SEATTLE — Food security in Haiti is a problem for more than half of Haiti’s population. There are 3.6 million people that do not have reliable food sources and, The World Food Program estimates that 1.5 million are severely food insecure. The most vulnerable are most affected; children are stunted and malnourished, and one-third of the women and children in Haiti are anemic.
Poverty rates and food insecurity have caused numerous problems, spanning structural, political and economic areas. Among the major contributors to the dire situation are environmental degradation and the devastating results of natural disasters.
In 2010, the earthquake that rattled Haiti destroyed what little infrastructure there was. The earthquake was followed by a cholera epidemic and periods of severe drought caused by El Niño. More recently, in 2016, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew. With widespread damage, flooding and displacement, Hurricane Matthew caused one of the largest humanitarian crises since the 2010 earthquake.
There are many programs in place to help food security in Haiti. However, while aid with school lunches and food for work programs do help the immediate need, they are short-term solutions. Haiti’s problems need to be addressed at the roots. In the longer term, helping farmers be successful and solving the structural issues that have led to this current state is the sustainable way to go.
The Importance of Environmental Preservation – Ecosia’s Work
Rural communities rely on agriculture for food. Severe droughts and other natural disasters result in losses worth millions, which drive food prices up to impossible rates for many. Since Haiti is a food deficit country, it cannot produce enough to feed its population, so half of the food has to be imported. Furthermore, the environmental degradation has consequences such as flooding, soil erosion and crop failure among others. Without the natural forest systems and the protection they provide, natural disasters and their effects intensify.
Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees. Since starting in December 2009, it has planted more than 40 million trees. This idea of Christian Kroll’s came into being while he was on a trip across various countries. When users search the web through Ecosia, the search ads generate income, 80 percent of which is then used for planting trees. Why trees exactly? Because they benefit people, local economies and the environment.
Haiti’s land is extremely depleted. The history of unsustainable farming practices and deforestation have decimated the environment. Only two percent of the country’s natural forests remain intact, with over 98 percent gone. Coal production, which Haitians rely on for fuel used in cooking, is destroying 30 percent of the remaining forests every year. Degraded soil leaves farms desolate and leaves people without means to produce food. To target those problems, Ecosia is involved with forest restoration projects on the island.
The Eden Project
In Haiti, Ecosia works with Eden Reforestation Projects – a nonprofit organization that donors can contribute to in order to plant trees. Its mission is to help impoverished communities by building local economies and empowering people. Through reforestation, they give people hope and work to alleviate extreme poverty. The Eden Project started in 2004 and began operations in Haiti in 2010.
They distribute tree saplings to local farmers and schools, restore natural watersheds and plant trees to improve food security in Haiti. Furthermore, Eden employs thousands of local villagers to plant healthy forest systems. This job provides a decent income, so the workers can support their families. As healthy forests begin to grow and the restoration goes on, the negative impacts of deforestation will begin to reverse. Over time, conditions improve.
So far in Haiti, The Eden Project has already planted 321,500 trees and, in turn, created 3,215 workdays for the locals. The organization works directly with local communities, Providence University and Amiga Island Ecological Foundation. By planting, protecting and growing trees, The Eden Project hopes to help restore the natural environment and, as a result, improve food security in Haiti.
How Trees Empower and Help
When crops fail farmers are forced to relocate or search for jobs in urban areas. Healthy forests provide so much for the region. Reforestation efforts aim to grow economies by helping farmers be more successful since nutrient-dense soil yields better crops. As trees grow, they provide purification for natural water sources, limit flooding and erosion and also restore the soil. This also restores the livelihoods of those living in Haiti, which are already vulnerable to the natural disasters that hit the area.
Three-quarters of the people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day. Half of the population earns less than a dollar a day. Reforestation can alleviate extreme poverty by providing jobs and has a long-lasting positive impact on communities. Food security in Haiti is a complex issue, but replenishing the environment, giving people jobs to support their families and helping farmers be successful are steps in the right direction.
– Aleksandra Sirakova