Beyond the Beaches

by tuftsigl
Aug 12
Dara Gbolahan is a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) candidate at the Fletcher School as well as an Empower fellow.
When one hears about The Dominican Republic, it’s mostly in the context of luxury vacations and sunny beaches. Even the tourists that travel here to bathe in the sun and clear blue water rarely see what lies right beyond the water. If one were to just walk a bit beyond the beaches, one would begin to see a stark contrast from the luxury resorts and restaurants and begin to form a clearer picture of what the Dominican Republic is like. It’s nearly unbelievable that you can walk from mega rich to super poor in less than 5 minutes. 
The Dominican Republic is a small country on the island of Hispaniola. With a per capita gross national income of about 5,500 USD, many Dominicans struggle to make ends meet. More than a third of the country’s total population live in poverty and almost 20 per cent are living in extreme poverty. While those are pretty grim statistics, Dominicans of Haiti origin are among the most vulnerable. Without Dominican documentation most are socially excluded and subjected to live in slums called bateyes, with poor living conditions and little to no incomes.
These primarily rural populations suffer under extreme poverty and have little access to nutritious food due to both the physical and economic inaccessibility to food. Produce markets are not accessible in rural communities and the few that are significantly more expensive than produce in city markets. People in rural areas find it difficult to afford the higher prices in their communities or have to travel to the city to find decently priced food for their families. 
My research project seeks to delve into the problem of food inaccessibility in the bateyes. My objective is to find out if the creation of a food cooperative is an effective and sustainable remedy to the problem these populations face. A food cooperative would procure and sell nutritious foods to the community at the same prices at which it buys them. The cooperative would ask for a small monthly contribution from the community enabling it to cover operational costs. In my market research, I’ve been interviewing women regarding their food preferences, purchasing habits, availability of foods in the community and income levels. So far, it’s been really interesting to see and experience what life is like for those living beyond the beaches. 

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