Haiti has a new President…. and Ben is there to witness history.

Writing from Port au Prince, Haiti, Ben reports that “Moments ago, the official confirmation was broadcast on Haitian TV and all radio stations that Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly was elected with 67% of the popular vote as President de la Republique in Haiti.

This marks the end of a months-long process of political intrigue and concern that the incumbents would seek to control the outcome of the Presidental elections. The people of Haiti, many times disappointed by back room manipulations, have surged to the polls and voted for a novel voice, with Martelly a political novice, but highly popular musician-singer. Sitting in the neighbotthood of Pacot, a neighborhood that stands high on the mountains that overlook the greater Port au Prince area, I heard first the announcement on local radio and then a nano second after the announcement a ROAR erupted 360 degrees around me and from the valley below. Screams, singing, music, some fireworks.

There was much anticipation that the popular vote would be igrnored and manipulated and that the country would erupt into bloodshed, some news reports had focused on the sudden surge in demand for machetes! Instead the news channel is now playing Sweet Mickey and Haiti themed music videos. So the apocalyptic forecasts are null and void.

Now, we will see the country, I hope, seize the momentum of political renewel and continue its emergence out of the trauma and widescale destruction caused by the earthquake of January 12, 2010. While I am a foreigner in this land, I feel some excitement about seeing a popular vote succeed and Martelly become President de la Republique Haitienne.

The CO2 Bambu team is for us a microcosm and an opportunity to experience the popular reaction first hand. Our Technical Director Julio Rizo is in Leogane, with CO2 Bambu´s first build team, comprised of a Haitian Civil Engineer Olrich, a team leader, Vorb, and 6 workers who bring to the table carpentry, masonry, electrical and plumbing skills. This latest incarnation of the CO2 Bambu family has been building bamboo panels, digging foundations and learning from Julio, so that they can complete our first bamboo house in Haiti, on behalf of our customer Lutheran World Federation.

Julio reports that the team stopped work upon hearing the news and started a Fiesta, nica style. Being here in Haiti, with our first Haitian team, on this day is an honor and forms a great first shared memory. For my part, I am happy to report that I have selected the site of our future warehouse in Petit Goave.

Petit Goave is a charming sea-side town which, sadly, has been badly damaged by the earthquake. We are basing ourselves in Petit Goave because this is the site we have chosen in concert with SOGESOL, Haiti´s largest Micro Finance Institution, to launch a nationwide micro-financed housing program.

This bold strategic initiative introduces the notion of mortgage in Haiti and is full of potential for us. SOGESOL has worked closely with CO2 Bambu to scope a potential program and we have a challenge on our hands, to offer pre fab bamboo houses to the 3000 or so SOGESOL customers, mostly small and medium company entrepreneurs, who have lost their home in the earthquake. The fundamental premise is that entrepreneurs are key players in the economic recovery of Haiti and they need decent housing in order to focus on their role as business owners and employment generators.

The hoped for strategic alliance with SOGESOL would not be possible without the financial support of Deutsche Bank Foundation of New York. CO2 Bambu turned to Accion International, a leading global Micro Finance organization, who in turned brokered a relationship with Deutsche Bank Foundation.

Now, the suspense is over on the political front, and for CO2 Bambu, the suspense is over as to whether we will have an opportunity to participate in the reconstruction of Haiti with ecological houses. Bravo Haiti. Bonne Chance a nous tous!

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