In Haiti,a substantial share of poverty is also traceable to rapid population growth pressing upon limited endowments of soils and clean water. Deforestation and population growth, coupled with years of repression and colonial intervention has caused the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Many of these Haitians flee Haiti and head to the United States in boats and rafts. Vast numbers of men, women and children never make it to the United States. Those who do are deported back to Haiti. A vicious cycle soon begins, with the environment and innocent Haitian people caught in the midst of it.
Deforestation refers to the complete destrucution of forest cover, whether this destruction is due to land-clearing for cattle ranching, small holder agriculture, (Haiti) plantation agriculture, or parking lots. Deforestation means that the land is converted permanently from forest uses to non-forest purposes. Deforestation is much more serious than forest degradation. Forest degradation may change the ecology of certain forest aspects, but it does not destroy all forest cover(2).
Originally, tropical forests in Asia, Africa, and Latin America covered about fifteen million square km. of land area, or about 12 perent of the earth's surface. Today, tropical rain forest cover has shrunk to half that, or 7.5 million square km(3).
In addition to this sad reality, the rate of destruction of the forest is increasing. As late as 1979, deforestation occurred on "only" 75,000 square km. per year. By 1991, the annual amount of forest deforestation had risen to between 130,000 and 140,000 square km. The rate of deforestation increased by 80 percent in these years. In other words, the rate of deforestation rose from less than 1 percent of forest area per year in 1979 to nearly 2 percent of forest area by 1991. In many areas, the rate of deforestation was much higher (three quarters) as high as 12 percent per year in some countries of West Africa and Latin America(4).
The rapid loss of forest cover has grave economical, ecological and ethical consequences. Millions of people in Haiti and other poor countries face permanent poverty with forest destruction. Haiti is a country that is virtually deforested at the present time. If one were to fly over the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the border appears like it was drawn by an"acetylene torch" owing to massive deforestation in Haiti. The Haitian climate has, as a result of deforestation, been changed drastically(5).
Numerous studies have illustrated that poverty and hunger are often related to environmental degradation(6). In Haiti and other developing countries, there has been a strong effort to keep the poor landless and disenfranchised. If they are vulnerable economically and socially, it is believed the poor can be easily coerced into working for the rural and urban elites for low wages. If the poor are unable to produce their own food, they are quickly absorbed into the cash economy. Poor farmers often have to sell their crops immediately after harvest when the market is flooded and prices are at their lowest. They do this because they need quick cash. These farmers spent their reserves in an attempt to grow their crops. Farmers need to sell their crops in order to make some type of profit to support their families(7).
In Haiti, about 75 percent of the population lives in poverty. Almost 70 percent of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector for their small-scale subsistence farming. Agriculture composes 34.8 percent of the economy and employs 66 percent of all Haitians.Farmers usually grow coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, and corn on their farms(8). In order to grow their crops, farmers clear forest areas. Deforestation is fatal to the environment and ecosysytem. However, these farmers do not have a choice but to continue this deforestation. Their livelihoods depend on it.
In 1995, Haiti had a per capita income of 229 dollars. Haiti remains by far the poorest country in the hemisphere, at less than half the per capita income of the next poorest country, Honduras. Haiti's population has the lowest health and educational indicators in the region. Less than 60 percent of the population receive primary health care and the illiteracy rate is about 50 percent. The mortality rate for children under five is more than double the regional average and life expectancy is only 57 years(9). Haiti's problems of poverty, poor education and health conditions are the result of years of neglect and misrule, which will take years to overcome.
Haiti's current situation can be traced to the years of military intervention by the United States as well political turmoil within the country.
With 22 changes of government from 1843 until 1915, Haiti experienced numerous periods of intense political and economic disorder. In 1915, the United States intervened militarily during an especially unstable period. U.S. military forces were withdrawn in 1934 at the request of the elected government of Haiti (10).
In the early part of the twentieth century, Haiti suffered from a turbulent political life and financial mismanagement. Eight percent of the Haitian budget went to debt service, and U.S. Government officials were concerned that financial obligations to U.S. investors might not be met. There was a fear in the United States that France or Germany might establish a position of influence in Haiti (11).
These concerns were heightened after the outbreak of World War I, when Haitian authority collapsed into bloody factional struggles in the summer of 1915. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was determined to take action.
In July 1915, Admiral William B. Caperton was directed to land forces to establish order and assume responsibility for administering custonhouses. With almost no resistance, some 330 sailors and marines took control of the capital (Port-Au-Prince) within a few hours.
