Category Archives: 2001
Wood has become a scarce commodity
In the rural areas of Haiti, wood is an important fuel. Everywhere throughout the country, it is women who walk daily for hours, often crossing dozens of kilometres, in the search for this precious commodity.
In Mabial, a locality situated 18 kms North of the town of Jacmel in the South-East of the country, deforestation has reached its high point. The peasants must cover many kilometers to find wood in other localities. Paleus Garraud is one of the women who uses wood to cook her family food. She tells of her experience.
“I used to fetch wood from my gardens, now the bushes have disappeared. There are no more trees near my house. To find enough wood, I must walk for long, sometimes for hours. My feet hurt. It is hard to walk long distances and carry heavy loads,” she says.
Sarah Jean-Louis who lives in the community of Gosseline (district of Jacmel) has watched trees grow around her house. She saw them disappear one by one, year after year. That means a lot to her. Actually, it means less birds and cattle, less water and much less wood to cook with.
To cope with this situation, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in the area have launched educational programmes to promote new techniques aimed at the rational use of wood.
In order to better use the wood that she has today, Elijean makes sure that it is very dry before burning it. She covers her pot during cooking to boost the cooking process. Elijean prepares all that she needs to cook ahead of time and puts the pot directly on fire to save energy.
“Before the shortage of fuelwood, I would fix two meals a day. Nowadays, I only cook one meal,” she says. “Sometimes we eat vegetables without cooking them. That is sad, but we have no choice.”
Acknowledging the scarcity of fuelwood, Jeanilia Dougé from the community of La Montagne, near Jacmel (15 kms on South-West of Jacmel) attempts to find ways to deal with the situation. With a family of 7 children she makes palm baskets. She sells them at the market. This work enables her to earn more money during the dry season.
“I must take a mule and walk for hours to fetch wood. When there is no wood, my family suffers. During many years, I thought that there was nothing I could do. But one day, I said to myself: ‘why should I not grow trees in my garden, even if they are small?’ I planted trees around my yard as a fence: fruit trees, and fast-growing trees. I have begun to plant trees which provide me with avocados, coconuts, mangoes and oranges.”
One does not need to be an ecologist or environmentalist to observe the disappearance of Haiti’s vegetation cover, year after year. Forest cover has gone down from 20% in 1956 to 9% in 1978. In 1989 it was 2% of the total surface of the country. Nowadays, we speak of 1 to 2%. The official statistics reveal 1.44% ( UNOPS, Haiti Econet 1998; and BME, Synergique 1999).
“At present, one of the immediate solutions for protecting the last trees of Haïti from the scourge of deforestation is the use of LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas), as well as a high conservation of energy in the consumption sector. However, Haiti is one the countries of the Caribbean where LPG (propane and butane) is out of reach of the households, or at least costs them too much,” according to Jean-Robert Altidor, an engineer who works as technical advisor at the Haitian Office of Mines and Energy (BME).
LPG, distributed to Haitian households for US$0.70 per kilogram, is sold for US$0.56 in Jamaica, US$0.37 in Trinidad and Tobago, US$0.24 in Cuba and US$0.10 in the Dominican Republic. Haitian consumers of LPG have welcomed the arrival of a new distributor, in the expectation of a price reduction of the product.
However, nothing has been done in this area. During recent months, prices have increased once again even while the government announced loudly that it was about to launch a promotional campaign for the use of LPG in households.
The limited capacity of storing gas, presently estimated at 1800 tons, justifies the level of the retail prices, according to specialists.
In keeping with ongoing measures, the Technical Advisor of BME, urges the leaders of the country to implement a subsidy system for LPG. He encourages users to purchase equipment with high energetic output for reasonable prices. He also suggests that the national provision of LPG is harmonized by requiring importing companies to collaborate in order to reduce the cost per barrel at import as well as transportation fees. Finally, he recommends that filling centres be established and the sale of empty tanks be controlled.
“One proposed measure is subsidizing (partially or totally) the investment of purchasing butane or propane or other alternatives to charcoal. Can we find a statistic figure on the consumption of fuelwood in Haiti?”
An effort has been undertaken, in the scope of the “Agroforestry Outreach Project,” to obtain reliable statistics on the consumption of fuelwood and charcoal. The results are based on counts by stations located at the entrance of the main cities. This allowed for more or less precise figures. As a matter of fact, a huge difference has been noted between estimates by foresters and by energy specialists, who take the relation between the energy source and the transportation equipment into account.
Estimates on the consumption of fuelwood
Taking account of the different consumption estimates for the small business sector from 1974 to 1998, one can distill the following figures: 240,000 tons for sugar cane mills, 120,000 tons for bakeries, 50,000 tons for the oil mills, 20,000 tons for the Dry-Cleanings, 20,000 tons for another category entitled “Other” (popular restaurants, jam factories, cassava factories, lime kiln (mainly in the North-West). The grand total is 450,000 tons of fuelwood.
