AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TREE CROP ON HAITIíS HILLSIDES AND WATERSHEDS

The environmental need for Jatropha in Haiti

Haiti is very mountainous and very prone to erosion and soil depletion. Over the decades, the Haitian peasants have deforested the mountains to make charcoal for cooking. On many of Haiti’s watersheds, there are virtually no trees and little topsoil left to soak up rainwater and prevent it from racing downhill; most of them are now barren to such extent that valleys and plains face flooding catastrophes such as those that recently made international headlines including mudslides in Gonaives in September 2004 and in Mapou in May 2004; together, these events cost thousands of lives, and left thousands more homeless. If nothing is done, Haiti will face more flooding catastrophes and large-scale death tolls. Hillside land is often so degraded that even sorghum will no longer grow, leaving the farmers with no staple source of food. It is urgent to provide Haitian’s peasants with an environmentally friendly cash tree crop that will grow and stabilize Haiti’s most impoverished soils.

 

The economic need for Jatropha in Haiti

Poverty-stricken Haiti is totally deprived of natural resources. Because of the lack of foreign currency to buy imported fuel, Haiti faces acute energy shortages. In 2005, Haiti imported over 250 million dollars worth of fuel; over half of it was diesel; a large percentage of Haiti’s hard currency is required to cover the cost of petroleum imports. In Haiti, fuel is one of the largest markets; it represents about one fifth to one sixth of the country’s total imports. These figures are ones of a country plagued by energy shortages; current diesel imports are far from covering the country’s electrical needs. (Most of the electricity is produced from diesel fuel and last year the country covered less than 25% of its current needs.) Haiti is also the poorest country in the Western hemisphere; more than half its inhabitants survive on less than $1 per day. Haiti needs new crops that will provide revenues to its poorest peasants and be friendly to the environment. It also needs new crops that will stimulate a local agroindustry and job creation outside of the major urban centers.

 

A new crop to shape Haiti’s future

As mentioned earlier, Jatropha provides solutions to many of these challenges. Jatropha plantations and the biodiesel agro-industry could help improve the livelihood of poor people in local communities and could contribute to Haiti reforestation and land reclamation as well as soil improvement (currently less then 1.5% of Haiti’s surface is covered by forest) and finally help ease the burden on oil imports on the country’s finance and economy.

 

 

 
< Prev   Next >