way intend to be disrespectful. So forgive me if I have erred.
Posted: Fri May 01, 2009 9:06 am
Barb, you have raised a very important issue (good aid vs. bad aid) and I wish there were enough bodies around to discuss it in depth. Anyway, you've taken a critical step by trying to sort it all out. I want to come back to it, but my time has been unusually constrained in the last few weeks. By the way, as you noticed, the forum has been misbehaving a lot (debug mode) for the past several months and it appears that there is nothing that I can do about it, short of starting a new forum of the same type or on a different platform. This current Ann Pale platform lent to a much deeper exploration of the issues and a much higher level of congenial exchanges, and sometime ago I would have been tempted to simply create a new database with the same software and the same basic membership. Unfortunately, most of our comrades in arms have selected to take an indefinite leave of absence, without so much as a goodbye. So for me, it's a catch-22: The forum is prone to very frustrating "debug errors" and is also very slow, so I should change that by starting a new one. On the other hand, this would require A LOT of time and effort, which would be wasted if our old friends do not come back and I fail to attract a new generation of Ann Pale'ers. That is the uncomfortable place I find myself in: I want to continue the dialogue, but I don't want to waste my time, and as a result I don't know what to do.
As for your worries about not wanting to be disrespectful, you should know by now(!) that we have valued your friendship on this board very much and will always do so. If you had been disrespectful, we would have noticed right away. On Ann Pale, we value frank talk (and this is why my answers to you and others have always been very frank) but we have a low tolerance level for disrespect. That's one of the characteristics that has made the Ann Pale forum somewhat unique in the Haitian cyberspace. I have always welcomed you with open arms, I do consider you a good friend, so don't worry about things like that. Even when I adopt a frank tone, you should know where I am coming from just as I know where you are coming from.
I can't say more than this today, but I hope that others will join us in terms of discussing what constitutes helpful humanitarian assistance to Haitians as opposed to poisonous (humanitarian???) AID to Haiti.
Posted: Fri May 01, 2009 9:47 pm
Good aid versus bad aid.
Indeed Barb and Guy. This is a matter most appropriate to discuss now, not only in regard to Third world countries in general, but especially in regard to Haiti in particular.
Those last decades have seen many priests, preachers, pastors, you name it, go to Haiti to help. I do no think there is any country in the Caribbean where there has been such an influx of religious people.
I am not knocking anybody down, don't misinterpret me, but I believe there is great need for regulations in this area. Because of the lack of functionning institutions in the country, because of the lack of controls, anyone can have a ball in Haiti. We have already seen too many of those "good samaritans" involved in all kind of morally unacceptable behaviour. You all probably know about that. On the other hand, we have seen some who do absolutely fantastic work in Haiti, real heroes.
To me the dilemma is the following. Haiti does need the help, all the help that it can get. However, during these last few decades, because of the incompetence of our leaders, our political class, our intellectuals, in short, our politicians, Haiti is in the midst of a profound leardership and governance crisis. It seems that people do not think anymore. Meanwhile, the poor suffer more and more every day. They need all the help they can get and they receive a lot from the religious people. But, the danger I see in that is that we have developped such a "dependent mentality" (mentalité d'assisté) , that we are now running the risk of abdicating everything. right now, we cannot have a budget without foreign money; we cannot eat eat without hadouts from abroad; we cannot maintain a road without foreign institutions putting pressure for that to be done. and I could go on and on. Even in areas where we could do things for ourselves, our leaders have abdicated their responsibilities. And the international community is too happy to use Haiti as their laboratory.
So in the midst of all this, how are you going to sort the "good aid and the bad aid"? In fact I do not even think that we should qualify the aid in those terms. Aid is good or bad depending on what the gvt. does with it. I wold say that in the case of Haiti, aid has been bad in general, for the simple reason that our leaders have not had any plans for this country, no vision, no planning, no nothing! The international community may promise you billions and Billions, but you do not put your house in order, it will not gve that money! Then many Haitians will start blaming this international community, accusing it of not keeping its promises! Yet, it does not realize that "charité bien ordonnée commence chez soi!"
As long as we do not help ourselves, the international community will not help you, never mind the promises.
So should we be talking about "bad aid - good aid" in Haiti? Maybe we ought to start changing the vocabulary..not that it would do any good, because the change has to in the minds...
As you can see, I not against aid, becasue to me, it what you do with the aid that is important. For, should the aid originate from foreign sources, fi the beneficiary gvt. does not kow how to manage it, it will be taken advantage of: sòt ki bay, enbesil ki pa pran...
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 4:35 pm
Yes, Serge, the Haitian government has to put its house in order in order to attract foreign and domestic investments. However, I do believe indeed that there is good aid and bad aid, and it is important to be able to make a difference between the two. Any aid which, by design, perpetuates our dependence on the foreign agencies will not in the end be beneficial to Haiti. Putting a Band-Aid on a severely infected wound will not help cure the wound and may even make it worse in the long run than doing absolutely nothing.
