Cash for Work in Ravine Pintade

Posted 18 July 2011

CHF International (Cooperative Housing Foundation International) is a “not-for-profit” institution that works in the humanitarian, housing and development sectors mostly as a contractor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2008, CHF had over US$225 million in contracts and grants, and in 2007 the amount topped US$376 million.

Among other programs in Haiti, CHF runs a Cash for Work program as part of its neighborhood housing reconstruction project called “Katye.” (“Katyè” means “neighborhood” in Haitian Creole.) The program aims to re-house about 650 families in the Ravine Pintade neighborhood.

When this study was being carried out, about 300 people per day were engaged in the Ravine Pintade CFW program. (More recently, CHF has cut back on the CFW jobs as it experiments with “Cash for Production” where the worker is paid according to how much work is actually done, rather than a fixed daily wage.)

Ravine Pintade was a disgrace to the Haitian capital even before the January 12, 2011, disaster. It is a marginalized neighborhood of Port-au-Prince where at least 1,000 shacks and huts are build around a ravine (Ravine Pintade), between Martin Luther King and Pouplard avenues.

A view of the ravine canal, full of garbage. Photo: HGW

Since long before the earthquake, people there have lived in infrahuman conditions. There was no potable water, no health clinic, no latrines. All day long, people threw baggies of fecal matter and other trash into the ravine which dumps its trash into other ravines, eventually emptying out into the Bay of Port-au-Prince.
In an effort to assist in the return of about 1,000 households to their homes, last year CHF International started a rubble removal program in the ravine, and this year the organization inaugurated “Katye.”

CHF representatives declined to answer questions about the cost of their CFW program. However, a USAID audit dated September 24, 2010, noted that at the time, CHF was managing a budget of $1.6 million for CFW jobs alone. According to the audit, between February and June 2010, CHF gave 4,530 people work for a total cost of $543,563. However, the audit did not note how much CHF was paid for administration, supervisor salaries, vehicles, office space, local and foreign employees, and overhead.

Haiti Grassroots Watch suspects that, in addition to carrying with it risks and possibly causing damage to communities, Cash for Work is also ultimately a very costly program when carried out by foreign contractors.

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Students from the Journalism Laboratory at the State University of Haiti's Faculty of Human Sciences collaborated on this series. A student from American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop also assisted.

Haiti Grassroots Watch is a partnership of AlterPresse, the Society of the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS), the Network of Women Community Radio Broadcasters (REFRAKA) and community radio stations from the Association of Haitian Community Media.