I was listening to a Planet Money podcast about people trying to help in Haiti by building a school, and how horribly complicated and frustrating it is. I thought about that denuded landscape and boy, if there ever was a place that could use some transformation, Haiti is it.
However, how could you possibly get a project to work? Would it be possible to get a track hoe far far away from the crowded urban areas, so that your developing landscape would be left alone until it started producing food? Or could you practice manage grazing and restore the soil, then plant trees?
I wonder if Wangari Maathai's method would work better - she got the people involved in planting trees, so they could have fruit and firewood again. Haiti would also benefit from rocket stoves (and solar ovens), I read the main problem behind the deforestation was the need for firewood for cooking. Making rocket stoves would be a good money-maker for getting the cash for the other needs, imho.
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
That is an excellent point. Rocket stoves would be an excellent technology to share there.
When I listened to the podcast (about building a school) I heard the American say that everything for building was obscenely expensive because it need to be trucked over from the Dominican Republic and I thought "Haiti would be an excellent place to engage in some alternative building practices." I do not know how such things line up with earthquake resistance, but I would guess that permies in California know something about that. . .
There's a charity (Architecture for Humanity) which is working to reforest Haiti with bamboo. It grows fast, it can be used as fuel (which is where all the previous trees went), will preserve some of the soil, and it makes an excellent building material. The hope is that it can grow fast enough that people won't sneak in, cut it all down for fuel, and leave the starting crop dead. Tho' the charity admits it is "no silver bullet" because of some of the big disadvantages it brings.
One of the big causes of deforestation is the degree of poverty there.
Many people cannot afford to buy matches. The solution is to keep your fire burning 24/7. The wood's free, but getting scarce.
I met a fisherman who had let his fire die at his camp. He walked about 1 1/2 miles down the beach to get a glowing ember from another fisherman's camp, carrying it home in an old coconut husk. I had an extra book of matches with me, so I gave him one. He looked at me as if I had just handed him the winning lottery ticket. He gave us about half a kilo of smoked fish out of gratitude.
In rural districts, most people have no income. It's all barter.
I did an internship in Haiti for 1 year back in 2003 (before the earthquake, it was already bad as it was). Probably ANY technology can be put to some good use there. Permaculture (and methods like Savory's or Rinaudo's) would definitely help the northern part of the country to regenerate ecosystems which have been systematically abused over centuries. The south of the country (as I remember it) was still green and beautuful, with trees and clean rivers, totally different from Port-au-Prince and north of. If anyone is interested, I got the chance to know two NGOs which do very good work there:
Clean Water for Haiti: promote biosand filters (which I think is a very permaculture like technology that not many people know about) and other aspects.
ORE Haiti: they work on improving farmers income through high value crops like off season mangoes and avocados. Back then I knew nothing about permaculture, but now I can see that some of their practices were definitely permaculture minded.
The south is still much better. There are pockets of hope, lots of small aid independent missionaries are building urban permaculture sites without knowing it.
The UN hands out tents and daily rations. Big charities hire them to build tarpaper shacks. Independents teach them earthships and earthbag and graywater banana circles.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
My husband is in Haiti as we speak, building chicken coops at an orphanage that our church sponsors. I have yet to visit, but this thought has constantly been nagging at the back of my mind too. The first project was implementing a water filtration system, because the girls were drinking was could nicely be referred to as grey water. Now the chicken coops, which is another excellent thing...
But I would love to see some sort of food system established there. The woman in charge of the organization has said that they tried to plant things before but the conditions were so terrible that the plants just died.
I have a feeble grasp on the major points of permaculture, but zero knowledge of the climate in Haiti, or what would grow well in that climate. Where should I begin my research for this?
While he's down there, my husband has promised to check out the lay of the land, so I have a bit more of an idea of what we're dealing with...
I need to know where to start my research...Geoff Lawton's work in Jordan?
long term: I would love to be able to design and implement something that would not only provide them with a sustainable food supply, but teach them how to work in the harsh conditions...
(I hope I'm not hijacking this thread...feel free to move it if you like...)
“The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.” Robert Louis Stevenson
It depends. As we said, the northern part of the country is heavily desertified, so Lawton's actions in Jordan might give a good idea of how to start, but Haiti should get higher annual rainfall that Jordan, highly differentiated between rainy and dry seasons, so attention must also be given to not loosing soil to runoff during heavy storms. The south has a lot more green cover, so soils might still be in relative good health. I would look into permaculture experiences in Cuba, Dominican Republic (same island as Haiti), Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala or southern Mexico (any caribbean or central american country will give you similar climate patterns).