By the way, the current thread is related to this one: http://annpale.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=22373
. I think that Barb branched out a bit, but it's important to keep the arguments already advanced in mind. I, for one, have thought for a long time that Dambisa Moyo was right on the money. Now, this does not at all mean that Haiti should become so insular as to refuse any sort of foreign assistance. As miserable as our actual conditions are, we could not afford to take that position. I think that is what Barb thought we were saying at first but it is not so. Basically, what I am saying, bluntly, is that if one is a prostitute and needs tricks to survive, one should still worry of not contracting AIDS through a john that provides lots of money along with the deadly virus. In my own mind, that deadly virus compares to dependence by design. Gifting food or clothing that kills local initiatives, local businesses, and local production is simply BAD AID, because that sort of aid will simply kill you in the end. Imposing structural adjustments (as a condition of financial assistance) that prioritize the donor's wants over the receiver's needs is again a form of AID that is not only BAD but can even be deadly in the long rum. I grant you that it is the job of a responsible government to make the distinction between the two, but if we are not at that point historically, if we appear to be saddled with incompetence and corruption, then we have ourselves a responsibility to raise awareness about those vital issues instead of waiting for our moribund political class to suddenly take charge. Clearly, they do not think that we know any better. Just as clearly, we will have to demonstrate to them that we do.
Posted: Sat May 02, 2009 6:38 pm
I posted three related articles on the recent election in Haiti. I am rather surprised nobody has responded. Maybe I am reading more into things than are there, but it looks to me like it could be seen as a mandate to express the desire to reject the stranglehold the Haitian elite and the UN/World Bank/US and Canada/whatever have on political control. The election that brought Preval into office saw huge numbers of voters, and for this one, with no Lavalas candidates allowed, people couldn't stay far enough from the ballot box. It looked like a lot more than being too busy to get to the polls. It looked like a boycott.
Many years ago, the then governer of Minnesota, Jessie Ventura, was on Prairie Home Companion talking about his experiences as governer. He said he campaigned on a platform of "Power to the People." When he was elected, he said, he tried to give power to the people, but the people politely but firmly gave it right back to him. They absolutely didn't want it. They wanted him to do it all, not them. Much easier to blame somebody else.
How much more must that be the case in a place that has the violent and turbulent history of a place like Haiti? Most people just want to quietly get on with living their lives however they can. Not only are the problems intractible, but shaking the status quo can be hazardous to your health.
Best keep one's head down.
I would also be happier if there was more blame for those who exploit and redirect the foreign aid coming in as well. Human nature being what it is, it is difficult to resist the opportunity to pocket a little cash as it goes by, but it is precisely that act of pocketing the cash that allows the virus of corruption to gain a foothold in the country.
In what I have read about Haiti, there has been a great deal of bad advice given to Americans about what Haiti needs to prosper. In the book "Best Nightmere on Earth," there is a description of a discussion at a dinner party about the need to find a Communist theat to wave at the Americans in order to loosen the pockets of the US government donors--that the US would be much more likely to fork over big bucks if it could be claimed that the money was needed to fight Communism. When decisions about Haiti are being made in the US by people who could not find Haiti on a map and have absolutly no understanding of the country's history, is it any surprise that they are going to listen (in so much as they listen at all) to people who appear to talk and dress ideologically as they do and to not listen to the people who can only talk to them in Kreyol, a language they don't understand?
Watching the television show on buying a child in Haiti, I saw a number of newly minted Haitian experts in the business of buying children for foreign tourists spring directly from the soil when this journalist started asking questions. It was obviously to me that the smell of money brought out amazing new job skills in the people standing about and overhearing conversations. Nobody said, "Oh My God! You Foreign Pig! Keep your dirty hands off our precious children!" Nobody called the police. In fact, a number of people stood ready to pimp when the opportunity presented itself.
So I think that there is plenty of blame to go around.
Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 7:20 am
[quote]So I think that there is plenty of blame to go around.[/quote]
For sure, Barb. You have NEVER seen me argue that the blame only goes one way. But looking at who is to blame is a defensive stance which will not produce any remarkable results. Your stated aim was to differentiate between good and bad forms of foreign AID. It would be way too uncritical to assume that all forms of assistance are good for an underdeveloped country, just as it would be to assume that all forms of medication are good for a patient. L'enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions, comme on dit. Hell is paved with good intentions, as they say... [leave alone the dishonorable ones!].
If you truly want to satisfy your quest, I would suggest that you plan a trip to Haiti and do some personal investigation. I may be able to make some recommendations to you. Don't rely on the imagery of TV. While their images are real, they may not at all reflect the larger reality. I have some friends in Spain who are not at all interested in visiting the United States, because as far as they understand, practically everyone in the U.S. owns a gun and it's like an old Texas cowboy shoot'em kind of town. No, people who are interested in helping Haitians and knowing the truth about Haiti should go and visit for themselves. One of the places that I would highly recommend to you is the economic development center at Pandiassou. You may well come back and understand better that not all forms of economic assistance are the same.
No matter whom you choose to blame, some results do speak for themselves.
Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 12:48 am
I hear you.
When I hear somebody up and soapboxing about the public schools and what is wrong with them, I always want to say, "Please! Come visit! Come observe! THe reality is so much more rich and complex and wonderful and difficult than they think.
I really would love to visit Haiti and perhaps someday I will be able to. Right now I am working full out trying to get a kid through college.
As far as good aid vrs bad aid, let me see if I can get back on topic. When I heard Desmond Tutu speak in Philadelphia years ago, he talked about people with lots of apples sharing their apples with the people who did not have apples and that made a great impression on me. He was speaking globally--that parts of the world have too much and parts of the world do not have enough and the human thing to do is share. But one cannot just show up with a casserole or a pie to offer help to someone thousands of miles away whom you do not know.
So it has to be more complicated than that.
Posted: Fri May 08, 2009 10:15 pm
I can see I am keeping everyone awake with this.
Posted: Sun May 10, 2009 7:51 pm