Solidarity as Economic System
for Dealing with Social Crisis
In Haiti, sharing communities are proving more shock-proof in the wake of disaster than market-based economies.
By Beverly Bell
posted Mar 26, 2010
“If it weren’t for solidarity, Haiti wouldn’t be alive today,” is an expression commonly heard here since the earthquake of January 12.
Haiti’s history is based on sharing and cooperation—expressed with gifts and solidarity toward those surviving on the margins. These displays usually go unnamed and unnoticed.
Some are formalized systems. One is called konbit—collective work groups in which members of the community labor without any expectation of compensation or even return. Konbit is the equivalent of a barn-raising, an option for those without enough hands to accomplish the task by themselves or enough money to hire labor. The cooperation of konbit has allowed farmers to harvest their fields and engage in other major work projects from time immemorial.
In sòl—revolving loan funds—a group of women puts a certain amount of money into a common pot each week or each month; the total is given to a different member each time. That way, each woman can, at some point, have enough capital to allow her to make a significant expense: hospital care for a sick mother, a carton of soap bars that she can buy on discount and sell for profit, a new cooking pot for a fried dough business on a street corner. She doesn’t return the allotment and there is no interest to pay; no one profits off of anyone else. The exchanges are based on trust and human relationships.(more...)