By Jean Hervé Charles
The news came down on Friday night, August 12, 2016, around 6.00 pm, like a thunderbolt: Georges Valmé is dead of a cardiac arrest. One day before the sad news, he made a posting on his Facebook page that was both shocking and funny. It seemed as though he had fought with death and he was the winner.
In my sweet dream of becoming president of Haiti, and winning the herculean task of transforming the country from a failed state into a vibrant one, my secret tool was Georges Valmé. I would use Georges successively as my minister of commerce and my minister of environment.
As minister of commerce, Georges would enlist all the Haitian peasants, who are leaving the countryside in droves for the favellas of the cities, into a brigade of essential oil entrepreneurs. Georges would help them to fabricate and sell those rare and exotic oils in the best giant stores of the world such as Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Marshalls, La Fayette and they would reap thousands of dollars, making them rich like Croesus.
Later, as my minister of environment, Georges would fill the mountains of Haiti with mahogany, cedar and ebony. He would use the PetroCaribe debt of one billion-plus dollars to obtain grants from the environmental organizations and, as a quid pro quo, our debt would be incrementally paid and the equivalent in Haitian currency used for seeding, protecting and tending those trees for harvest in two decades, making Haiti rich like Switzerland for future generations.
For a first time, and for a long time, tears came naturally to my eyes. Since I have been introduced to Georges by Guy, as a friend on Facebook, he has bombarded me and the rest of the world with tidbits on health, gastronomy, science, botany, environmental issues that I was not aware of. Georges was the conscience of Haiti in environmental matters. He was fearless in shaking up the state officials in their responsibility as stewards of the land.
We are all familiar with my lamenting that Haiti for the past 60 years has been going downhill. Georges was showing the way how it could rise up from its ashes. I thought some government officials should know about Georges to bring him into their midst. But they are too preoccupied with their venal needs to notice someone who would make the difference for the welfare of the general population.
Georges was also a human being with his faults. He loved life but also his cigarettes and his cocktails. They do not go along with a body clogged with cholesterol. I was speaking recently with a group of medical volunteers from the United States returning from a tour of duty in the countryside of Haiti. To my question what was the predominant illness of the people? The answer was clear and neat: diabetes.
Haiti, as with the rest of the Caribbean, has been divorcing its natural diet of low fat. The refined products from the United States come with an enticing packaging but with deadly setback that translates into high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol. If the percentage of diabetes is high in Haiti, in the rest of the Caribbean, obesity mainly with women is the number one indicator of disaster to come.
Georges knew all that, in his daily postings on Facebook he warned citizens and states to be vigilant and pro-active in fighting the trend. As a scientist, he used all the techniques of low and the high tech to teach, innovate and get results. Imagine, Georges was producing bread with breadfruit flour on a commercial scale. For you, the health conscious of the world, you the connoisseurs in the Whole Food supermarkets enjoying bread made of breadfruit, a produce rich in potassium that kills thousand of diseases such as high cholesterol, antioxidant, fights infection, absorbs glucose to control diabetes, high in omega 3 and 6, and nourishes the hair.
It seems as though Georges has been taken from us like the Christ who came to show us the way. He was to go in spite of the fact that he knew all that was worth knowing to lead a great life. Georges knew he had to have his coconut drink every morning, from the shell.
A gentleman farmer, Georges was at ease with rural as well with the elite high class Haiti. His home and his workshop were open to all, distributing seedlings and advice to all those who made the pilgrimage to his ranch in Leogane, Haiti. May the state of Haiti that did not recognize him while he was alive, like Jesus who was not recognized in Israel in his time, become the vanguard of Georges missionary zeal of rendering this world the perfection that God made it to be with the contribution of each one of us according to the talents transmitted to us through our genes or our education!