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New Hope For Haiti

One year after a devastating earthquake, environmentalists are struggling to bring a sense of purpose back to the Caribbean’s poorest country.

Building food sustainability is a critical short- and long-term need in southwest Haiti. The Nature Conservancy, with the participation of community members, UNEP and government officials, leads the development of a multi-objective coastal management program.

Building food sustainability is a critical short- and long-term need in southwest Haiti. The Nature Conservancy, with the participation of community members, UNEP and government officials, leads the development of a multi-objective coastal management program.

As twilight descends on the Haitian border village of Tilori, a number of weary residents who have toiled since dawn on a reforestation project designed to sustain the production of food, fuel and building materials, were smiling, knowing their efforts will lead to a better future for themselves and inspire other communities to follow their lead.

When most of us think about Haiti we more than likely picture the devastation caused by last year’s catastrophic earthquake that left an already problem-plagued, poverty-stricken island-nation in even more desperate straits. Even today we see scenes of starving people living in deplorable and unsanitary conditions in the crowded capital city of Port-au-Prince, reminding us of their plight. Despite the continual outpouring of financial and humanitarian aid the situation in Haiti is most often regarded as being hopeless.

Marianne Kleiberg, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Central Caribbean Program, doesn’t see it that way.

“Haiti is often viewed as a lost cause; the country faces challenges in almost every aspect of life – government, health, education, the environment … the list goes on and on,” she says. “Yet there is a strength and a will in the people of Haiti that cannot be denied. This is especially true in Tilori where community members are taking their future in their own hands by restoring their barren land one parcel at a time.”

Kleiberg regards Tilori as an example of the oft-quoted Chinese proverb, “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man how to fish you feed him for a lifetime.” The Tilori reforestation project holds promise for a people who for years have been forced to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence.

Read the entire article in the November 2011 issue