Rural farming communities in Haiti are vulnerable to floodwaters that wash away top soils and in some cases destroy their entire livelihoods. In 2014, WFP is renewing its commitment to help communities in Haiti protect top soils along with their crops and homes by building infrastructure with the support of local and international partners.
Haiti is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world and is often at the centre of global discussions on building communities’ resilience. According to Maplecroft’s 2012 Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas, Haiti is one of the countries most at risk of floods, soil erosion, depletion and extreme deforestation. Long term destruction of the environment and the onset of a natural disaster can have devastating effects on communities.
Past experiences have shown that hunger increased in Haiti after natural disasters. This cycle can be stopped when communities are given the opportunity to protect themselves by creating infrastructure or assets that lessen the affects of a shock. This enables communities to prepare for and respond to an emergency as well as organize themselves for the future.
In 2013, WFP implemented 20 ‘Cash for Assets’ projects at the Haitian government’s request. The projects focused on the South-East, West and Artibonite and were later extended to the North and North-East departments. This initiative came just after the consecutive droughts in spring 2012 and hurricanes Isaac and Sandy pushed the number of hungry people in Haiti up to 6.7 million (CNSA). The objective of these projects is to increase food security and economic growth among communities that are prone to successive shocks.
Last year, WFP partnered with 18 national and international organizations to set-up ‘Cash for Assets’ programmes that employed over 39,970 temporary workers to build resilience in vulnerable communities. The programmes benefited over 199, 870 Haitians across the country.
So what does resilience look like?
Today, from a distance, you can see dozens of stone walls crossing Ravine Suzette in Gros Morne, in the Artibonite region of Haiti.
Etienne Fevrin, 63, has been working on building these stone barriers since WFP’s activities began in the region with a local NGO called Movement des Paysans de Gros Morne (MPGM – Peasants Movement of Gros Morne). With his co-workers Ansene Fevrin and Jean Andre, Etienne is employed in one of WFP’s programmes that give him much needed cash to build productive assets for his community.
“We build the walls to stop the land from falling down the mountain”, he says, “Before we built the walls, I worried every year on what would happen when the rains came. Last year I lost one of my pigs and all of my goats to the floods- the water swept everything away. I have been a farmer my whole life, we need our crops and our animals to live”.
The project in Ravine Suzette employed 14 groups of 20 men and women of all ages from the community. The money received for their work was used for school fees, or much needed medicine and food. “As long as we have the means we will continue this work to protect our community”, says Etienne, “There are many benefits for us. The soil that is trapped between the walls can also be used to farm. Some of the elderly people in the village use the land at the bottom near the village to create gardens closer to home”.
Resilience building in vulnerable Haitian communities will be at the core of WFP’s strategy for the next 3 years.
This year, WFP started new ‘Cash for Assets’ initiatives in the country in partnership with FAO and German Agro Action (AAA) and The Mouvman Fanm Peyizan Gwos Ròch (MFPG). The objective is to reach 58,450 people through these programmes over the next six months.
The Swiss Cooperation ‘La Suisse par la Direction du Développement et de la Coopération’ (DDC), one of the most prominent donors to support WFP’s resilience building activities recently visited a dry barrier project in Bombardopolis (North West department). Click here to see photos from the visit.
The Swiss Cooperation has supported WFP’s resilience building activities in Haiti with financial resources of over UD$ 1 million. In respect of its new line of action, disaster risk reduction, The Swiss Cooperation will continue its financial and technical support to increase Haitians’ resilience to disasters caused by natural phenomenon.