A Road to Connect Communities
Published on 3 December 2010

A Road construction project financed by the World Food Programme is transforming lives in the mountains above Port-au-Prince.

A Road construction project financed by the World Food Programme is transforming lives in the mountains above Port-au-Prince.

JACQUOT MERLIN – Until recently, Jacquot Merlin, a small farming community located in the mountains above Port-au-Prince, was only accessible by what people here call a “chemin de cabri” – or a goat track.

With no cars or trucks able to drive to their fields and homes, people living here knew they were close to the city, yet, Port-au-Prince always felt far away.

A project financed by the World Food Programme and implemented by a religious congregation that has been involved in the area for a long time is changing all that. Jacquot Merlin is now connected to the outside world by a 6-kilometer road winding through the landscape. Started only in July, the dirt road is now nearing completion. In just a few months, nearly 800 workers living in the area have literally carved out the mountain by hand to build the road they always wanted. Not one mechanized tool has been used, just picks, shovels and hard labor.

Road construction happens in the morning. In the afternoon, most of the workers go back to what they’ve been doing all their lives: they take care of their fields, where they grow vegetables.

On a hot morning, Anel Jacinthe was busy piling up rocks to build the wall that will anchor the side of the road. “It’s not easy work, he said, but everyone here benefits from this project”. Unlike many of his co-workers, Jacinthe is not a farmer, but he teaches many of their children in a school nearby. He is the father of 2 young girls and was looking for an additional source of income. His wife also found a job on the road construction project. In exchange for their labour, they receive money and food rations. “We got involved in this project because it gives us a steady supply of food and the money helps us buy what we need”, Anel says.

Paying workers with a combination of food and cash is an innovative way for WFP to both ensure that Haitian workers get a steady access to nutritional food, and help them rebuild their lives by providing money resources they can use to pay for household expenses.

Anel Jacinthe sitting atop of a pile of rocks in porte-au-princeBut the benefits of this project go much further. Farmers in the area used to walk hours on steep hills to take the carrots, potatoes and other vegetables they grow to local markets. Now, going to the market and back home on the same day is possible. It’s also much easier to bring food that doesn’t grow here, rice for example, from the markets to the plates of people living on the mountain. Another advantage that’s mentioned repeatedly by the workers here is that their road will save lives. “We’ll be able to bring sick people to the doctor more quickly” said Anel Jacinthe.

For some, who had moved out of the area and settled in Port-au-Prince in search of a better life, a road was all that was necessary to convince them to come back home.

This project is one of more than a hundred and fifty financed by the World Food Programme to increase food security, promote agricultural rehabilitation and boost local markets. Over the next few months, a total of 140,000 Haitians will help their country rebuild through cash and food for work projects.

Back on the mountain, it’s the end of another workday. But before returning home, the workers gather for what has become a new ritual: pay day. Today, it’s the food portion of their salary that is being paid out. Rice, beans, oil and salt rations sufficient for families of up to 5 people are distributed.

Men and women pick up their food and use their new road to bring their salary back home.


Photo gallery: A Road to Connect Communities

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About the author

Stephanie Tremblay

Public Information Officer

Stephanie Tremblay worked for WFP as a Public Information Officer.