Where We Work
Our community -- sometimes known as the Plateau, the Grand-Diable, or simply Plateau Anse-Rouge -- is situated on the southern coast of Haiti's northern peninsula. Located five miles from the nearest town and 2.5 hours from the nearest major city, Gonaïves, we are certainly off the beaten path. In fact, the path beats us! The road from Gonaïves is unpaved and the mountains, rocks, holes, and bumps of many kinds wreak havoc on our vehicles and our bodies!
Lemuel is situated within the driest valley in Haiti. The arid conditions have been exacerbated by deforestation. This has diminished rainfall to the point that the area is essentially in perpetual drought. The drought is often broken only by destructive hurricanes.
Communities in the area are known as the "Plateau communities" because they make up a flat area between the sea to the south and the mountains to the north, east, and west.
Aerial footage of the massive hand-dug canal system.
As a remote agricultural community, beleaguered by drought and hurricanes, this corner of Haiti's northwest has had little opportunity to adopt modern practices or lifestyles.
The people of the Plateau have historically lived off agriculture and animal husbandry. Gardens provide food as well as cash crops, while animals act as a sort of savings account, or "live stock."
Despite the drier conditions of the area, people once were able to live more comfortably due to a system of canals (see video above) that bring rainwater from the mountains to the gardens in the valley. However, as drought has increasingly enveloped the area, rainfall has lessened, even in the mountains. Additionally, most of the mountain springs that provided fresh water have dried up. As a result, it has become harder for people to make a living from their gardens and livestock.
Lemuel continually seeks creative ways to provide income -- with dignity, through hard work -- for the families of the Plateau.
WHAT'S WITH THE NAMES?
As you read and hear more about Lemuel you may see our community referred to by several different names. Here's why:
Grand-Diable: This is the official name of our little section of the larger Plateau area. However, since it means "Big Devil," the people have never liked this name and don't particularly like using it. However, when we need to be very specific in talking about our particular community, we sometimes use this name. We hope some day to change it. Some people believe this name is actually a mispronunciation of Grand d'Arbre, which they say was the intended original name. That name means "Big Tree," which is interesting and fits with the stories we've heard of this area once being densely forested.
The Plateau: Although there are many "Plateau" communities, our specific community is often referred to as "the Plateau." This may have developed as a way to avoid calling it Grand-Diable.
Plateau (Platon) Anse-Rouge: Anse-Rouge is the nearest town. It is situated about five miles south, right on the ocean. The larger valley in which our community lies, is considered "the plateau above Anse-Rouge." This name can refer to our community or to the larger area. Platon is the Creole spelling of Plateau.
Anse-Rouge: As explained above, Anse-Rouge is the name of the sea-side town closest to us. However, Anse-Rouge is also the name of the commune in which the town and many other towns, villages, and communities are a part. Therefore, our community is technically in "Anse-Rouge" even if we are miles from the town itself.
Platon Mabrasier: If you look us up on Google Earth you will see Platon Mabrasier. This is not exactly accurate as this name refers to an area slightly south of us.