Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming elections, one hopes that promoting agriculture and rehabilitating the environment will be high priorities for the next administration. Countries that import the majority of their food staples, as Haiti does, are vulnerable to price shocks when international food prices increase. Rural development depends in large part upon making agriculture viable again. This will require tackling environmental degradation, improving disaster preparedness, upgrading infrastructure and resolving long simmering land tenure issues. These challenges are difficult but not insurmountable.
Below is an article by Stephen Leahy on environmental degradation in Haiti, which the head of United Nations Development Program (UNDP)/Haiti calls one of the worst case scenarios in the world. While the situation is grave, there is hope. Small organizations such as Floresta have been promoting innovative and replicable solutions such as "living terraces" that promote livelihoods and prevent disasters at the same time. Larger organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations, and others are developing a three year multi billion dollar Haitian Recovery Framework to be released later this year. The framework would invest unprecedented funds into preserving Haitian watersheds and promoting food security. Engaging the government, involving communities, and ensuring long term support could help halt, and one day reverse, the environmental damage.
One must be entrepeneurial to survive on less than a dollar a day. A wide variety of organizations throughout the world are using microfinance, the provision of small loans, to tap this entrepeneurial spirit and help rural women improve their livelihoods. Pioneered by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, this pro poor model has been proven effective again and again in India, Rwanda, Haiti, and elsewhere. The number of organizations offering micro-credit in Haiti has grown considerably but there is still a need for expansion.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel ran an article concerning the failure of reforestation efforts in Haiti. While little progress has been made to date, there have been small successes. We can learn a great deal by examining the programs which are doing well, asking ourselves why, and then replicating them.