Haiti is faced with serious environmental concerns and challenges. Its mountainous topography has been largely deforested, which in turn has led to dramatic rates of soil erosion and subsequent declines in agricultural productivity. Demand for charcoal made from wood -- the dominant energy source in Haiti – promulgates much of this cycle of deforestation and the resulting environmental degradation. Haiti’s valuable coastal marine resources are negatively impacted by sediment deposition and overfishing. Waste management is a major challenge for all municipalities, especially Port-au-Prince, which is the largest city in the world without a sewer system. Solid waste clogs urban waterways and leads to increases in water-borne diseases. Landfills are few and do not meet the needs of most municipalities. Medical waste is often left untreated, with incinerators in disrepair or waste simply dumped into open pits. Much of Haiti has been classified as having a high hazard rating due to the numerous fault lines and frequent storms and hurricanes. As an island nation, Haiti is susceptible to rising sea levels and other threats resulting from climate change.
The U.S. Government’s key strategy to help Haiti to preserve its environment focuses on the creation of environmentally friendly, income-generating activities for Haitians as well as planning and equipping infrastructure investments with efficient environmental management systems. To combat deforestation and increase soil fertility, the U.S. Government supports agro-forestry programs such as training for farmers in the production of nursery tree seedlings. In 2011, the U.S. Government, through USAID, helped train more than 1,200 people in natural resource management and/or biodiversity conservation, including soil conservation, tree nurseries, and hillside production. More than 4,000 additional hectares of farmland are now under improved natural resource management.
In 2012, the Feed the Future West program launched the first large-scale partnership with the private sector to promote agro-forestry initiatives. In alliance with Haiti’s gas distributor, National Distributors Company (DINASA), 830,000 seedlings were planted in the Cul de Sac and St. Marc corridors. Additionally, through another Feed the Future West agroforestry campaign, over 900,000 tree seedlings were planted in upper watersheds, and more than 1 million are in nurseries ready to be transplanted.
In 2012, Feed the Future West also implemented 25 projects focused on soil conservation and ravine stabilization activities in the Cul de Sac and Matheux corridors. These stabilization activities included the strengthening of 36.6 kilometers of ravines, the planting of 280,000 trees as well as the planting of 2.6 million vetiver plants in highland areas. Ravine treatment alone resulted in the retention of 164,300 cubic meters of sediments.
USAID works to preserve biodiversity and promotes technologies that increase Haiti’s capacity to adapt to climate change, such as use of greenhouses equipped with drip irrigation and solar panels. This technology allows farmers to focus on high-value horticultural crops and helps to free up spaces for agro-forestry and reforestation initiatives on environmentally vulnerable hillsides.
Title II-funded programs also contribute in numerous ways to stabilizing watersheds, increasing tree cover, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices in disaster prone regions of the country. In the Central Plateau, USAID’s Multi-Year Assistance Program (MYAP) has successfully planted over half a million fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing trees for fuel wood production and hillside stabilization. In the Southeastern region, MYAP extension efforts have resulted in planting approximately 50 hectares of shade grown coffee, expanding honey production in 15 producer associations, and introducing water-conserving drip irrigation methods to approximately 500 farmers. In the South, 800 farmers in the zone of influence of Pic Macaya National Park, the center of amphibian diversity on the island of Hispaniola, have adopted MYAP-promoted agroforestry techniques.
USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) planted approximately 1.2 million tree seedlings in rural areas from April 2010 through December 2012. OTI has also implemented watershed management activities, such as ravine treatment and planting trees, to prevent soil loss and control storm water around Martissant, Morne l’Hôpital, and Carrefour-Feuilles. Additionally, OTI also partnered with a non-governmental organization to plant 300,000 pine and cedar seedlings in Parc National La Visite. In St. Marc, OTI partnered with the Center for Research on Bio-Energy and Sustainable Agriculture (CHIBAS) to hire area residents on a temporary basis to plant Jatropha, an edible, multipurpose tree that contributes to environmental rehabilitation. OTI and CHIBAS created the largest tree nursery in Haiti to produce Jatropha seedlings and subsequently planted 1,300 acres of state-owned land. The planting work created short-term employment for more than 1,500 people, half of whom were displaced by the earthquake. In the north, OTI has funded the Reef Check Foundation to train a team of Haitians (EcoDivers) how to swim, scuba dive and monitor the rich coastal resources (mangroves, coral reef, and turtle grass) in the Northern Development Corridor. Fifteen EcoDivers recently utilized their skills collecting data in the first scientific survey of coral reefs in the north.
USAID supports projects to reduce Haiti’s dependence on charcoal production, thereby reducing forest destruction. In coordination with the Haitian Government, private sector, and civil society, USAID’s Improved Cooking Technologies (ICTP) program is establishing a local market and a sustainable industry for alternative clean cookstoves, including those that use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and biomass. In March 2013, ICTP inaugurated a charcoal-free cooking zone at the SONAPI Industrial Park in Port-au-Prince. ICTP initiated and promoted the switch to LPG cooking in the industrial park, making this the first street food vendor site in Haiti to convert entirely to LPG. The charcoal-free SONAPI food zone will serve as a model to support USAID’s efforts to develop four new charcoal-free zones in selected communes of Port-au-Prince.
U.S. Government infrastructure investments in Haiti aim, where feasible, to include clean energy options. Wind and solar power options are is being piloted or studied in several investments. Solar power has been completed for lighting parts of the National Highway No. 6 in Haiti’s north. The feasibility of wind energy systems is being studied in three different locations. New housing settlements are equipped with rain water catchment systems to supplement wells. Community management organizations are being formed and trained to oversee the sustainable management of settlements. The Health Infrastructure program is putting a special emphasis on medical waste management and waste water treatment for all new and rehabilitated structures, including the State University Hospital, the National Campus of Health Sciences, community reference hospitals, and other health facilities.