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Saving soil, securing food

Haiti’s farmers fight against the effects of climate change

Farmers in Haiti suffer from the effects of climate change and deforestation – together we’re saving their soils

+++ Severe drought as a result of El Niño +++ The provision of 3.5 million people in Haiti is currently at risk.

A sparse mountainside on Haiti, under the scorching sun, farmers hammer rocks of different sizes into shape. Others gather up more stones and rocks. It is arduous work. Stone upon stone, the Haitians layer the building material and hammer it down. Until there is a small wall, a stone wall which will prevent another part of the hill sliding down into the valley with the next heavy rains. 

The soil in north-east Haiti urgently needs this erosion protection. Together with Welthungerhilfe, the farmers want to preserve or restore their valuable land plots for agriculture.

The tragic result in Haiti: 97 per cent of the forests have been cleared – and this has terrible consequences. Again and again, there are floods and landslides. © Rommel
The tragic result in Haiti: 97 per cent of the forests have been cleared – and this has terrible consequences. Again and again, there are floods and landslides. © Rommel
In Haiti, the smallfarmers directly face the effects of climate effect and deforestation. Over and again, heavy rains wash away their fields. Now it’s about securing soils! © Rommel
In Haiti, the smallfarmers directly face the effects of climate effect and deforestation. Over and again, heavy rains wash away their fields. Now it’s about securing soils! © Rommel
Together with Welthungerhilfe, the Haitians are building stone walls which secure the hillside soils. Food can then grow here again. © Rosenthal
Together with Welthungerhilfe, the Haitians are building stone walls which secure the hillside soils. Food can then grow here again. © Rosenthal
97 per cent of the forests in Haiti have been cleared, leaving behind sparse lunar landscapes and insecure soils. © Rosenthal
97 per cent of the forests in Haiti have been cleared, leaving behind sparse lunar landscapes and insecure soils. © Rosenthal
Planting trees, building stone walls: Farmers in Haiti are learning how they can protect their environment and secure their soils. © Edelmann
Planting trees, building stone walls: Farmers in Haiti are learning how they can protect their environment and secure their soils. © Edelmann

Excessive deforestation of Haiti’s forests leads to disasters

Deforestation paints a picture of Haiti: Close to the border town of Ouanaminthe, the treeless hills are reminiscent of a lunar landscape. You can scarcely imagine that back in 1492 Columbus found a green island with thick forests and that, for a long time, Haiti was one of the richest countries in Latin America.

However, the establishment of plantations in the colonial period began to replace the forests. In 1804, Haiti won its independence – but at a high cost. Up until the middle of the previous century, the state paid extortionate reparations to the former colonial rulers – it was predominantly tropical wood that was cut down for this purpose. Today, in the absence of a regular power supply, charcoal is an important energy source and often the only opportunity for the rural population to generate a small income.

Tragic result: 97 per cent of the forests have been cleared – with far-reaching consequences for both humans and nature. Globally, no other country is as susceptible to floods and landslides as Haiti.

The effects of climate change: Farmers fear for their harvests

The rural population in the north-east of Haiti (Department Nord-Est) lives in constant fear of the loss of their already meagre harvests. The climate in the mountainous regions, in particular, has noticeably changed in recent years. Extreme weather events like hurricanes and heavy rains are increasing and, with them, the danger of soil erosion and floods, which not only threaten the crop yields of smallfarmer families, but also the destruction of roads and entire villages.

In order to counter these developments and to secure food for the people of Haiti, Welthungerhilfe is supporting them with sustainable projects – like those close to Ouanaminthe. For the ca. 128,000 residents of seven communities in the area, the projects open up new prospects. Welthungerhilfe is supporting people to better protect their environment against the effects of climate change and severe weather events, to maintain soils and vegetation and, thereby, secure their livelihood.

Stone walls, reforestation, new vegetable gardens: What we’re doing

  • 5,000 smallfarmer families are at most risk, as their fields lie on steep hills. Together, they are now securing the hillsides with stone walls. The terraces will be planted with grasses and trees which give support to the soil. Water now no longer flows unchecked into the valley and the earth can once again hold on to the moisture.
  • Reforestation: In total, around one million seedlings should be delivered gradually by seven specially established nurseries. The goal is to introduce a controlled reforestation and to plant new trees continuously.
  • In order to increase crop yields, the smallfarmers are receiving training in planting techniques, composting and pest control. Many are investing for the first time in vegetable gardens – an important step against hunger!
  • 18 storehouses serve to protect the sensitive seeds and enable the saving of stocks. In future, the village residents can use them communally.

The challenges are great and, as a result, in the north-east of Haiti everyone is pulling together; small farmers and local authority representatives, women’s organisations and members of local committees for civil and environmental protection. Only together do they have a chance to stop the fatal cycle of environmental destruction, disasters and poverty.

The aid measures are financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and its help programme ESÜH.

More about our work in Haiti

Haiti is practising for an emergency

The people are prepared for the next catastrophe

Earthquakes and hurricanes: Natural disasters have hit Haiti hard. What can the island nation do, in order to be better prepared?

A rocky road to recovery

Five years after the earthquake in Haiti

(January 2015) The 2010 earthquake brought much suffering to Merilien Hyacinthe. But today he is proud. His crops are good and he can send his children to school again.