The Power of Waste: How Youth are Transforming Cite Soleil, Haiti

By: Daniel Tillias, Executive Director of Pax Christi Ayiti – SAKALA

I was trying to get a sense of the percentage of young kids involved in criminal activity that live in Cite Soleil, the largest underserved community in Haiti. With no hesitation, the response I received was, “100% Jacky.” This cannot be true; I thought. It is not true; however, this is the perception. I dealt with this same belief when I was growing up in this neighborhood.

When everyone thinks your community is bad, it means no one wants to come there to provide services—not even the State or the main non-governmental organizations. The place is underserved or simply not served. Then what people perceived to be true about the community makes its way into being a fact.

The choices seem to be very limited. One can just 100% believe the talk and keep ignoring these people or you go inside the community and understand what needs to be done. I decided to explore what it would take for at least 10% of the 300,000 people living in Cite Soleil to become producers and create enough food for the other 90%.

This is the reason why we started Jarden Taptap in 2010. The name literally translates into the fast garden. After the devastating earthquake hitting Haiti, there was a need for food in the neighborhood. No one wanted to bring the food there, so it did make sense to encourage people to grow their own food.

More than the food security as a need, Jaden Taptap was an opportunity to use agriculture to create economic security as well. This is why we have Fatraka (literally translates into the power of waste). Fatraka empowers youth in the neighborhood to drop their guns and find a shovel to help us clean more than a ton of waste from the community’s streets. This is not only for the environment. We transform the waste into almost one ton of compost — a valuable product that can help farmers in Haiti to have better alternative to chemicals.

Jaden Taptap is so grateful for the grant from GO Campaign, an organization who dared come where not many want to go to see the opportunity of using local actors to transform lives for a better more peaceful environment. The real thanks is from the 1,023 youths, both male and female, who participated. They received a stipend for the first time in their life. They are fully satisfied with the having something they legally worked for.
Now the youth in Cite Soleil have a choice between joining a gang, risking their life, and threatening the peace of the neighborhood. They can collect the organic waste of their community and help produce compost that will help Haitian farmers to have better soil as well as to create more success for reforestation projects using fertilizer.

Agriculture as Masonubu Fukuoka said, “is not only cultivating the soil, it is cultivating mind and spirit.” I believe in Jaden Taptap because I believe agriculture is the last opportunity to take. Where industry has failed to provide the number of jobs needed in the country. Our model is not perfect, but it is sending a message. Through our effort now former gangsters are driving carts collecting waste in Port au Prince. We want people to change their perception on the community. We want people to understand that all this community needs is opportunity. The very little that it takes to train youth in agriculture will make it easier to transform lives of these individuals. Waste can become a valuable product. These underserved kids can become the citizens that will help Haiti return to its time of greatness.