Solar Cookers: In the early 1900s Haiti was an extremely fertile country and the soil was full of life giving nutrients. Over the last 100 years, 98.5 percent of the trees in the country have been cut down and or burned to be used as fuel, mostly for cooking. As a result of the need for charcoal, and the ability to sell it, the top soil is all but gone, and the country has been decimated environmentally. A quick look at the Haitian/Dominican Republic border (the DM has forestry controls in place) tells the story better than I can explain. Distrubuting solar cookers would eradicate the need for charcoal, saving money and trees, and give citizens the ability to cook for free and purify water as needed.
Repair the Land: Poverty is one of the main problems in Haiti, the likes of which I have never seen. It seems to me that an incentive program to teach people how to grow their own food and take care of the land would benefit everyone. I have no idea if this is something that is even possible or conceivable, but as an end run, pay people to grow their own food and give them the tools and education to do so and you will have accomplished several things. First off, citizens will be working towards becoming self sufficient and as more do, assuming they learn how to do it sustainably, land will improve. Also, by offering this kind of program, there is the possibility that more people will head out of Port Au Prince towards the country, alleviating some of the problems in the city and diminishing the need to feed a people who have little to no means.
The bottom line of all of this of course is that I don’t have any answers, just a lot of ideas. It will take people far greater than I to implement anything concrete and my hope is that whatever happens ends up serving the Haitain people, and not a foreign government looking for a new cheap labor pool. There is a Haitian saying in Creole that reads “Neg mawon pap janm kraze” – “a free man can never be destroyed.” It encapsulates something I found wonderful about the Haitians. But freedom takes many roads and I think the ability to sustain oneself without relying on others is about the greatest freedom anyone can have.
I know many will not agree with these ideas and many more will not even care, but it seems that it’s a discussion that’s worth having. Sometimes just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks is a good start.
The future of Haiti is uncertain at best but perhaps out of all this great calamity can come something good, for the Hatiain people, and for the world. Hopefully thirty years from now well look at Haiti and think “It can be done, if only we choose to do it.” And the country that was once considered to be at the bottom of the heap, will rise to the top as a sustainable model for us all.