HAITI – The water in Haiti’s biggest lake is about 1/3 as salty as the sea, so it’s no good for drinking or irrigating plants. Lake Azuei (Oz-Way) is a picturesque and inviting setting, but the people who live around the lake are amongst the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Some of the men ride double on motorcycles to far off jobs in Port-au-Prince, but others are unemployed or eek out a living chasing tiny fish with homemade nets from leaky sailboats while wives sun-bake cookies made of lake mud mixed with a bit of butter and sugar. Illiteracy is the norm and until lately, school was not an option for the children of Lake Azuei, so it’s rare that anyone breaks the generational mold of poverty.
Operation Blessing is working to help make Lake Azuei a better place to live. We built a beautiful school on the hill overlooking the lake, hired a team of local teachers and equipped the building with solar-powered lights and a huge cistern that we fill with our water truck, Through the generosity of partners, we conduct a nutritional feeding program for the students; train local community health workers; conduct medical clinics; run adult literacy classes and plant swarms of baby tilapia in the lake, but still—one critically important element has been missing and the villagers continue to suffer. Water poverty, financial poverty and poor health always go hand-in-hand, but it’s the lack of an adequate source of fresh, safe water that’s the biggest obstacle to a better life in places like Lake Azuei.
But we have good news for Lake Azuei – we have recently secured the donation of a brand new desalination system capable of turning salty water into 8,000 gallons a day of sweet water for drinking, hygiene and drip irrigation. The system will be entirely solar powered and will dramatically transform the lives of those in the area.
Since the soil around the lake is salt-encrusted and rainfall is meager, it’s been impossible to raise crops conventionally. When the new water desalination system is in place, we will train villagers in methods of agriculture that have proven so effective for us in Guatemala using raised beds, drip irrigation and home-brewed organic fertilizers. The new agriculture project will not only produce nutritious veggies for hungry villagers, but even more important, provide fresh produce that villagers can sell.