Northwest Haiti Still in Dire Need After Hurricane Matthew

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

Friends, Family, Colleagues,

I ask for your attention again as we get critical news from Hurricane Matthew’s wake in northwestern Haiti. In total, 55,000 people have been directly impacted by the storm in the two municipalities where TWP has worked since 2007. Our colleagues at AMURT have just returned from a trip to the area to assess needs, and are seeing immense challenges ahead. Roads have been washed out, irrigation systems have been destroyed, and almost all livelihood activities have ground to a halt. 70% of crops for this fall’s harvest are gone. 90% of the salt basins used to harvest sea salt have been flooded with mud. The limited sources for potable water in the area have been washed out.

family in northwest Haiti
A family in northwest Haiti stands by their crumbling home after Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Sara Wolf.

Here is a first-hand account from our partners at AMURT.

“Just returned from the Northwest after a very hard trip – productive but very heartbreaking at the same time. The damage after the last inundations and heavy rains has been much more extensive than I thought. In fact when I went to the area after Matthew and compare what I saw then and what I witness now – it’s several degrees more severe and critical. I visited villages that have such substantial malnutrition, whose residents have lost all of their livelihoods and have nothing left to them. Several villages had cases of infant death due to malnutrition (only 3 weeks after the hurricane!), cholera returning, no drinking water, mud covering everything, productive soil covering salt basins, eroded roads…

This is a very extensive humanitarian crisis that is not talked about anywhere in the news. It’s as if this region is forgotten by all and is slipping into a spiral of vulnerability that will surely deepen week by week. I wanted to send you a quick email while I’m fresh back with very strong impressions and renewed urgency to respond.”

Destroyed village
Entire villages turned into rubble after Hurricane Matthew blew threw northwest Haiti last month. Photo by Sara Wolf.

Due to their economic fragility and geographic isolation, families in this region have nowhere to turn to feed their families. They can migrate to one of Haiti’s overcrowded cities to live in the squalor of an informal urban slum, or they can rebuild their lives where they are. At TWP, we’re supporting the latter alternative – providing emergency relief via our partners, and helping the region rebuild and reinvest their way to a livable state.

Our resources for this effort are extremely limited, so we turn to you, our donors to help us with a special contribution to the effort. Again – 100% of the funds raised for this relief and reconstruction campaign will go to the communities in the Northwest Artibonite. No amount is too small. We will keep you posted as updates arise.

Thank you!

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Hurricane Matthew’s Destructive Path in Northwest Haiti

by Sebastian Africano, International Director of Trees, Water & People

For the last week I’ve been pondering the severity of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction in the Caribbean, a region in which I’ve spent a lot of time, and where I’ve worked with dozens of chronically vulnerable communities. While Matthew made landfall on the south coast of Haiti, which is what most are seeing in the news, I had not seen one mention of the conditions on Haiti’s northern peninsula, the region in which TWP has worked since 2007 with partners at AMURT and LOCAL.

Today I received the first news from the communities with which we’ve worked, and it’s not good (see below). As such, Trees, Water & People will be raising funds for the relief effort in the Northwest, and for continued stabilization of the hillsides with trees, shrubs, and grasses. 100% of funds raised will go to the recovery and reconstruction effort. Here is an email from our colleagues at AMURT, who just conducted a 3-day visit to the region:
Even before Hurricane Matthew, the northwest of Haiti was designated as an extreme vulnerability zone as a result of the 3-year drought – the farming and environment of the entire area has been devastated and has led to an increase of migration, the spread of cholera, and shrinking of livelihoods. The passing of Matthew along the NW of Haiti has devastated all coastal communities which rely on fishing, salt production, and subsistence farming. The photos show the extensive damage done to houses, but the damage extends inland – most of the irrigation canals have been destroyed, farms wiped out, livestock lost, salt basins submerged in mud, trees uprooted. Polluted water sources and very poor sanitation raise the danger of the expansion of the cholera epidemic which still plagues the region.

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This couple stands in front of a line of destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew in northwest Haiti. Photo by Sara Wolf.

Hurricane Matthew has increased the vulnerability of this already impoverished and isolated corner of Haiti to a new level, which is exacerbated by the complete lack of basic services. The real crisis will deepen week by week as the sparse stocks of seeds and supplies begin running out. With the primary sources of livelihoods (in particular salt production and farming) severely impacted, those most vulnerable have lost the only source of meager income that has helped them meet their basic food needs. The situation is critical and requires an immediate response which is integrated, durable and targeting the most vulnerable populations.
Assessment

  • 280 houses completely destroyed, 640 houses inundated and damaged, 720 houses severely damaged, five schools severely damaged.
  • 90% of salt basins severely impacted/destroyed.
  • Majority of farming land and irrigation severely impacted from the mountains to the coast.
  • Majority of road severely impacted, access to most inland areas very difficult.
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This family stands beside their demolished home after Hurricane Matthew raged through northwest Haiti. Photo by Sara Wolf

Greatest Needs

First phase – emergency food, water, sanitation, medical and emergency kits, temporary shelter, child-friendly spaces, cash for work to clear debris and repair roads and salt basins.

