by Daniel Schnitzer
One of the most shocking things I’ve learned by working in Haiti is that on average, people spend 6.5% of their annual income on kerosene and candles for lighting their home. According to figures available from the US EPA’s Energy Star program, the average American family spends just 0.5% of their annual income on electricity for home lighting. That’s a 13-fold difference.
In August 2008, EarthSpark International conducted its first survey. By the end of the year we had finished a second one, with 265 households covered total. We trained two local community groups in the town of Les Anglais with the help of a diaspora organization to go out into their community and implement these 20 to 30-minute surveys. This is how we learned just how much families were paying for low quality energy sources.
The importance of this knowledge cannot be underestimated. With it, we can get a sense of what modern energy products and services will be financially sustainable, and how much savings will be generated by switching away from dirty and inefficient fuels and technologies. Community members and groups make their voices heard and become part of something big.
Two teachers from a USAID-supported vocational program helped me train six of their young students on how to engage a person in their community and complete a survey. They will each do eight surveys, earning a nominal monetary reward for their work and gaining useful experience.
I also met with a local group of (mostly) women in nearby Fort Liberte. With the help of Fernand from the UN, who is also a member of the group, about 25 people received training to give EarthSpark International surveys.
From these surveys we can better understand the needs, preferences and constraints of the Haitian people rather than blindly developing a costly project or program which was neither wanted or needed. Most importantly, we gain the trust, respect and support of the community.
You can see more pictures from survey training.