Fishing in “Nan tikòk” : What are the perspectives?
By: Jean-François St. Félix
It is nearly unanimously recognized that fisheries is an under-exploited business in Haiti. The sea contains great economic potential, which, being neglected, is a loss of profit to the national economy. Anyway, the fishermen of “Nan tikòk” (a slum close to Les Cayes) do not tell the opposite.
In fact, for more and more families fishing is the main source of income. However, all types of difficulties genuinely hinder the development of fishing in the area.
Justin Glezil, in charge of a cooperative which unfortunately did not last long, remarks: “The fishing industry is literally neglected by the authorities. No training, no infrastructure, there are only the fishermen with their good will who try something with the means at their disposal.” He further states that an attempt was made to establish an association of fishermen.
This initiative goes back to 1989 when the then Minister of Social Affairs, Mr. Arnaud Guerrier, launched a poverty reduction programme. Assistance was provided during this period, including boats, fishing nets, sinkers and a freezer. But all this did not survive the coup d’état, which took away everything.
Sometimes the fishermen go as far as ‘Anse-d’Ailnaut’ and ‘Les Anglais’, two localities of Haiti’s South-West respectively at 74 and 66 kilometers from the city of Les Cayes. These territorial intrusions do not always please the fishermen from those regions. Sometimes conflict bursts out.
Justin, an experienced fisherman of 47 years old, draws also attention to the fact that foreign ships with sophisticated fishing equipment cross Haitian territorial waters without any fear. He adds that he doesn’t know if there is a law on fishing in Haiti, although he has been in the business for 28 years.
According to him, the fishermen of ‘Nan tikòk’ cannot afford to invest much in fishing. He believes that the cooperative should be restarted, given that it payed off in the past. He insists that the problems relating to training, availability of funds and the purchase of modern equipment must be addressed in an organized framework.
Altogether, there is no other economic activity obliging the fishermen to abandon their trade, a job which most of them have been doing for many long years. But, they all insist on the lack of equipment.
Due to inaccessibility of funds and lack of proper equipment, the fishermen are at the mercy of the agents, who purchase their products at an incredible low price and resell them at high prices in Port-au-Prince, the most important market. In this vicious circle, the purchase of proper equipment is put off indefinitely. A compressor costs approximately US$2,500, they complain.
It is exactly to break this impasse that, since a few months, the Governments of Haiti and Cuba have initiated cooperation in the area of fisheries.
The programme which will be implemented over a five-year period, among other activities provides for technical training of the fishermen, the seeding of our lakes and ponds with 26 million fish larvae and the distribution of fish shelter, made of used tires, in the coastal zone. The first Cuban boats started to cross the territorial waters in February 2000, in the scope of an evaluation programme.
But people of Nan tikòk are already grumbling. Fishermen complain that they are penalized by the presence of these Cuban boats, which swipe up all the fish on their route. Saurel Jean, Michel Laurent, Edouard Silas and Willy Saint-Gilles, all small fishermen confess that they find themselves in the process of being deprived of their sole means of earning a living. They also revolt against the fact that Cuban boats systematically destroy their nets, causing the considerable loss in the order of 25,000 Gourdes (US$1,100). Moreover, they feel very concerned regarding the future of fishing, because these giant boats catch even the smallest fish, making their reproduction impossible.
Agronomist Pierre Guy Lafontant, Director of Natural Resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, when talking on a local radio station, noted that this programme will benefit the country in general and the fishermen in particular. According to him, this experience will not only allow an evaluation of the potential of natural resources use, but also a transfer of technology in favour of fishermen.
Children without childhood
By: Nicole Simeon, Journalist, Le Nouvelliste
If for certain kids summer vacation means leisure and rest, on the contrary for others there is no respite.
In fact, the summer holiday is for a category of children a season that permits them to earn their own money.
The city of Jacmel for instance, located at 121 km South of the Capital, is home to many of these children. Being mostly girls between 9 and 14 years old, these children live in very precarious economic circumstances.
They are street children or domestics, who come from nearby coastal villages in search of a better life.
Some of them attend school regularly. Others, by need or obligation are converted into street merchants.
They can be found everywhere: at the marketplace or around the public square of ‘Toussaint Louverture’ in the district of Bel-Air, at the bus station ‘Marché Geffrard’ at the entrance of the city or at the ‘Lakobat’ Marketplace, commonly called “down town,” with small merchandise such as plastic bags, spices or sweets, which they offer in loud voice to passers-by all day long, or eventually carry to the people.
However, at the fringes of such a pitiful life, these girls have dreams, dreams of children without a childhood.
Seated on the main public square of the city, Edith, Clara and Finette think that “the sale is not good today.” In the shadow of a tree, they grant themselves a break and discuss a bit, their baskets laying at their feet.
