Tag Archives: Cash for Work

Haiti: Three Years and A Week After the Earthquake

I am in the midst of packing up for my trip to Burundi and Tanzania, but wrote this last week for our blog at Plant With Purpose. There were about a thousand “Haiti Three Years Later” columns last week, not to mention several carefully timed book promotions. But nevertheless here is mine, with some more specific thoughts on what the earthquake has meant for our work in Haiti:

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Near the Hotel Oloffson

Three years ago, a deadly earthquake crumbled cities and villages across Haiti, striking a devastating blow to a nation already struggling.  Some 200,000+ people were killed, and a million more were left homeless.

Much has been written about Haiti’s struggles since the earthquake, including the shortcomings of the effort to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake -about money that was misspent by NGOs, or promised by foreign governments and not delivered, and about the cholera outbreak caused by Nepali troops from the United Nations.

In many respects this last year was even worse for Haiti than the year before: anti-government demonstrations, crime and kidnapping are on the rise and hurricanes Isaac and Sandy devastated the island. In the U.S. we didn’t hear much about Sandy and Isaac’s impact in Haiti, but it is estimated that in the southern part of Haiti, 70% of the agriculture was completely destroyed. As a result, food prices in Haiti have increased 40% in the last four months and food shortages are expected to affect up to 5 million people in Haiti in 2013.

What does all this mean for the 70+ communities where Plant With Purpose works? They, too, have been deeply affected by these many tragedies, especially the recent hurricanes, and we have been raising emergency funds to help farmers recover from the storms. In general, there is a lot of work to do, and in many ways life is harder in rural Haiti than ever before.

But we have also been deeply encouraged by impact our program is having in rural Haiti. In the months after the earthquake, Plant With Purpose’s local Haiti staff was able to dramatically scale up the scope of their work with funds raised through earthquake relief.  This included planting 450,000 additional trees and building 360 linear miles of rock walls to conserve soil on steep hillside farms.

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2,500 people found short-term employment through the Cash for Work program

These projects not only provided jobs for Haitians after the quake, they also saved many lives by preventing flooding and landslides after hurricane Sandy. You can read the summary of our earthquake relief work here. After the earthquake and in the three years since, Plant With Purpose local all-Haitian staff has performed with great professionalism and skill as they empower local farmers to improve their lives.

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Soil conservation walls saved farms and lives during the most recent hurricane season

We received more good news this last year, when we completed our triennial impact evaluation. The evaluations revealed in our program areas that water-borne illness was reduced by over 50% and cholera by over 60%.  While the news focuses on the failures of governments, the UN and so on, its good to be reminded that there are many organizations there doing good work that focuses on empowering Haitians to transform their own communities. These include the schools and orphanages run by Haiti Partners and medical work of Partners in Health. In the coming year we are looking forward to dramatically increasing the scope of the village savings and loan program, which is provides a safe and secure mechanism for Haitians to save money and access small business loans.

For those of you who have supported Plant With Purpose’s work in Haiti in recent years, please know how grateful we are for your partnership with us. Yes, there is a long way to go. But it is also true that, with God’s help, Plant with Purpose’s work is making a difference in the lives of thousands of Haitians struggling against long odds to improve their communities.

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Hurricane Season in Haiti: Learning from the Past

Tropical storm Isaac is due to pass over the island of Hispaniola tomorrow and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane. While the media is focused on potential disruptions to the GOP Convention in Florida, we are focused on Haiti:

ImageFor us at Plant With Purpose, Isaac is a reminder of the extreme vulnerability of the island to severe flooding and landslides, such as those that occurred in the fall of 2008. In that season, four deadly hurricanes and tropical storms struck Haiti in a three-week period, killing over 1,000 people and leaving 100,000 homeless. After being hit by “Fay, Ike, Gustav and Hanna,” families lost crops, homes, and thousands of animals—their food, shelter, and emergency savings. What we call a “natural disaster,” is sadly man-made, the result of Haitian farmers cutting wood to make the charcoal they sell in a desperate attempt to meet the needs of their families.

In the aftermath of the 2008 hurricanes, Plant With Purpose Haiti’s technical personnel and group leaders reacted promptly. Emergency programs were developed that would address the needs of the people, have a sustainable impact on the environment, and promote the economic development of beneficiaries.

Based on these goals, Plant With Purpose Haiti created an emergency plan and sought emergency funding. The objective was to rehabilitate the environment and also to reinforce the potential agricultural production for more than a thousand farmers organized in 50 community groups in six communes in the West and Southwest geographical regions. This program focused on three projects:

–       Providing seeds to replant damaged farms

–       Supporting animal husbandry programs (sheep and goats) to rebuild herds lost to the storms

–       Restoring Micro-watersheds and providing high intensity (short term) employment

In all, Plant With Purpose was able to distribute sheep and goats to over 300 families to enable them to replace their lost animals. Plant With Purpose also provided bean seeds to replenish crops to nearly 2,000 families in 44 communities.

These projects made a tremendous difference in the lives of people who had lost everything. The animals restore their economic safety net, and the beans give them hope for the future, as they were able to plant their land and become self-sufficient again.  Farmers, who had lost hope in having sufficient seeds to plant, were able to make a new start.

Plant With Purpose was also able to accomplish significant watershed restoration work, installing 238,833 meters of anti-erosion barriers in 21 watersheds. These projects had the added benefit of creating 800 short-term jobs for local workers. (80% of the interventions were carried out in the central region of Plant With Purpose Haiti’s working area, and most of the laborers hired were members of Plant With Purpose community groups and had all been seriously affected by the hurricanes.)

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Building a rock wall to prevent flooding and conserve soil

Many individuals expressed their profound gratitude for Plant With Purpose’s work in their communities, and a deep desire to build on Plant With Purpose’s help to continue to improve their lives. One such person was Abbe Gilles Metiver, pictured below, leader of Larevwa community group. Abbe Gilles said, “Things from Plant With Purpose are full of blessings. The goat received got birth to 2 kids. I am going to keep one kid for myself and give a kid and the mother to two other members of the group.”

Image Abbe Gilles Metiver

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, Plant With Purpose built on the success of previous programs by instituting a Cash for Work program that employed over 2,500 people. Through this program over 400,000 trees were planted and 360 linear miles of soil conservation barriers were constructed on vulnerable, deforested hillsides.

As Isaac threatens Hispaniola we are confident that this investment in the restoration of the land will save the lands and lives of many people in the mountains of Haiti.

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