How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as a social innovator - this is where my passion lies. I want to try to figure out how we break the cycle of extreme poverty once and for all by looking at how market based solutions can help achieve this goal.
What is your mission?
For a long time now my focus has been to figure out solutions that can break extreme poverty. As we grow as a society, there's always going to be somebody richer than somebody else, so we may not be able to eradicate poverty but I believe we have the capability and resources to address extreme poverty.
Extreme poverty is not having access to basic goods and services such as clean energy, nutrition, health care and education. Those four pillars for me, categorise extreme poverty. If you do not have access to those four things, you are in extreme poverty. If we can work together as a society to create universal access to those four things then I believe we can eradicate extreme poverty in a very short period of time.
Tell us about an exciting project/initiative you are working on that you would like to share with the world?
Right now, I am working on several different ideas. The goal is to test these ideas in a country like Haiti where 82% of the population is living on less than $2.40 dollars a day, and 55% is living on less than $1 per day. If our initiatives can work in Haiti, where poverty is so extreme, then chance are these ideas can work in other societies.
Our projects are based around how people can access clean energy, nutrition, health care and education. As social entrepreneur, I am looking at how we can tackle these issues on a market based approach, rather than through philanthropy and aid. Although there's a place for these approaches, I do not think they can solve all the problems in the world. I believe a market-based approach is the only way we will have long-term sustainability and solve problems once and for all.
In terms of addressing one of the key pillars, energy, we have been working on a clean cook stove project. In Haiti there is a big problem with deforestation, as 95% of the population relies on charcoal for cooking stoves to cook daily meals. This puts stress on the forests, coupled with the fact that 82% of habitants are living on the poverty line where the option of switching to a cleaner fuel is almost non-existent. Therefore, we decided to tackle the issue at its roots.
We realised that people are using very inefficient charcoal stoves, and so we created a stove that reduced charcoal use by 50-60%. These stoves are very efficient and do not require a behavior change, in doing so we have saved the user 50% of their cost of energy - this equates to 23-30% of their income. We are also reducing the demand on charcoal and therefore having a positive impact on forestry.
It's a simple solution that has multiple impacts at all levels which is easily implemented, yet culturally sensitive.
What does it mean to you to be an environmental laureate?
Being an environmental laureate is a very positive thing. It's always good to feel like you are being recognised for something you are working so hard on. It’s helping me to become more focused, seek further, and find solutions that can have a real impact.
It fuels me to do more and fight to find more innovative solutions to the problems we face. The problems are there, they aren't going to go away, and we as the people need to find ways to solve them. Being part of this group gives me even more enthusiasm to do this, and fight for the people.
What do you think is the potential if we unite environmental laureates to collaborate together?
My resources are limited but imagine if we could come together and multiple our impact by the hundreds. I am always looking to work with others towards our common goal and vision. By working together, we can have a much greater impact and take things to the next level.
What are the top three issues you would like to address?
My four main areas of interest are, education, nutrition, health and access to food.
I'd like to be able to address these issues, but in a way that is sustainable. We need to find ways to create systems that allow people to access basic services in a way that is sustainable and in a way that they can pay for themselves. That's my main focus right now.
What are the benefits of being part of a bigger organization and collaboration such as EEF?
As a social entrepreneur, sometimes you feel like you are in this fight on your own - it's good to know that they are like-minded people that are also talking about similar issues. It's always a good thing to be part of something where you know people understand you, or they are going through the same thing as you. The platform even provides opportunity to get emotional support.
When I go to the annual conference every year, it's refreshing to be in the same room as people that are tackling similar issues in other countries across the world. The conference provides a space to share ideas and collaborate, knowing that we are in it together.
Being part of the EEF also gives me credibility. You are not just a lone wolf but we are part of something that is bigger than ourselves.
What do you think the laureates should focus on at the next big meeting in March 2018?
I'd like to see a focus on market-based innovation that can tackle extreme poverty. Previously, the focus has been on philanthropic solutions. Whilst philanthropy itself is good, it will not enough to solve issues on its own. We need to find ways to create sustainability.
Have you met anyone through EEF (ICEL) who has become a project partner?
I have not yet collaborated with anyone that I've met through the event, or the platform. I am hoping that will change soon, and I call again on anyone who wants to join me.
The environment is for all of us. Global warming will affect us all therefore we all need to work together. I offer my support to others, if there is a project I can add value to then I want to do so. If other laureates feel there are ways to collaborate with me, then I invite them to join me in this fight.
How would you encourage young people to get involved with the movement?
Here in Haiti we have begun the one day "Ourness" initiative, which we are lobbying the government to make part of the curriculum. We are piloting the project in 15 schools around Haiti, targeting about 5,000 individual students.
We spend a whole day in a school, bringing in speakers, entertainment and demonstrations. The focus is on local resources, and teaching students how they can get involved with their community. The project aims to get students thinking about what they can do in their immediate environment that can have a positive impact. For example instead of leaving a plastic bag on the floor, recycle it.
What is your big hope/ambition for the next 10 years?
My hope is that within the next 10 years we can finally say we have come up with a solution that is providing people with a real path out of extreme poverty. I'd love to see the model we are developing be scaled up, and used worldwide. It's not something that I can make happen on my own, so I welcome anyone who wants to join me on this journey.