A few cloves of garlic, some spices, peppers and a few onions make up their entire merchandise. They are at average 13 years old and attend public or community schools.
Their activities, however little, do not cause them any embarrassment because the majority of their schoolmates are in the same situation, they say.
But Edith, Clara and Finette would prefer to do other things like staying at home and play with their friends.
This temporary activity enables them to help out their parents or be useful to their “benefactors” who have welcomed them in their houses but whose economic conditions are not always better than those of their parents, they underline.
Mirlande is the benjamin of a family of three children.
Her brothers have left with her father to work in the ‘bateyes’, the famous sugar cane fields in the Dominican Republic.
Her mother does laundry for people in the city. They don’t see each other often.
Placed as a domestic at her aunt’s who lives in the area of ‘Ka Maya’, she does not attend school and does not even know her age. But she wishes she could go to school like some of her ‘neighbours’ (other domestics).
Myrlande dreams to become a doctor. But she knows it is not up to her to decide.
All year round, she goes to the market. At this moment, she sells sausage.
Adeline is 10 years old and is from a family of four siblings living in the community of ‘Zorangers’, the first communal section of ‘Bas Cap-Rouge.’
She now lives in a neighbourhood close to the ‘Pinchinat’ Park, commonly known as “under ground,” with a family that she hardly identifies.
She goes to the market all year round with her spices and flavourings, preferably in the morning so that she can attend school in the afternoons. She is in third grade.
She was only six when she started working as a vendor, she remembers. One of her younger brothers died very young. As the youngest brother stayed with her mother in ‘Zorangers,’ Adeline and her little sister were placed in the city, with two different people.
Adeline wants to become “an important lady” who receives respect from everyone, she says.
Guerlande’s situation is different. She lives with her parents in the district of ‘La Saline.’ Her parents have two children and make a living as street merchants.
She has “forgotten” her age, she admits with an embarrassed laugh, after thinking deep. She attends elementary classes in a little school, directed by a pastor.
Guerlande thinks that she should have been in a higher grade.
She does the vending for her own account. With the pocket money that she set aside during the year, she was able to save enough to invest in selling sweets and cookies.
With the profit, she hopes to purchase the little things she needs for the next school year. In this way, her parents will only need to provide the uniforms and the school fees.
Guerlande dreams of becoming a very important person in Jacmel, and have the financial means to support her parents in the future.
These girls have not chosen their situation. They are obliged to earn their living at an age when they should be playing with their dolls and enjoy the carelessness of childhood. But due to fate, they are in the streets, thinking and talking as adults in order to survive.
The ordeal of a HIV-positive inmate
At the dormitory of the prison for minors, located in an old barrack of the district of Fort-National (North-East of Port-au-Prince), 26 prisoners live together, incarcerated for different motives.
Among them is an adolescent of 15 years: J.G., born in Jeremie, a secondary city located in the South-West of Haiti, some 365 kilometers from the capital.
Physically fragile but endowed with a good intelligence, J.G is the oldest of a modest family. His mother used to sell tobacco and his late father was a former school principal in Jeremie.
By the time he reached first grade in a college in his home town, J.G had to abandon school because of financial hardship.
Hit by the growing poverty of his family and influenced by a friend James, he decided to come to the capital Port-au-Prince, which he believed to be the symbol of hope.
In Port-au-Prince, he started a life on the margins, strolling around the whole city. Starting off as a car washer, he finally ended up in a cartel of Bicentenaire nicknamed “ the cartel of villains.”
One night, on 15 February 2000, he was caught red-handed, together with friends, steeling from a container, which had arrived from the Dominican Republic.
Beaten and neutralized by the police, he was thrown in jail to serve a sentence, which is still not established by a court, Joseph Mary Magg Gracieux said, the director of the prison.
However, J.G recognizes his guilt and promises not to commit another offense.
Prison life is different from street life. Deprived of freedom, tormented by regret, annoyance and all types of aches, he grumbles in these terms: “Here, everything is the opposite. I feel dehumanized and only see the negative. The prison walls are the only witnesses of my troubles. One day, I hope to get out of this mess.”
He continues by saying that the present situation is weakening his health.
The lesions on his skin are due to the bad quality of the water and to the general unhealthiness in which he dwells, he complains.
As to the severe body pains he has, he traces those to the mortal kicks given by police officers following his arrest.
One day when he was in deep sleep on top of a vehicle, a naughty lad threw him on the ground. This fall left him with serious problems of muscle joints, thus explaining his sickly status.
The prison doctor, Norma Petit-Frere, thinks otherwise.
It all began, she said, with the frequent manifestation of certain worrying classical symptoms such as chronic diarrhea and a remarkable loss of weight.
Based on these preliminary results, she immediately recommended an HIV antibody test in a specialized laboratory of the GHESKIO Centres (Haitian Study Group of Karposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections).