Second phase – Livelihood creation, cash for work to protect watersheds and coastal areas, construction of permanent shelter, school reconstruction.

Program Focus of AMURT during the first 3-month period

  • Emergency food distribution (dry rations) and hot meal canteens for vulnerable groups (children under 5, elderly, pregnant women and handicapped) – a total of 2,500 beneficiaries in 5 coastal communities
  • Distribution of Non-Food Items (NFI) and emergency shelter kits until more extensive reconstruction can be planned
  • Water and sanitation – treated drinking water stations, latrines, sanitation education
  • Emergency Child-Friendly Spaces – daily hot meals and psycho-social and arts programs for children
  • Cash for Work program to repair roads, damaged areas, salt basins
  • Assistance to re-build the damaged fishing, salt production, and farming (tools, seeds, accompaniment)

Trees, Water & People has planted almost 500,000 trees in northern Haiti with our partners, and with any luck, they lessened the damage downhill of where they were planted. All funds raised by TWP will be used for the priorities listed above, and any remaining after the initial response will go toward rebuilding tree nurseries and replanting the contour channels and check dams that reduce erosion and mudslide risk. This is a desperately isolated region, which is why we worked here in the first place – let’s not let it be forgotten as the country recovers from yet another devastating natural disaster.

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The 2014 Year in Review

We are proud of all that we accomplished over the past 12 months with our local partners throughout Latin America and on tribal lands of the United States. Together, we are helping communities conserve their natural resources and create more sustainable livelihoods. Thank you for supporting our mission and programs. We look forward to a New Year with new possibilities!

year in review 2014

Project Update: Matching Loans for Women Farmers in Haiti

Haitian women farmers

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

Progress

In late October 2014, I was able to travel to Haiti to meet with our partners at the Local Capacity Alliance (LOCAL), who have taken over all field activities for the Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT). Once at the project site, six hours northwest of Port-au-Prince, we launched into three days of visiting tree nurseries, reforestation sites, farm plots, and the Self Help Groups (SHGs) who will be supported by these Catapult funds throughout the coming year. Far from being the timid, poor victims on the margins of an economically challenged society, the women members of the Self Help Groups groups have taken charge of their development, and are dedicated to the notion of lifting themselves out of poverty. One testament to their success was a recent award received by LOCAL’s Self Help Group coordinator Remise Belizaire, recognized as Digicel’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the region – an honor bestowed on 10 outstanding leaders per year in Haiti.

Risks and challenges

As the Self Help Group program grows, it places increasing levels of responsibility on the members of each group to manage their growth, keep their leaders in check, and to deal cooperatively with problems. Some groups have had members withdraw from the group and take their capital with them, which destabilizes the rhythm of the group and shrinks the pot of money available for loans. Even though they can only leave with what they actually deposited, a new member recruited to replace the old does not deposit the same amount in replacement, so the group’s capital is reduced.

Haiti Self-Help Group

Get personal

“The Self Help Groups are not only for us to make money, it has also shown us how to live together, to collaborate, and how to work in groups”

“Our husbands have begun to understand the benefits we’ve been gaining from our Self Help Group, and have asked LOCAL to help start groups for men following the example of the women.”

Next steps

LOCAL has just hired two Haitian Agronomists to manage the program, and they are in the process of developing a strategic plan for 2015, including activities with the Self Help Groups. Initially they will focus on working with the them to improve agricultural productivity, increase the use of tree crops and orchards, and to produce Moringa powder, a locally grown superfood, for sale and local consumption.

To learn more about this project please visit Catapult.org!

Trees, Water & People 2013 Annual Report

The year 2013 was a powerful time for making new commitments, but also for completing some of our most needed and ambitious projects. It was a time when our nation was struggling still, but slowly improving from a period of fiscal instability.

We send a special heartfelt thank you to all of our donors and supporters that have provided their generous financial support, but also for the wisdom and advice that makes all of our projects possible!

Please click here to see our 2013 audited financial statements and 990s. For questions regarding our financials please email Diane Vella, Finance Director, at diane@treeswaterpeople.org or call 970-484-3678 ext. 22.

Happy International Day of Forests!

children plant trees

Today, we join with millions of people around the world to celebrate the International Day of Forests!

According to the United Nations, “Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihood. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Forests also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent communities.”

International Day of ForestsForests are essential to economic, social, and environmental health. Yet, we continue to deforest the planet at an alarming rate. Over 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change (United Nations, 2014).

We must fight deforestation by supporting policies and organizations that protect and conserve these most precious natural resources: forests, soils, water, and biodiversity.

Since 1998, we have been working tirelessly with our local partners throughout Central America and Haiti to address major deforestation problems. With more than 5.3 million trees planted, we are making a big impact. But, we need your help to continue the fight.

Please consider a donation to our Reforestation Program today! For only $1, you can plant a tree in Latin America: Donate Here