What does it mean to buy local? For many people, it’s a way of showing their support for locally-owned businesses. For Peacebuilding Solutions, it’s a central component of our method of providing aid.
Why? Let’s take Haiti as an example. For every tarp bought in the US, one fewer tarp is purchased from a Haitian merchant. Multiply that by the hundreds of tarps needed in the community of IDPs that PS supports. That’s a huge loss of revenue for Haitian merchants, many of whom are still recovering themselves from the loss and destruction of the Haitian earthquake. It’s entirely possible that by bringing in goods purchased elsewhere, aid organizations could put local merchants out of business, or at the very least hurt their businesses.
That’s not the situation Peacebuilding Solutions wants to cause anywhere that we go. In many cases, these local merchants are a vital part of the economy and of rebuilding what was lost due to natural disasters or violence. They also may employ members of the community we are trying to support. Jobs allow IDPs in Haiti to provide for themselves and their family, and to make improvements to their living situations. Jobs may also mean access to healthcare and schooling, both things that do not currently exist within the community.
Instead of bringing supplies in from elsewhere, Peacebuilding Solutions sources as much as we can from local merchants. In Haiti, that was everything from tarps to goats to shoes!
There’s another reason why Peacebuilding Solutions is dedicated to buying local. We believe that the communities themselves should be active partners in any intervention we carry out. Afterall, a community knows its needs better than any outsider ever will.
In Haiti, this was accomplished by working with the community to identify what their needs were and what items could help address those needs. The community came up with a list of agricultural tools that they needed. At the time, they were renting the tools each day, which was a huge cost for the community.
Peacebuilding Solutions agreed that agricultural tools were needed. We gave the community leaders the support they needed to purchase the tools themselves. As our executive director Greg Hodgin says,
“This served a number of purposes: we were giving them the ability to purchase what they felt was best, we were showing our trust in them to help build further trust, and they were easily able to negotiate a better price than Peacebuilding Solutions staff could have gotten”.
The community made the decisions on what tools were needed and where to purchase those tools. Unlike how many aid organizations operate, Peacebuilding Solutions saw buying local as an opportunity to give the community back some of the decision making ability it had lost in the earthquake.
Buying local has been a success for Peacebuilding Solutions and the communities we serve, and we’ll continue to use it moving forward. It’s just one example of many of how Peacebuilding Solutions is different – and how we’re making sure the communities we serve have the loudest voice in the decision making process.