Given ongoing political instability, it is easy to lose sight of long-term development issues in Haiti like deforestation. Agriculture, with the food and rural jobs it provides, depends in part on strategically reversing environmental degradation. There are many challenges in doing so - electrifying major cities from which the demand for wood charcoal comes, creating alternative fuel sources that are accessible and less expensive the charcoal, creating more jobs from protecting the environment than from exploiting it, and of course, education. North Haiti Christian University (NHCU) is one instiution with programs to promote agriculture and protect the environment. A short BBC article by Gemma Handy about NHCU is linked and below.
Charcoal production is a cause of deforestation in Haiti although the true extent is debatable. Most Haitians in the countryside do not have affordable energy alternatives and many livelihoods are linked to making, transporting, and selling it. Rather than lamenting the country's dependence on charcoal, an alternative approach would be to help charcoal producers switch to fast-growing trees and harvest them in a more environmentally responsible manner. The Haitian government, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, and the World Bank are promoting efforts to do so in rural areas. More information in the AP article below.
In conjunction with Timberland, HP Inc, and the Clinton Global Initiative, Pittsburgh-based company Thread International PBC LTD has launched a three year pilot project in Haiti to street-level plastic bottle collectors by providing education, health care, and job training. The collectors perform a valuable service as plastic, n addition to being an eyesore, can leech into the soil and clogs drainage canals that are meant to divert water during major storms. More information from Plastics News follows:
Below is an announcement by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) concerning a $9 million grant to promote sustainable land management at Macaya National Park. The park holds one of the country's largest remaining forests and is of historical importance having a fort built by Jean Jacques Dessalines in 1804. For more background about Macaya, take a look at this Forbes Article published in March 2013.
Below is an article by Rashmee Roshan Lall of the Guardian concerning the Haitian government's plan to promote the planting of 50 million trees a year. The success of this campaign will largely depend upon giving people accessible, affordable alternatives to charcoal. Other countries have launched successful reforestation campaigns - hopefully, Haitian government and civil society can now do the same.
The Public-Private Alliance Foundation (PPAF) is holding a consultation on ethanol cookstoves at the United Nations on April 4th. The purpose of the meeting is to bring together stakeholders that could expand production and use of ethanol in Haiti and to raise awareness about how clean energy could slow deforestation and created green jobs. Another good source of information is Project Gaia, which has been promoting ethanol stoves in Mozambique, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Brazil, and most recently Haiti. The full announcement follows.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced a $27 million grant for a pilot program to improve land tenure security in northern and southern Haiti. This grant could benefit up to 40,000 farmers and cut the costs of slow and inefficient land administration services. More importantly, it could potentially be replicated and expanded elsewhere. Land tenure reform may not be particularly sexy, but it is especially important for Haiti's long term development. The full announcement follows.
Below is an invitation to a recycling conference that will be held at Wahoo Bay Beach Resort outside of Port au Prince July 23-24, 2011. If you have been to Port au Prince, then you have seen the plastic bottles clogging up drainage canals throughout the city. This is one of many vulnerabilities during the rainy season. Nationwide recycling would create jobs and clean up Haiti's ever growing cities. To learn more about Ramase Lajan (Gather the Money) visit Haiti Recycling website. Recycling plastic, rubble, and trash could become important components of Haiti’s reconstruction.
The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the Haitian and Norwegian Governments, the Earth Institute, and a consortium of NGOs have launched "The Cote Sud (South Coast) Initiative to rehabilitate degraded land on Haiti's southern claw. The initiative will include reforestation, erosion control, fisheries management, mangrove rehabilitation, and sustainable tourism. If successful, UNEP and partners hope to expand into other regions. A press release follows and additional information is available at the Haiti Regeneration website.
Any discussion on transitioning from emergency relief to development in Haiti must take into account environmental issues. Environmental degradation is a major factor behind decreasing agricultural productivity, hunger and malnutrition, urbanization, and vulnerability to natural disasters. Since the earthquake, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has been working with the Haitian government to build its capacity to address environmental challenges such as marine management, clean energy promotion, and trans-boundary reforestation. A brief summary of UNEP's activities in Haiti follows below.