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Environment

Terraced fields dot the landscape around Kenscoff, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Terraced fields dot the landscape around Kenscoff, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Kendra Helmer, USAID

Overview

Environmental degradation is a critical concern in Haiti and poses a serious threat to the lives and livelihoods of Haitian citizens. Widespread deforestation, particularly in the hillsides, has led to flooding, dramatic rates of soil erosion, and subsequent declines in agricultural productivity. Haiti’s valuable coastal and marine resources have been degraded by sediment deposition and overfishing, resulting in considerable loss in biodiversity. In Haiti’s urban areas, waste management is a major challenge, especially in Port-au-Prince, which is the largest city in the world without a sewer system. Solid waste clogs urban waterways and leads to the spread of waterborne diseases. Landfills are few and do not meet the needs of most municipalities. Medical waste is frequently left untreated, and waste is often dumped into open pits with incinerators in disrepair.

Haiti is also at risk of natural disasters due to its numerous fault lines and its depleted tree cover, which exacerbates the consequences of frequent storms and hurricanes. Moreover, like other island nations, Haiti is vulnerable to rising sea levels and other threats resulting from climate change. With rising temperatures and increasingly erratic rainfall patterns in Haiti, farmers and communities are facing a third year of extreme drought in some regions while others struggle with flash flooding caused by heavy downpours. The dearth of predictable rainwater in Haiti is not only detrimental to farmers whose crops wilt and die without irrigation systems in place, but also for ordinary Haitians who depend on water catchment systems for their daily water needs. 

USAID Strategy and Activities

The strategy of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help Haiti protect its fragile environment and preserve its precious resources is incorporated throughout its development portfolio.  In order to create sustainable change, the Agency promotes activities that create environmentally friendly business and income-generating opportunities for Haitians across sectors and skills levels. Building up industries that profit from protecting the environment and augmenting the skills of the public sector to do the same are critical steps forward for a more sustainable Haiti.

In the agriculture sector, for example, USAID promotes technologies that increase Haiti’s capacity to adapt to climate change, such as the use of greenhouses equipped with drip irrigation and solar panels. This technology incentivizes farmers to focus on high-value horticultural crops while freeing up space for agro-forestry and reforestation initiatives on environmentally vulnerable hillsides. In the economic sector, the Agency also promotes market-place solutions to environmental challenges by supporting small businesses that produce clean cooking technologies, lead recycling efforts and clear city streets of waste. Finally, USAID directly supports reforestation, conservation and environmental rehabilitation activities while also building the capacity of the Government of Haiti and Haitian civil society to carry out these same efforts.

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Last updated: August 08, 2016

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