Combite: a wonderful example of solidarity in action
Letter to Friends around the World # 90

Haiti is a country where the majority of the population makes a living from farming. With soil erosion and climate change, the land is less and less productive and farmers are getting poorer and poorer. In response, a type of solidarity called Combite is practised.

Combite is a form of solidarity where a group of people decide to get together and carry out work that one person could not do alone. There are two possibilities: one can be an associate or a worker. Everybody takes turns to work together for one another. The person who receives the Combite of the day does not necessarily work that day but must provide food for the workers.

Combite is used to do many things like ploughing the land, collecting the harvest, building roads or houses, and supporting household's where someone has died. They sing and dance in order to encourage one another in their work....what better way is there than to enjoy friendship? Even the Haitian capital saw spontaneous acts of Combite during the clear up after the earthquake.

Close to my birthplace, Combite enabled a whole village to emerge from isolation. The villagers could not do much with their crops due to the fact it took over two hours to walk to the nearest road. One day the villagers got together to reflect on their situation, and someone suggested Combite as the way to gain access to the road.

The idea was well received by the whole community. Everybody accepted to work and share whatever food they had as a member of the Combite. After 2 month's of hard graft, they managed to build a beaten-earth road that was large enough to give access to lorries and secure the transportation of the harvest.

With Combite, work can not only be achieved in record time but all aspects of community action become apparent; people do things together in a spirit of collectivity. It's a means of supporting one another and meeting everyone's needs when you have very little to live on. Without this practise, Haitian farming would yield even less since most farmers aren't able to both pay workers and buy seeds at the same time. It's a concrete example of the «tèt ansamm» (heads together) attitude to getting out of difficulty by choosing to act together.

Saint Jean L., Haïti