College Kids Learn Real World Lessons Of Sustainability In Haiti


What to do when you’ve heard about the poverty and environmental problems facing the people of Haiti but are unsure if the reality matches up with what you see in the media? Well, first visit to see for yourself, but then look to find a way to make a positive and sustainable difference. At least that’s what University of Miami students Dipesh Patel and Samira Sami have chosen to do by working through their local Rotaract group in conjunction with Project Medishare on a project to make Haiti’s Central Plateau a more sustainable place to live. It’s not that they set out with a clear vision in mind of an environmentally sustainable Haiti to pursue, but while doing research on the huge social problems facing Haiti and observing the severe deforestation that has taken place in that country they came across a food stuff that’s been in use there for a long time but had recently undergone some dramatic changes that got them thinking in an entirely different way about the environment and how it relates to the local economy and our everyday lives as well.... Essentially, the traditional foodstuff made of locally grown agricultural products and called Akamil that was used in Haiti had required a tremendous amount of time to cook over charcoal fires in the past, and quickly went to waste on the shelf if not consumed in a timely fashion. Ultimately the charcoal necessary to cook it came from local timber, which helped add to the critical levels of deforestation going on there while much of the food ended up going to waste. So enter this new and improved form of Akamil which takes just 20 minutes to cook as opposed to 60 minutes, and lasts far longer on the shelf than the previous version so a lot less goes to waste before consumption as well. The combined benefits thereby leading to less deforestation in Haiti’s Central Plateau as the amount of charcoal needed for cooking is reduced to 1/3 of its original demand, and people can begin to move from subsistence farming towards a cash crop that will improve their lives as the product lasts longer on the shelf once it gets there.

So what problem could then exist with this new and improved product that two motivated and caring college students would be drawn to tackle? Well, the need for the appropriate machinery to grow and process the new form of Akamil in Haiti’s Central Plateau is very real, and so Project Medishare decided to get involved. After witnessing the commitment of the people who staff that non-profit along with the realities of what they knew to be a very real need, Dipesh and Samira decided to make it their business to help raise the $125K necessary to provide the machinery needed to improve people’s lives in the near term and enable them to work towards a more sustainable future at the same time. So far these two very passionate humanitarians and newly minted environmentalists have been able to raise roughly $85K by networking with other Rotaract groups, and logging thousands of miles across Florida as they educate other college kids in the process...

But that’s not all, because while both Dipesh and Samira initially undertook this project simply because they saw the need for someone to help improve the lives of the Haitian people; I think what’s important to note is that what they’ve really discovered in themselves as a result is a newfound appreciation for how humans depend on the environment for our very existence, and how the manner in which the environment is treated by the people who depend on it is a huge determining factor in the quality of life that those people will enjoy. Ultimately they’re hoping that other college students choose to get involved in projects such as this not just because it’s an excellent opportunity to network and learn while making a positive difference, but because it will help other future leaders like themselves to be able to better understand how humans, the environment, and the economy all interact; and the priority that must be placed on an environmentally sustainable future if we are to ensure a brighter future for all of humanity as well…

Tags: Haiti


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