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Climate Change and Climate Justice in Haiti: A Photo Blog

“Sometimes we feel the sun must be lower in the sky…” said one of our partners during our recent site visit to Haiti.

Climate change is a palpable daily reality in Haiti. The women and men we talked with during our site visit there were eager to discuss how climate change has impacted their lives and the health of their homeland. The photo blog below shares a few of those stories.

“Sometimes we feel like the sun is lower in the sky, that’s how hot it is,” Ginette Hilaire (shown above in blue) told us. “The seasons have changed completely.” Ginette is a technician with the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP), the oldest peasant association in Haiti. She works with families to grow food in the drought. Grassroots International supports the MPP’s reforestation and sustainable agriculture work in the environmentally devastated Central Plateau.

The dry, cracked earth speaks for itself. Only the rice closest to the river is still alive. Drought equals devastation for this rice-growing community near the Dominican border in Haiti’s Northeast.

Tire gardens provide some food and income for Orissone Pierre and his family. In the Central Plateau, where there has been drought for two years, the MPP turns tires that would have been thrown out into gardens to grow food. These innovative gardens need very little water to thrive. Using this climate-resistant model, Haitians are now growing food in tire gardens all over the country.

Like many peasant families throughout Haiti, Madam Chalman Dorvil Marie Vita and her son Bradley Jonason depend on income from their goats to pay for medical expenses, school and other major life events. But in Polen Lacone in Haiti’s Northwest, hurricanes like Ike and Jeanne swept away most people’s goats. While hurricanes has always impacted Haiti, their frequency and severity are increasing as the seas heat up.

Many Haitians walk for hours to collect water from rivers that are increasingly drying out. These youth are lucky to have access to water spigots, built by the MPP, that bring the precious resource from a local waterfall to the community. The adaptations to climate change and even the basic infrastructure needs of rural Haiti (like these water spigots) are being provided by Haitian social movements.

Massive deforestation has left Haiti particularly vulnerable to climate disruption. Without trees and rooted plants, the ground cannot soak up the water when it rains, which exacerbates flooding. The soil is constantly eroded because there are no roots to hold it down. Plus without shade cover, what water there is evaporates and there is dust everywhere.

The MPP has led a huge reforestation program that Grassroots International has funded for many years. Over the last four decades, the MPP has planted 30 million trees! In the tree pictured above, egrets have returned for the first time because there is now, again, a habitat to support them.

Charcoal made from trees is used throughout Haiti as cheap energy for cooking, which continues to drive deforestation. Showing off alternative charcoal made of the leftovers from sugarcane production and sticky sap, Mulaire Michel, MPP’s technical director, explains ideas to promote alternatives to charcoal.

To slow and stop the pace of climate change, we need to stop extracting fossil fuels from the earth, produce and consume far fewer products, grow food locally and without chemicals, and move away from intensive mono-cropping. Across Haiti’s North though, big international projects are doing just the opposite. Plans backed by USAID and big NGOs, multi-national corporations, and governments are pushing small farmers (who cool the planet) off the land to build industrial parks, mining projects and huge agro-industrial plantations. This billboard advertizes plans for an industrial park.

“We can only change this together!” Guillaume Josephat Antonces presents at an organizing meeting of peasant organizations in Haiti’s Northeast. His community is saying no to land grabs that will destroy their way of life to build mega-projects that will add to the environmental devastation of Haiti and speed up climate change.

Haitian movement organizing, and the organizing of people worldwide, offer real hope and alternative solutions to climate change. Here Haitian movement leaders join others in South Africa as part of a People’s Climate Summit. Because climate change isn’t just a Haitian problem, it’s our problem.