Natural Resources haiti

Published on May 10th, 2009 | by Amiel Blajchman


Haiti’s Poverty is Directly Linked to Deforestation and Habitat Loss

Haiti continues to claim the dubious honour of being ranked as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of this Caribbean nation’s population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty. Haiti’s sorrowful rank as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world has been directly attributed to the degradation of Haiti’s natural environment (less than 1.5% of its original tree cover remains intact) as well as a lack of governance structures, underinvestment in social capital, obstacles to private investment, and a spiraling “poverty trap“.

While all these factors are related to one another (and unfortunately feed off of one another as well), environmental degradation is unquestioningly one of Haiti’s most immediate threats.

“The catastrophic state of the environment is closely related to deep-seated institutional, political and governance problems”, says Bernice Robertson, Crisis Group’s Haiti Analyst.   “Coherent national socio-economic development policies have been mostly absent, due to management and political limitations and the narrow interests of those holding economic power”.

The primary cause of Haiti’s environmental degradation has been caused by Haitian’s need for energy. With an electricity sector that only covered 10% of Haiti’s population in 2006, chronic energy shortages have contributed to Haitian’s search for alternative sources of energy. Unfortunately for Haiti’s natural environment, wood became and continues to be the principal energy source in Haiti, accounting for 70 percent of energy consumption in 2006. This resulted in the steady deforestation of Haiti, with an estimated 6,000 hectares of soil lost each year to erosion.

The loss of Haiti’s tree cover has had devastating effects. In 2004, Hurricane Jeanne tore through the island nation leaving over 3000 dead in its wake. Observers noted that many of the dead were killed in massive landslides caused by vast amounts of water falling, washing away soil cover and sweeping through communities leaving a trail of destruction behind.

While the current focus of environmental writers has tended to focus on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and the island of Hispaniola (Haiti shares it with the Dominican Republic) is probably in no immediate danger of being submerged by the seas, Haiti is and will remain  extremely vulnerable to natural disasters like extreme storms and resulting secondary catastrophes. While Haiti’s forest cover is long gone, and its natural environment virtually denuded, it is the combination of failures that have led to this tragedy that we need to understand. Governance failures and poor planning are not exclusive to Haiti, and unfortunately nor is environmental loss.

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(Photo by leoffreitas at Flickr under Creative Commons License)

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About the Author

Amiel is the founder of the Globalis Group, an organization whose motto is "combining action and thought for a sustainable world." His experience includes working with the Canadian government on greenspace projects, sustainable development programs and on policy documents on issues as diverse as climate change, sustainable development, and the environmental and social impacts of transportation. He is listed on the UN’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory’s list of GHG experts, and has sat on the Canadian Environmental Certifications Board’s Greenhouse Gas Verification and Validation Certification committee.

23 Responses to Haiti’s Poverty is Directly Linked to Deforestation and Habitat Loss

  1. Ezili Dantò says:

    If you put stock in IMF-"GDP" theories, than Nicaragua, not Haiti, is the "poorest in the Western Hemisphere." But don't expect the media to change their standard "journalistic" boilerplates and titles summarily stuck to Haiti. Manipulating figures is a Kolon art, Haiti suffered over a billion in damages in 2008 due to four storms more severe than multiple Katrinas, what happened to Nicaragua that it fell behind and why isn't the UN going there to help them become more "stabilized," or "developed" as the UN is now claiming its doing in Haiti. Inquiring minds wanna know???

    Does the Western economic calculation of wealth fit Haiti -fit Dessalines idea of wealth distribution?NO!

