By Paul Constance, Délugé-Piatre, Haiti
Traffic on the highway that runs up Haiti’s Western shore from Port-au-Prince used to come to a standstill at Délugé-Piatre, a pair of adjacent seaside communities some 70 km north of the capital.
On market days, the stretch of highway that passes through the center of the town became a bazaar where several hundred vendors hawked fruit, vegetables, charcoal, sandals, goat meat, fish and innumerable other goods. Packed shoulder-to-shoulder along both sides of the road, the vendors would display their wares in small piles on the ground, leaving a narrow corridor for trucks, cars and buses to pass through. But since the corridor was jammed with shoppers, vehicles could only inch along, no matter how often they blared their horns.
A typical scene in the old market, which partly covered the highway.
Dust and vehicle exhaust fumes blended with the smell of ripe vegetables and freshly slaughtered livestock. The scene was chaotic, dangerous and decidedly unhygienic.
“There were too many accidents on that stretch of the road on market days,” recalled Gerald Guerrier, a member of a local citizen’s committee that began to lobby the government for a proper market facility six years ago. “It was impossible for people to keep their produce clean,” he added.
The committee approached the Fonds d’Assistance Economique et Sociale (FAES), an IDB-financed government agency that undertakes infrastructure projects with high social impact. Ducarmel François, the FAES director for social projects, said the committee members worked with his staff to acquire a parcel of land around two blocks back from the highway and to agree on a design for a modern market.
Fresh produce for sale.
“The Délugé-Piatre Market is also a story of reconciliation,” said Sophie Makonnen, a sector specialist at the IDB office in Haiti who oversaw the loan that financed the project. “The two communities had a history of not getting along, and the fact that they were able to sit down together and cooperate on this project was a real achievement. Both sides were intensely involved during the construction phase, visiting the site every day, and they even formed a committee to oversee the operation of the market.”
The agreed-upon design features two large covered buildings with concrete floors and display counters capable of accommodating 300 vendors. The complex, which cost around US$150,000 to build, also has office space for the market’s management committee.
On August 5, 2005, following an elaborate ceremony that featured speeches by the Haitian minister of agriculture, the mayor of Saint-Marc (the largest nearby city), and numerous government officials, the new market was officially inaugurated. A local priest blessed the facilities, which are painted bright blue and offer sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea. Several young dancers entertained the large crowd, and afterwards everyone toured the counters stacked high with produce, meats and dry goods.
Emilio Cueto, the IDB’s representative in Haiti, also spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The market is simply beautiful,” Cueto later told IDBAmérica. “I doubt there is a more solid, practical, hygienic and functional market in all of Haiti. And the most important thing is that the market’s management committee took intensive ownership of the project from the very beginning and they are tremendously proud of the outcome.”
The view inside one of the new covered market pavilions.
François told IDBAmérica that FAES hopes to replicate the market design in numerous other Haitian towns that still currently have unsafe roadside markets. Four other markets are currently under study or construction with IDB funds, and several more are in the pipeline.
The market was only one of the infrastructure improvements that Délugé-Piatre’s residents have identified as part of a broader community development plan. Local roads, water service, schools and health facilities are all in dire need of investment. But for the moment local residents can at least shop in a clean, safe, shaded facility. And instead of a cloud of carbon monoxide, they can occasionally enjoy an ocean breeze.