by Daniel Schnitzer
I would not have imagined that the potential to fabricate top-notch water turbines or seed oil expellers would exist in rural Haiti. But this is what local craftsmen at Ecole Atelier (meaning “Fabricator School”), located 25km outside the city of Les Cayes in Camp Perrin, can do. Though I had the chance to meet with the school’s world-weary Belgian director, the quality of my French comprehension was insufficient to get the full history of the operation. But I’m just as happy to take it as a given that a massive, sophisticated metal and cement fabrication complex exists for pretty much anyone to use.
The school gives young people (mostly men) the chance to learn a potentially valuable technical trade. With that knowledge, they are free to use the school’s facilities to produce a product. In this way, the school also functions as a co-op. Some craftsmen have their own mini-businesses and a team of employees. In a country where the low per-capita income makes it nearly impossible to secure capital and start your own business, the Ecole Atelier offers enterprising spirits a chance.
On my first trip to the Ecole, I met two local craftsmen, Osmane and Exilio. Osmane has his own kerosene cooking stove fabrication business, and Exilio is a skilled worker with cement and metal. I bought one of Osmane’s stoves, but was told by the Belgian director that he only sells about one a month. Exilio made me a charcoal-burning metal stove with an insulating layer of clay. I wanted to test their products against the staggeringly inefficient charcoal stoves which are found in most of Haiti. When I return to the Jatropha Pepinye project, I’ll also test Osmane’s kerosene stove with Biodiesel.
Craftsmen like Osmane and Exilio are in a position similar to Nothude and her organization devoted to alternative charcoal production. As suppliers of a useful good or service, they may not be the best people to actually sell it. This is exactly what EarthSpark International’s Clean Energy Store franchises are meant to do. Our franchisees receive, amongst other financial and non-financial support, inventory loans, which they can use to contract with local suppliers of clean energy technology. They can also use that loan to purchase inventory from distributors of other technologies. Since there are presently no distributors of high-quality solar lamps and solar home systems, EarthSpark International is acting as a temporary distributor of these technologies while we work to develop businesses to do this as well.