Journeying through the mountains of Haiti to see the face of Justice
A reflection by Nicky Santos, S.J.
In a number of instances, Pope Francis invites us to go to the margins to encounter the real lives of the poor. In many respects my trip this August was such a journey.
I had the privilege of journeying with Kim Lamberty through the mountains of Haiti, visiting associations of coffee growers who benefit from the Just Haiti model of business. My interest in the trip to Haiti was to understand this business model and, as a co-formulator of the Integrative Justice model, to assess Just Haiti's conformity with the normative prescriptions developed in this Integrative Justice model.
When I signed up for this trip I had no idea how bumpy and treacherous
the mountain roads in Haiti were. On our first day as we dro
ve from the Torbeck area to Baraderes and then to Fond TorTue there w
ere many a time I thought to myself that I would be lucky to get through this tr
ip alive. Well, I am writing this account so I did, thanks to an excellent driver and the grace of God of course.
This trip to Haiti was on the heels of two other international trips: in July, one to Ghana and the other to Kenya. In all these trips I was able to briefly enter the lives of the poor, momentarily experience the struggles they face, be inspired by their resilience and at the same time be appalled by the injustices of the world we live in and to renew my commitment to work for justice in whatever way I could, however small. While I could have perhaps studied Just Haiti's business model from their website, what was important was to see it in action and to hear the stories of the coffee growers and to judge for myself whether Just Haiti's claim that it provided maximum benefit for the coffee growers was indeed true.
We visited three associations of coffee growers: KDB in Fond TorTue (Baraderes region), OPCDEL in Toy-Toy (Belladere region) and one in Beaudachita (Leogane region). My assessment after my trip is that Just Haiti does provide much value to the coffee growers. In all three locations, the coffee growers were extremely happy to do business with Just Haiti. Earlier, they had been accustomed to being exploited by coffee speculators or unscrupulous middlemen. With Just Haiti not only were they grateful for a higher price for their coffee but also a share of the profits after final sales in the U.S. (benefits as they call them).
Just Haiti's model is indeed a unique one, although it borrowed initial ideas from a Mexican model. Just Haiti's model uses a combination of earned revenue (selling coffee) and contributed income (contributions and support from U.S. partner organizations to the coffee growers' associations). However, unlike most social entrepreneurship organizations that I am aware of, contributed income does not come just by way of a one-time grant but rather a process of constant accompaniment. Further, I also believe that Just Haiti's model conforms to the normative prescriptions of the Integrative Justice Model (IJM) for impoverished markets. For those not familiar with the IJM, I mention the key elements of the framework briefly here: (1) authentic engagement without exploitative intent; (2) co-creation of value; (3) investment in future consumption; (4) interest representation of all stakeholders; and (5) long-term profit management.
[Nicky is a Jesuit priest from India and currently a member of the Wisconsin Province. He is an assistant professor of Marketing at Marquette University, Milwaukee and is co-director of the University's social innovation initiative. He is also co-chair of Marquette's CRS Global Campus Initiative.]
Note from Just Haiti: We thank Nicky for his interest, his accompaniment and his support in words and action. We invite all readers to
DRINK COFFEE, GROW JUSTICE!