The results of the exam revealed that J.G was infected by the HIV virus.
After this became known, the medical staff of the prison decided to treat him with leniency while checking on his meals and his relationships with other children. However, all these efforts stumbled over the numerous structural gaps which prevail in the prison.
In the most complete ignorance of his HIV positive status, J.G affirmed that he only has had one protected sexual intercourse with a prostitute, a few months before his arrest.
Quetty Moise, the social worker in charge of the case, argues against this statement and relates the story of this street child who led in the past a high risk and active sexual life.
Till now, the illness of J.G. remains a secret to the other prisoners. They would give him a hard time if they were informed, Mrs Quetty Moise said.
Yvrose Vernet works as prison nurse since 5 years. She provides J.G. with her best aid by applying Permanganate for skin affectations and antibiotics against episodic diarrheas, as well as proteins to revitalize his energy.
Until now, the results of these efforts are far from conclusive. Yvrose Vernet recognizes that J.G.’s case is getting worse. “I am terribly sick,” J.G. cries courageously.
According to Quetty Moise and Yvrose Vernet, the risk of contamination is very high in the cell where J.G. lives. Because, should there be homosexual practice, it will automatically be a tragedy. They suggest that he is kept apart from the other children, or be transferred to a centre specialized in palliative treatment.
Given the seriousness of the situation, Monique Madeus, Legal Assistant does her utmost to have him released.
Moreover, Nora Amilcar, the judge connected to the children’s court, is carrying out consultations with institutions such as the Institute for Social Welfare and Research (IBESR), which is willing to come to the aid of this child in difficulty.
The problem is delicate because J.G. has no parents in Port-au-Prince and it is difficult to track his mother, Quetty Moise said.
Despite being seropositive, he is a child full of talents. He has a solid spirit. His combativeness, his good sense, his collaborative spirit and his optimism has made him a model child in the prison.
He has good tastes for fine-art and likes music. His favorite instrument is the snare drum.
He nurtures the hope to move to a rehabilitation centre, to learn a profession and become an honest man, fulfilling his civic duties towards his country.
“Clean up” for Trou‑du‑Nord
By: Patrique Lamour, Correspondent of Radio Ibo in the Northeast, Haiti
A campaign called “Clean up Trou‑du‑Nord” took place from October 20th to 22nd in this town in the Northeast of Haiti.
This activity, which was financed by PLAN International, a non‑governmental organization, and the local private sector, mobilized nearly 10,000 people, including a number of teachers, students, children, adults, clergy and business men, organized in various neighbourhood committees.
To facilitate this work, which was organized in the scope of the “Clean up the World” campaign, started in Australia in 1989, equipment was distributed by a specially formed committee.
A hot meal was served to each person involved in this operation in each of the participating neighbourhoods, for the three‑day duration of the project.
Some youth who were interviewed about the operation, thought that the funds used for this project could have been used infrastructural work in the town.
“Whatever they say, the Clean‑up has happened and it was a success,” Neker Eustache declared, president of the campaign.
“This activity is of the highest importance. The initiative is very commendable, the idea is good in terms of the close relation between health and the environment,” Wilfred Pierre Noel said, Director of the Hospital of Trou‑du‑Nord and adviser to the organizing committee.
“Environmental concerns are not limited to water, air, trees, and green spaces, but also includes our immediate surroundings, our neighbourhoods, our houses,” he added.
According to Richemond Luckny, President of the neighbourhood committee, “Tout Moun Jwenn” (There’s enough for all), the activity did run well.
“We have done a very good job during these three days. You see that now the air is better here. How can we block people from coming back and dropping their garbage or from even going to the bathroom in the streets? I think that the follow up to this project is even more important. We hope that the mayor and the cleaning committee will keep their promise so this job will be sustained.”
The mayor of the town, Luccio Seraphin, also expressed his satisfaction with the activities. He realized that cleaning the town is not the business of the mayor’s office only. To avoid this state of filth, garbage bins would be placed in designated sites. The mayor’s office and the cleaning committee are committed to insure the transportation of the garbage to a designated disposal site.
At present however, PLAN International and the cleaning committee are exploring the possibility for maintaining in a sustainable fashion a clean and healthy environment in the community.
The garbage will be sorted out, treated for composting by responsible and experienced agents, then put in bags to sell at a low price to farmers in the area who will use the waste to fertilize their land. Also, some activities will be done with children, for the treatment of the garbage and its recycling. In the end there will be an appropriate system to pick up the garbage.
PLAN International also supports cleaning campaigns in other zones where it works: Jacmel, Fort Liberte, and Ouanaminthe.
Trou‑du‑Nord is a large town in the Northeast department. It is located on the dividing line between the Northern and the Northeastern departments. Its population is estimated at approximately 62,000 habitants.