FROM THE FIELD
The Haiti Earthquake

Supporting Continued Rebuilding Efforts in Haiti

by |August 4, 2010

Before the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January of this year, our experts were advising the country’s government on a range of strategic issues, including ways to reduce poverty and strengthen Haiti’s ecosystem. Immediately after, we formed the Earth Institute Task Force on the Reconstruction of Haiti with partners across Columbia University to coordinate technical advice to the government of Haiti, the United Nations (UN), and other organizations participating in the ongoing reconstruction efforts.

In the six months since, our Haitian policy adviser has been advising the development of the Action Plan for National Recovery and Development (PARDN) of Haiti and the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, and working with Haiti’s Ministry of Planning to outline potential programs and projects across the four development dimensions prioritized in the PARDN.

Natural hazards, including erosion of riverbed and landslide, in Port-á-Piment, Haiti

Experts at our Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Center for Tropical Agriculture and across the Earth Institute are working with the Haiti Regeneration Initiative to create the tools and baseline data for long-term planning and restoration efforts in a ridge-to-reef approach. They are mapping the landscape and ecology of the Port-á-Piment watershed in southwest Haiti as well as analyzing the socio-economic and institutional dynamics of the region. The team is continuing to monitor precipitation in the area to support hydrologic modeling and early flood warning systems. Data collected will ultimately create a platform to inform decision-making and management planning by local and national leaders through the on-going collaborative and strategic planning process.

The Countess Moira Charitable Foundation, longtime supporter of our Earth Clinic, has made a gift to support two projects in Haiti to improve crop yields through the use of test plots and agricultural extension training. We are pleased that the Foundation has chosen to partner with us through our work in Haiti.

Vegetable garden demonstration plot after technical agricultural training for local farmers in Port Salut, Haiti

Through the test plots project, experts will use the watershed analysis and landscape-mapping results to work with local farmers’ associations to create demonstration plots; where different varieties of crops can be cultivated, tested for potential yield and impact of fertilizer or compost inputs, and analyzed to determine dynamics with soil nutrients and soil conservation. The test plots project will also develop a strategy for offering alternative varieties of crops that are more suitable for hillside cultivation—which will stabilize soil, increase crop yield, and offer higher market values to hillside farmers.

A training project to increase local knowledge on agricultural techniques and best practices will send representatives from local agricultural organizations to field training programs on land preparation, spacing, fertilizer placement and planting improved fallows. The training program will develop local human capacity to demonstrate and train others on best practices and improved agricultural techniques.

Haiti’s rebuilding process is one that will span decades. It is critical that as international attention switches to other emergencies and more timely issues, we remain committed to efforts to help the country build back stronger and more sustainably.

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