February 2011 Archives
In short, Haiti does not have much. More importantly, it does not have a dedicated person or group - besides the government, which we know to be ineffective to say the least - compiling a list of the country's resources and assets in order to improve, refine and triage the industries currently contributing economically. The only benefit from compiling such a list would be to educate the government, local officials and citizens on which industries are improving the economy, which industries should be given subsidized money, which industries should be hiring, and the civic duty of each individual. Therefore, the purpose of this summary will be to highlight the areas that I believe a person with such a position would focus on.
Haiti's resources have included at one time or another gold, copper, other metals, trees, usable farmland producing sugarcane, tobacco, mangoes, cocoa beans, coffee, pvc plastic, galvanized metal, textiles, commercial fishing, and tourist attraction. Additionally, Haiti was a large producer of sugarcane but now is a net importer. Rum is a derivative of sugarcane and Haiti is already a large producer of rum. Currently Haiti is the home of Barbancourt Rum, which is one of the world's finest. Haiti also exports essential oils such as amyris, neroli, vetiver oil.
All three essential oils listed above, which Haiti exports, are widely used in the fragrance industry. Both amyris and neroli oil are derived from trees or the blossoms of trees, so an increase in the production of the two is limited. But vetiver is a perennial grass whose roots grow quite deep and is known to be an excellent erosion control plant. It's roots grow 2-4 meters deep, straight down, is a non-invasive plant, and blocks surface runoff water, which makes it an effective stabilizing hedge for stream banks.
A resource that seems inexhaustible is the income of clothing and textiles. President JFK set up a plan to send Haiti a large portion of the United States' secondhand clothing. As a result, many Haitians are very skilled tailors, and this is an industry, which could be tapped to increase demand of labor and goods in Haiti.
As we know, their tree supply is virtually gone. Any hope in utilizing wood as a resource in the near future is out of the question. With proper reforestation for both the increase in forested area as well as erosion mitigation, soils in Haiti may return to a more farmable quality. But by then, hopefully an alternative to charcoal as cooking fuel can be embraced.
Furthermore, reforestation would aid in re-establishment of flow in current streams and rivers. The water quality in Haiti currently is poor, especially near Port-au-Prince. Surface water is almost always contaminated with industrial chemicals, human waste or solid waste. Also, groundwater can even be contaminated below the ground by the same factors, and soil erosion can disrupt the replenishment of aquifers.
What Haiti does have now, is rubble; a lot of rubble. Current schemes are underway to utilize rubble as an up-cycled building material. It is well known that rock and concrete are effective as thermal mass, but may not be useful for Haitians depending on the requirement for heat at night. Contaminated water could be passed through a network of concrete rubble and aggregate as a method of water remediation.
Anywhere in the world that's lacking in proper infrastructure there will be human waste. If human waste could be utilized as fertilizer, possibly after once processed, we could turn a liability into an asset. Currently soil-aquifer treatment of wastewater is being explored as a concept, but not yet in Haiti.
It is apparent that what Haiti needs now are not new resources but the identification of current ones and implementation. This identification can only be achieved by an authority whose job it is to collect information throughout the whole country with the goal of compiling it if only to understand each individual aspect and its impact on the country.
A map showing the locations and amounts of ground water in Haiti. Note the amount near the coast which is possibly salinated, and the lack of ground water anywhere else near Port-au-prince.
A map pointing out various storage facilities throughout Haiti. Not often apparent is the fact that storage is as important as a resource as food, water, and medical supplies.
The Sphere handbook is a set of guidelines and best practices to define and uphold the standards by which the global community responds to the plight of people affected by disasters. Its principles are based on two core beliefs: first, that those affected by disaster or conflict have a right to life with dignity and therefore a right to protection and assistance, and second, that all possible steps should be taken to alleviate human suffering arising out of disaster and conflict. A revised edition of the handbook will be available in early 2011. This revised handbook and other resources are available on the website. www.sphereproject.org
This section of the Action Plan describes the role of the IHRC and its implications for organizations working in Haiti.
Diaster Accountability Project_AFH ARC.pdf
The Disaster Accountability Project conducted a study on transparency of relief organizations in Haiti. This document provides survey responses by Architecture for Humanity and American Refugee Committee. The full report can be viewed at