NEWS: Sustainability in Haiti - A Little Hope in a Time of Tragedy

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

As news of the earthquake in Haiti comes pouring in, it’s difficult to think of anything else.  Every place I’ve turned today (newspapers, social media, television) has been filled with horrible images that make me want to go volunteer for the Red Cross.

While there have been a number of excellent posts that highlight where you can donate to the Haitian earthquake victims and recovery efforts, I thought today I would provide a round-up of a few articles on Haiti and their sustainability initiatives:

Blooming Hope

Hope can be a precious commodity in developing countries like Haiti. With 80% of the population living below the poverty level, residents will likely welcome any economic opportunity, regardless of social or environmental consequences. The documentary film BLOOMING HOPE: HARVESTING SMILES IN PORT-DE-PAIX documents efforts by a few Haitian citizens, community leaders, and aid workers to build financially, socially and environmentally sustainable business models in one of the country’s poorest region.

Produced by students at Miami’s St. Thomas University, the film grew out of a class on social entrepreneurship and a visit to the country as part of long-term outreach work by the Catholic university. It focuses on coffee farmer Elicoeur Beaubrun, artist and mother of five Tata Dumasie, and a group of schoolchildren from coastal village Baie-de-Henne. In each case, sustainable enterprise models have provided hope where little existed:

  • Beaubrun is now participating in a fair trade coffee cooperative that eventually plans to eliminate most middlemen by processing, roasting, and packaging the coffee itself.
  • Dumasie is able to feed and care for her children by selling her art work through a women’s fair trade artisan group.
  • The whole community in Baie-de-Henne is involved in the establishment of a solar-powered bakery to provide jobs, and decrease deforestation.

No word on distribution plans for BLOOMING HOPE, but you can follow updates on the project’s Twitter stream and Facebook page.

(via the Miami Herald)

More Inspiring Stories

Haitian Sustainable Development Foundation uses progressive ideas in sustainably developing communities throughout Haiti.  Current projects include permaculture plots in the town of Ferrier, a community center and library in Ferrier, and a locally produced bio-diesel cooperative.

College Kids Learn Real World Lessons Of Sustainability In Haiti -  What to do when you’ve heard about the poverty and environmental problems facing the people of Haiti but are unsure if the reality matches up with what you see in the media? Well, first visit to see for yourself, but then look to find a way to make a positive and sustainable difference. At least that’s what University of Miami students Dipesh Patel and Samira Sami have chosen to do by working through their local Rotaract group in conjunction with Project Medishare on a project to make Haiti’s Central Plateau a more sustainable place to live. (From Treehugger - 2007)

Sustainable Development in Haiti – a delegation from the River Raisin Institute traveled to Haiti in 2006 and met with faculty at the University of Fondwa 2004 (UNIF) to assess their energy needs and the potential of solar and wind energy.  The project objectives included:

  • hands-on training in solar and wind energy and technology systems design
  • upgrade the infrastructure of classroom and administration building
  • install solar and wind energy system to meet energy needs
  • information technology system to satisfy current demand and allow for future expansion through long-distance learning