On the road…


On 4th of July we were on the road traveling to various locations in rural Haiti.   Alex and Rachel headed out first to Cotes-de-Fer where they eventually met up with Abdul and Roseval.  There was no distribution event scheduled for Cotes-de-Fer, so they’ll be registering new health beneficiaries.

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Acdi/Voca operates in the Southeastern Department (Sud Est)

Trishan, Tina, and Sheena headed to Grand Grosier where they met up with Peggy and Jiminor.  They had the longest drive.  They followed our car, with Emmet and me, to Belle Anse and then continued on for another two hours or so beyond that, maybe 6 or 7 total hours on the road.  They have a distribution event tomorrow and will also be registering beneficiaries.

Emmet and I met Fernel and  Dr. ____ in Belle Anse.  Tomorrow we’ll travel to Mabriole for a distribution event.  And on Wednesday we’ll travel to Baie d’Orange for another distribution event.  These are expected to be large events with several hundred beneficiaries at each site.

The roads in these regions are barely passable.  On the road to Belle Anse, we did not pass a single other vehicle.  The only vehicles that can travel on these roads are 4-wheel drive land rovers and trucks — most operated by NGOs.

As you can see from the map, the distances are not large–maybe 30 miles from Jacmel to  Cotes-de-Fer or Belle Anse.  But driving 30 miles on these roads takes anywhere from 4-6 hours depending on weather conditions. Look closely at the rut just to the left of the girl in this photo.  That’s typical of the entire road and explains why it takes 4 or 5 hours to cover 30 or 40 miles.   When we looked at maps of the region, we couldn’t believe that these trips were going to take as long as Emmet described.  There were long sections of the road where we could drive no faster than the walkers.

Typical road conditions

Along the road to Belle Anse.

There are no signs on the road warning of washouts or bad curves.  But the Acid/Voca drivers are incredibly skilled and careful.   So we never felt unsafe, although parts of the road can be pretty treacherous when it rains.

A huge lunch in Belle Anse

A huge lunch in Belle Anse

We stopped for lunch in Belle Anse. There are few restaurants in rural Haiti and our driver had to call ahead to give the restaurant time to buy the food at the market.  The restaurant was right on the beach and they served us a feast of freshly caught fish (2 each), plantains, fresh beets, avocado, and rice.  We were stuffed!

Here’s a shot of Belle Anse.  Most of the coast that we saw in Haiti is rocky like this.  Check the big cell tower in the distance.  Our cell phones had 4 bars — not only in town, but also in the surrounding region.  A good sign for our mobile app!

Belle Anse has no electricity or running water infrastructure.  The cell tower is run by generator.  We stayed in a house that Acdi/Voca rents for its staff.  It had electricity supplied by solar panels on the roof — they were still in the process of being installed.

Belle Anse (Beautiful Cove)

Belle Anse (Beautiful Cove)

They had running water supplied by a tank on the roof.  Water is pumped up to the tank.  Depending on the time of day, you could get a hot shower.

After lunch Emmet and I headed out to some farms that Acdi/Voca is supporting.  By then it was raining pretty heavily.  So we huddled under the roof of a farm building and demoed the app to some of the agronomists and their field agents.

Registering agricultural beneficiaries

Registering agricultural beneficiaries

As a “training exercise” the field agents practiced registering some of the farmers that had gathered there. The app worked pretty well in terms of recording the registrations, although we discovered several labels on the form that had not been properly translated into Creole.   The agents seemed to get by okay with the French version.  There was no cell phone service in this particular spot.  The plan in that case is to wait until getting to an SMS hot spot before transmiting the registration data.

After that Emmet and I trudged out to one of Acdi/Voca’s rain gauges to test Rainfall Gauge app that our App Inventor students created during the Hartford RHoK event in June.  Acdi/Voca has 40 or so rain gauges spread throughout the Southeast Department.  Field agents take daily readings and send the data back to the headquarters in Jacmel.  The data are eventually shared with the World Health Organization and other organizations that track drought and other situations that might cause changes in the need for food and agricultural support.

Recording a reading from a rainfall gauge

Right now this is all done by hand.  The rain gauge app transmits the data via SMS, speeding up the whole process.    For this experiment we just used Emmet’s cell phone as the destination number.  And he successfully received the data.

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Recording a reading from a rainfall gauge

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