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.
March 22 is World Water Day. Growing up, like many others, I did not appreciate how lucky I was to have clean, safe water. We need it to drink and become sick if we do not have it. We need it for agriculture and would become hungry without it. We need it for washing, bathing, and clean health care facilities. Likewise we need sanitation and hygiene to protect food, water, and health. One billion people around the world still lack clean drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation. It doesn’t have to be this way. World Water Day is an opportunity to ask what we can do in the year ahead to address the world's water crisis.
Denise Green, a Haitian friend and colleague, wrote a blog in November 2007 urging Haiti to go solar. Over the past year, there has been a tremendous increase in coverage of solar energy. With new interest, developments, and possibilities solar energy could make a real difference in countries such as Haiti where oil fluctuations are felt acutely. Haiti is predictably hot and sunny but apart from traffic lights and a handful of schools and homes, it is not widespread. This could change. Perhaps Haiti can learn from the experiences of other countries.