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Haiti on Earth Day: The most deforested country in the world.

It’s Earth Day! The day when everyone tries a little harder to appreciate the world we’re surrounded by, enjoy nature, takes a shorter shower, remembers to turn the lights off. Others are taking an even bigger step by doing clean ups at local parks, making donations to nature societies, planting trees, or spreading awareness.

Because the entire world is so interconnected by how we treat the earth, it’s something we can all agree on. Taking care of the earth is something we’re all invested in, for ourselves and for our future. What we do here in the U.S. affects those all the way across the world, just as those in other countries directly affect us in the U.S.

In Haiti, a lot of the trees were torn up by the earthquake and the country is experiencing severe deforestation. In fact, Haiti is one of the most deforested countries in the world, with 98% of its land deforestation. Without trees to keep the soil firm, rainy season has caused many landslides. The trees also keep the soil firm in the case of another earthquake. With such loose soil, the effects of another earthquake would be even more devastating. Haiti has also experienced severe soil erosion, which can be seen in the aerial picture below. The line down the middle is the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, with Haiti on the left. You can see the lush green land that reaches almost until the Haitian border, but then stops short. This drastic difference is startling, as the climate of both sides of the island is the same.

This sort of environmental damage decreases agricultural productivity, both now and in the future. One of Poverty Resolution’s projects is a tilapia farm, where fish are farmed in a healthy and sustainable way. Chickens are also raised on the farm, and their droppings are both used as sustenance for the fish and prompt the growth of algae, which also feed the fish. This project is one of the ways that Haiti can continue producing food products which they work to improve the quality of their soil. If you want to make your Earth Day contribution to support this project, click here to donate.

For more information about deforestation in Haiti, check out the sources for this article here: Oxfam-Haiti Deforestation and here: National Geographic-Haiti Deforestation.

News of the Week: A Haitian Vacation

Back in the 40s and 50s, Haiti was one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean. Cruise ships would dock in the harbor and shop, eat, and relax on Haiti’s beautiful waterfront. At night, there were clubs and Voodoo shows popular with visitors. But as soon as Papa Doc’s authoritarian rule began in 1951, tourists stopped coming to Haiti. When his son took power in 1970s, people began frequenting the coasts of Haiti again. Hillary and Bill Clinton even spent their honeymoon in Haiti. But when Baby Doc’s government fell in 1986, the tourists stopped flocking again. Tourism purely for the sake of vacationing has all but stopped since the 2010 earthquake.

Source: destinationnorthhaiti.com

Paul Clammer, a travel writer for the Huffinton Post wrote after his first visit to Haiti, “Anywhere else in world this place would be packed with tourists. Anywhere else, this sort of beauty would be earning much-needed revenue for the local population and government alike.”  Though Haiti has much to do to make the country a tourist hotspot, it certainly has the potential to be a popular one. The country is rich with culture, beautiful beaches, and historic monuments. In Cap-Haiten, the biggest fortress in the America looks over the rolling Haitian landscape. In the north of the country is Môle Saint Nicolas, which was one of Christopher Columbus’ stops on his first voyage to America in 1492 and it is scattered with old colonial forts. There is a lush countryside perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities.

Source: http://www.survoldefrance.fr/affichage2.php?img=11795&lieu=Cap+Ha%EFtien+Citadelle&prev_suiv_link=1 
Citadelle in Cap-Hatien

The Ministry of Tourism has begun to make the changes it needs to in order to attract tourism. One of the most important steps it has taken is to develop packages with airlines and travel companies, who will help with the funding. In the beginning of 2013, the Ministry of Tourism launched packages with a Canadian tourism country called Transat.

Then, this past Friday, Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism launched talks with Delta airlines about creating vacation packages to Haiti. These flights would be from Atlanta and New York, and there might be a package with Air France, which already has flights to Haiti, in the works as well.

Who knows? If the Ministry of Tourism keeps this up, Haiti might be trading in its title as “poorest country in the Western hemisphere” for “most popular spring break destination.”

Sources for this article:
Caribbean Journal
Caribbean Journal: Interview with Minister of Tourism
Huffington Post: Haiti Caribbean Destination?

No Rock The Vote for Haiti?

During the United Nations Security Council meeting in late March, several of its most powerful members have articulated that they are unhappy with the progress Haiti’s political system. Because the Security Council has given a substantive amount of funds to help with Haiti’s rebuilding process, they feel that Haiti’s government should be doing a better job of maintaining their electoral system as a more efficient system. As of right now, a third of the Senate is empty and because there is no electoral commission that would manage voting, President Martelly has appointed 129 out of 140 mayors.  One third of the Senate’s seats are empty.

Source for Picture: Center for International Development at SUNY

The absence of an electoral commission exists because of disagreement between the three branches of government on how to organize it. On Christmas Eve of last year, an arrangement for a temporary electoral commission was finally implemented, but executive and judicial branches have yet to announce their three representatives.  Without such a committee, the Security Council is worried that Haiti is headed toward authoritarianism.  Not only that, but the disagreements over how to organize elections and who to appoint to run the process is distracting valuable time and political resources from the many urgent problems within Haiti that require attention.

Because the UN controls much of the funds that go toward Haiti’s rebuilding process, hopefully a stern warning from the Security Council will incite the government to organize an electoral commission—and fast.  If the UN withdraws its funds, Haiti will be in a dire situation, but it will also have much less incentive to perpetuate its system of democracy.  Keep an eye out for news in the coming months as this issue is sure to be a significant one.

Have you personally witnessed any of the consequences of the lack of action on behalf of the Haitian government? Willing to share your story? If so, contact [email protected]

Sources for this article:

Miami Herald

Bloomberg

Painting the Town Bright: Beautifying Haiti One Step at a Time

Jalousie is one of Haiti’s largest shanty towns, home to 45,000 Haitians.  As part of the effort to relocate people who have been living in camps as a result of the destruction of their homes during the earthquake, the city of Port-au-Prince has dedicated $1.4 million dollars to beautifying the neighborhood.

Clement Belizaire, director of the Haitian government’s housing relocation program, says that “The goal that we are shooting for is a neighborhood that is modest but decent, where residents are proud to be from that area.”

The many critics of this program have pointed out that Jalousie does not yet have a sewage system and lacks electricity. At night, homes are lit by candlelight and electricity stolen through wires illegally tapped into the public electric system. There is also no running water, and residents gather around spigots with buckets to collect their water for daily necessities. During the rainy season, houses without proper foundation have plunged down the hill. Without these basic necessities, it seems frivolous to spend such a large sum on something so aesthetic.

Jalousie is located on a mountain that looks over the wealthy area of Petionville, where Haiti’s most luxurious hotels are located. There has been speculation that the painting of the Jalouise houses has been more to improve the residents of Petionville’s view than it has to improve the dignity of shanty town’s residents.

However, many residents of Jalousie appear to greatly appreciate their newly bright community. And the painting job, which will take an estimate of 6 months, provides work for local painters.  It’s hard to disagree: the bright colors are beautiful. But is the Haitian government properly focusing its funds? Should they be focused on more substantive measures before they move on to painting homes? What do you think?

The source of this article was the Huffington Post article:  Jalousie Slum Painted Psychedelic Colors in Haiti, Critics Call Project Superficial.