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.
Nick Hobgood, a regional consultant for DAI, learned how to scuba dive off Haiti's northern coast. He has since produced a high quality photography book of over 100 colorful pictures of fish, other marine life and landscapes taken between 2007-2010 in the Baie de l’Acul, Cachal Beach, Caracol, Cormier, Fort Labouque, Fort Liberté, Isla Amiga, and Labadie. Proceeds from the first 250 books will support the expansion of Reef Check's EcoDiver program in Haiti. More information follows.
Haiti is forever changed. At least 150,000 people, equivalent to the population of Tallahassee, have died. At least 600,000, more than the population of Seattle, are without homes. Over 130,000, approximately the population of Syracuse, have left Port au Prince for the countryside. After a disaster of this magnitude, life does not go back to normal. Still, even in the face of great uncertainty, life goes on. Telecommunications are mostly up and running, some banks are opening, more gas stations are functional, markets and factories are re-openening. Neighborhood committees are meeting and people are attending church services. All agree it will take many years to rebuild. The question is how Haiti can recover and be built back better than it was before?
Although one would not know it from most mass media coverage of Haiti, it is a beautiful, little country. For that reason, I was happy to read Amy Wilentz's excellent article in Conde Naste. She describes her own love affair with Haiti and then lists where a person can stay and play. As I read it, I thought of all the things I miss about Haiti - the sandy beaches, drinking rum punch, listening to racine music, going to vodoun ceremonies, napping on straw mats, talking on porches, as well as the countryside camraderie and never-ending jokes and pranks. For some, it is time to visit Haiti for the first time. For many of us, it is time to go back.
On the outskirts of Les Cayes several years ago, I came across a school with a bio-latrine that used airless digestion to transform human waste into gas suitable for cooking, heating and lighting. After one month, there was enough gas being produced to cook a meal for all of the students in this fairly large school, without using environmentally destructive wood charcoal. The gas is without odor and, beyond the initial investment, without cost. The experiences of other low resource countries might hold lessons for the potential scale up of this innovation in Haiti.