On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, devastating the capital city of Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people, and leaving an estimated 1,000,000 homeless.
The catastrophic earthquake is only the latest in a long line of problems that have afflicted the impoverished island nation. In 2008, the island was hit by three hurricanes and a tropical storm, leading to devastating flooding. Tropical storm Jeanne struck four years earlier, killing more than 3,000 people in flooding and mudslides.
Many of these mudslides and floods were caused by deforestation. Less than 2% of Haiti’s natural forest cover remains, the rest logged to pay national debts or burned to produce charcoal for the people. Deforestation has also resulted in severely degraded soil due to erosion and soil depletion, making it even harder for rural Haitians to grow enough food to feed their families, let alone earn a stable income from farming. The rural crisis in Haiti over the last few decades contributed to the devastation of the 2010 earthquake, as penniless farmers fled to cities in search of employment, often ending up in overcrowded slums built from rubble and other unsafe materials.
Efforts are currently underway to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake, and green technologies developed by non-profit innovators and social entrepreneurs offer some of the best solutions to rebuilding Haiti’s shattered infrastructure and ensuring a better future for Haiti’s people.
5 Green Projects You Should Support
The U.S. Green Building Council has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help meet one of Haiti’s most immediate needs following the earthquake: safe housing for its people. The two organizations are already on the ground handing out emergency shelter kits and assisting with the removal of debris. They plan to replace destroyed homes with traditional shelters and core houses that are earthquake-safe and meet green standards.
In order to prevent additional deforestation, Haitians desperately need more sustainable sources of energy and cooking fuel. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s D-Lab is among the organizations working to provide green energy to fuel Haiti. One of its projects is charcoal made from begasse, the waste product fibers left after the juice has been extracted from sugarcane. Sugarcane charcoal is easy to make, uses a plentiful local waste product, and can help relieve pressure on Haiti’s remaining forests. It also burns more cleanly than wood charcoal, reducing respiratory problems caused by indoor use.
Another energy project in Haiti is the Solar Electric Light Fund‘s partnership with Partners in Health, one of Haiti’s most respected humanitarian organizations. SELF plans to install sustainable solar electric panels on all PIH’s clinics. In the short term, this will provide a reliable source of electricity for the clinics as they provide medical care to victims of the earthquake; in the long-term, it will serve as a foundation for building a sustainable health infrastructure in Haiti.
One of the most urgent long-term needs of Haiti is a massive reforestation effort designed to halt erosion, prevent flooding and mudslides, improve soil quality, and provide a sustainable source of income for rural Haitians. Among the organizations working for this goal is Operation Green Leaves, a tree planting and environmental education organization. Working closely with Haitian citizens in Haiti and the United States, OGL’s Trees for Life program has planted hundreds of thousands of fruit and forest trees within Haiti over the last 20 years. OGL also establishes local tree nurseries, provides environmental education, and donates kerosene stoves to local communities in an effort to relieve pressures on remaining forests.
The Lambi Fund also focuses on reforestation and sustainable development projects within Haiti. Their many excellent programs include tree planting, sustainable agriculture education, education and funds for livestock farming, community cistern and irrigation infrastructure development, microcredit lending services, seed banks, and more.
Green solutions such as these will play a vital role in rebuilding Haiti after the devastating earthquake and helping it achieve a prosperous and sustainable future.
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