Once established in the major population centers, U.S. officials quickly ensured the election by the Haitian National Assembly of a responsive president, Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave, who had served as president of the Haitian Senate. As a result of continuing unrest, Admiral Caperton also established censorship and proclaimed martial law. These emergency measures were not repealed for over ten years (12).
Haiti's (internal) political turmoil began in 1957, when Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc) was elected President, following a year during which six different governments held power! He became president for life in 1964 and maintained absolute political control until his death in 1971. During Duvalier's rule, a small black middle class emerged, but Haiti suffered from domestic political tension, severe corruption, repression and economic stagnation. The United States suspended all economic and military assistance to the government of Francois Duvalier in 1963; aid was resumed only in 1973(13).
Combinations of Act and Harm Sites
|Site of Act||Site of Harm||Action/Event|
|(1)Haiti||Haiti||Haiti deforests its lands|
Degradation and deforestation in Haiti, as in other countries, is happening at an alarming rate. Worldwide, forests have shrunk by about 142,000 square km. per year in the early nineties. Of that total amount, about 80,000 square km. fell to slash and burn agriculture. Another 10,000 square km. were deforested by the search for firewood (24).
Yes, there is a decrease in the amount of resources that the poor depend on due to deforestation. Some resources are gained if farmers take care of the fields and do not abuse them. Other parts of the land are constantly being used over and over again. The soil erodes and there is nothing more that can be done.
10. Level of Conflict: Medium
11. Fatality Level: 4
b. United States: Indirect Link
Not much will change in the foreseeable future unless the Haitian government sets forth clear priorities: strenghthening fragile democratic institutions, development of a credible legal and law enforcement system, and private sector, agricultural and infrastructure development. Investors should invest in Haiti, this will build up the Haitian economy which in turn will be prosperous. The United States and United Nations should end all embargos and offer aid in the forms of education and health programs. (Aid is being sent to Haiti, beginning in late 1995). Furthermore, the United States must change its current immigration policies and allow Haitian boat people into the country. Each time people are deported back to Haiti, the problem is the same as before.
(1) Haiti's Economy. [OnLine] Available FTP: www.emulateme.com/haitieco.htm
(2) Tropical Deforestation. Gillis, Malcolm. President of Rice University. 1996 Rice Environmental Conference. [OnLine] Available FTP: space.rice.edu/hmns/dlt/Gillis/html
(5) Tropical Deforestation. Gillis, Malcolm. President of Rice University. 1996 Rice Environmental Conference. [OnLine] Available FTP: space.rice.edu/hmns/dlt/Gillis/html
(6) Poverty, Human Rights and the Consequences of Deforestation. den Ouden, Bernard. University of Hartford. 1996. [OnLine] Available FTP: scholar.lib.vt.edu/ ejournals/SPT/v1_n1n2/ouden.html
(7) World of Concern: Haiti. [OnLine] Available FTP: www.worldconcern.org/lahai.html
(8) Haiti's Economy. [OnLine] Available FTP: www.emulateme.com/haitieco.htm
(9) Promoting Stability, Democracy and Economic Growth in Haiti. Sullivan, Joseph G. United States Information Agency. [OnLine] Available FTP: www.state.gov/www/regions/ara/970514_sullivan.html
(10) U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Public Affairs. Office of Public Communication. Background Notes: Haiti. November, 1994.
(11) "U.S. Occupation of Haiti." The Congressional Digest. August/September 1994.
(13) U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Public Affairs. Office of Public Communication. Background Notes: Haiti. November, 1994.
(15) Plummer, Brenda Gayle. Haiti and the U.S.: The Psychological Moment. London: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
(16) U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Public Affairs. Office of Public Communication. Background Notes: Haiti. November, 1994.
(17) Plummer, Brenda Gayle. Haiti and the U.S.: The Psychological Moment. London: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
(18) U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Public Affairs. Office of Public Communication. Background Notes: Haiti. November, 1994.
(19) Promoting Stability, Democracy and Economic Growth in Haiti. Sullivan, Joseph G. United States Information Agency. [OnLine] Available FTP: www.state.gov/www/regions/ara/970514_sullivan.htm
(20) Mitchell, Christopher, "U.S. Policy Toward Haitian Boat People, 1972-93." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. July 1994: 69.
(21) The Boston Globe. Friday November 21, 1997. [OnLine] Available FTP: www.boston.com/globe.
(22) Tropical Deforestation. Gillis, Malcolm. President of Rice University. 1996 Rice Environmental Conference. [OnLine] Available FTP: space.rice.edu/hmns/dlt/Gillis/html
(25) Tropical Deforestation. Gillis, Malcolm. President of Rice University. 1996 Rice Environmental Conference. [OnLine] Available FTP: space.rice.edu/hmns/dlt/Gillis/html