Thursday, August 6, 2009

Caring for Creation in Haiti

by Scott Sabin

As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti’s troubles are no secret. Daily headlines such as, “Haitian Migrant Shipwreck Kills 15, Dozens Missing” describe the plight of this impoverished country. Sadly, this is not new news, but astonishing news nonetheless.

Out of sheer desperation, these Haitians risk their lives by packing into tiny 60 foot boats, sometimes carrying as many as 120 people, hoping to escape poverty and find work and a better life. Because of extreme poverty, people are forced to leave their homeland, their families, and their culture since it is not providing like it used to.

Headlines such as this make Haiti’s circumstance seem hopeless. The country is trapped in a dismal spiral of poverty and despair. The land has dried up as a result of massive deforestation. And hurricanes threaten to wipe out entire communities each year.

Given these facts, it becomes understandable why escape seems like the only viable option of survival for Haitians. All their resources have been depleted. However, this panicked flight does not have to happen. People’s lives can be revived by tracing the problem back to its roots and thus finding the solution: the earth.

Approximately 70 percent of Haiti's 9 million people work the land. Therefore restoring agricultural production is vital to generating jobs, feeding the hungry, and healing the land. If proper agro-forestry techniques are applied, some of these effects can be alleviated. For instance, by planting trees and terraces along with native crops such as plantains, mangoes and avocados on hillsides, massive mud slides and erosion are prevented.

This past May, one of our program officers traveled to Haiti to meet with communities. Last October we provided relief to Haiti after the four brutal hurricanes hit the country last fall. After speaking with the local communities that were most impacted by the storm, he said he was amazed to see that the people were not entirely discouraged. He explained their attitude as “motivated” as was evidenced by the lush crops that were beginning to bloom. They are replanting trees to hold the soil in place, and this hurricane season they will be better prepared to brace for any storms.

Relief work is beneficial, but for a long lasting solution Haitians must focus on sustainable development. Of course this does not happen overnight; it takes hard work and planning. But the result effects generations to come. My hope is that overtime, Haitians won’t have to flee their country to escape a life of misery. By caring for the earth now, future generation’s lives will be transformed along with the earth and the people will be empowered to reclaim their land. It is a vision that with God’s help can be made possible.

This article was posted on Sustainlane on 8/5/09.

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