  2. Ezili Dantò says:

    Mr. Amiel Blajchman

    Haiti’s poverty is the result of the theft and exploitation of Haiti by the world’s wealthy countries and their corporations. Haiti’s poverty is not, as you assert, directly linked to deforestation. But, if one repeats this assertion long enough, as has been done with Haiti, it becomes sort of a "journalistic boilerplate," but that does not mean it's the truth, the whole truth and based on verifiable facts. Haiti's poverty began with a US/Euro trade embargo after its independence, continued with the Independence Debt to France and ecclesiastical and financial colonialism. But, if we stick only to deforestation here, Haiti’s deforestation is due as much to the use of wood for charcoal as the soil erosion occurring right now in Haiti (because of the current destruction of Haiti's mountains) is due to digging for cement, marble, granite by the Haitians peasant for constructing their houses! Haitians could be doing this for centuries and would not have denuded the mountains or dug them up to the extent visible today, leaving Haiti with the soil erosion it is currently experiencing and the craters that will be left when Haiti’s remaining mountain ranges and natural protection have been more thoroughly exploited and mined by the transnational corporations now in Haiti. The Euro/US companies carting off Haiti's natural resources, by digging its mountains right now, and before that, by razing whole Haitian forests to the ground for lumber to meet Western profit needs, along with the destruction of Haiti's peasant economy (elimination of Haiti’s indigenous black pigs and dumping of US rice that destroyed domestic agriculture) so that the peasant could not afford other fuel, are the primary reasons for the environmental degradation in Haiti….

  3. Ezili Dantò says:

    …It's a process that started in colonial times, continued under the 19-year US occupation (1915-1934) and now, it's Haiti's mountains that are being dug up, mined and destroyed by the International companies taking the mineral wealth of Haiti that are in the mountain rocks (gold, copper, uranium, iridium, granite, marble, coal and oil explorations) behind these UN guns. That's why, contrary to, your – Amiel Blajchman – assertions herein, Haiti supposedly is no longer the "poorest in the Western Hemisphere, Nicagargua is! But that little colonial narrative also having NOTHING to do with the realities of Haitian lives, will also be repeated and reprinted, ad nausea, and also readily believed by uninformed readers. For more, go to: Haiti Riches; Ezili Danto's counter-colonial narrative on Haiti's deforestation and Interview on the Mining of Haiti's Resources -… ;… and

    The multiple causes which accelerated the deforestation in Haiti and that don't involve blaming the poor Haitian are simply not addressed in your article on Haiti.

  4. Pingback: Cool Green Science: The Conservation Blog of The Nature Conservancy » Cool Green Morning: Tuesday, May 12

  5. Dear Ms. Laurent,

    It's not just the IMF with their "boilerplate" GDP.

    The United Nations Human Development Index and Human Poverty Indices both rank Haiti as a poorer nation relative to Nicaragua. The latest HDI report online

    ( has Haiti ranked as 146 and Nicaragua at 110. Additionally, the UN Human Poverty Index has

    Hait and Nicaragua with the same ranking:

    I would say though, that this is somewhat immaterial. They are both poverty-stricken countries, regardless of which is worse off than the other, no?

  6. Ella says:

    it sure is horrible what happened to Haiti last night. God bless them all.

  7. Pingback: What would it take to replant Haiti's forest - Politics and Other Controversies - Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals, Third Parties, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Congress, President - Page 2 - City-Data Forum

  8. The major challenges for establishing more trees at a place like Haiti are costs, fitting it with farming, getting early benefits of local priority, infertile soils, getting actual benefits on erosion/run-off/water availability/land-slides, watering, labour, land rights preventing much investments, fencing/demarcation etc.

    In collaboration with research institutions and farmers, I developed improved low-input methods to make direct seeding multipurpose tree legumes reliable and fast growing on poor soil.

  9. Pingback: Are we going to get stuck rebuilding Haiti?? - Politics and Other Controversies - Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals, Third Parties, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Congress, President - City-Data Forum

  10. Pingback: Are we going to get stuck rebuilding Haiti?? - Politics and Other Controversies - Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals, Third Parties, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Congress, President - City-Data Forum

  11. Pingback: » Avantar, Haiti and China - Blogger News Network

  12. laura says:

    A lot of people don't know the true about this after the eathquake. They need to know.

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  18. OxygenLynne says:

    Is anyone surprised that Haiti is being raped before she is stoned to death? With HAARP a full reality, it is easy to get rid of black and brown peoples who do not fit into the idea of a Brave New World.

  19. Pingback: Massive reforestations/Carbon sinks/Sahara Desert?

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  21. Pingback: In Humanitarian and Political Fracases, Don’t Forget Haiti’s Environmental Issues | Foreign Policy Digest–Know the world you live in

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  23. Pingback: Deforestación e historia: El espejo haitiano « Carlos Peláez, ¿Ok?

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