Haiti's Unchecked Deforestation Affects Top-Soil Conditions

Haiti is a small island of 10 million inhabitants, which shares Hispaniola with its eastern neighbor, the Dominican Republic. The smaller of the two countries, it takes up roughly the size of the state of Maryland. Due to deforestation, the country is vulnerable to frequent hurricanes and extreme tropical storms five months out of the year. In addition, the land has been subject to rampant deforestation among other environmental threats.


The island was once home to uninhabited forests that spread throughout the land. But over decades of cross-cutting and -clearing, the forests have been razed and only 4% of the original land mass remains. Because Haiti's topography is mainly hilly and mountain-covered, the nearly-vertical hillsides suffer top-soil erosion, between one and one-and-a-half tons annually. Because there are no trees to absorb the rainfall, top-soil is sloughed off.

A U.S.-funded non-government organization (NGO), Agroforestry Outreach Project (AOP), spent $8 million to provide farmers 4.5 million seedlings in the early 80s. Another U.S.-funded project through the NGO, Agency for International Development, partnered with the government of Haiti (GOH) to establish the beginning of a national park system, with two planned parks. Yet today less than one percent of new forest land has been developed.

Lack of enough clean water adds to the top-soil erosion and deforestation problems. Of the largest uncontaminated watersheds, almost 100% is provided to farmlands. Statistics show smaller watersheds delivering water to urban residents and the peasant population, provide for 49% and 45% of those populations' water needs respectively.

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