A report by Eoin English for the Irish Examiner.
An Irish-led ‘currachs of the Caribbean’ project could help revitalise Haiti’s earthquake-decimated fishing industry.
Seamus O’Brien, from Meitheal Mara, shows people in Haiti how to assemble a currach.
Two currachs, which were flatpacked and shipped from Cork to Tabarre in southern Haiti and rebuilt by locals under the guidance of an Irish boat building expert, have been launched on the Caribbean this week.
And the locals have taken to them like ducks to water, painting them red and blue, the colours of the Haitian flag.
“We now know that 80% of the materials can be sourced locally which makes this project very feasible,” said project teacher, Meitheal Mara’s boatyard manager, Seamus O’Brien. “This is a very positive step and with some small adjustments this can be a really viable project which will change lives. It is an affordable and easy solution which could help replace some of the country’s damaged fishing fleet.”
The project is the result of a collaboration between Cork-based community boat building project, Meitheal Mara, Naomhóga Chorcaí — the largest currach club in Ireland — and a Haiti orphanage project, ESPWA, which has supporters living in Cork.
Agriculture was one of the cornerstones of the Haitian economy before a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck in January 2010, killing an estimated 220,000 people. Its agriculture and fishing industry were virtually wiped out, with hundreds of small fishing vessels wrecked.
Mr O’Brien said he was approached by ESPWA founder, John Cronin, with an idea to teach Haitians how to build their own boats.
“It was a fabulous idea and to be honest, I didn’t think twice about it,” he said.
They arranged for the shipment of two flatpack currachs to Tabarre before Mr O’Brien travelled to Haiti to teach locals how to build them from scratch.
The design was modified to make rebuilding a little easier and the boats have been covered with fibreglass to withstand temperatures of up to 40C.
Seven years on, Haiti is struggling to rebuild after the earthquake. Political unrest, a three-year drought, and two recent hurricanes have hampered the rebuilding and recovery efforts.
But Mr O’Brien said the Haitians are a very resilient people who are striving to become self-sufficient again.