The United Nations and its partners this week launched a 20-year, $200 million environmental recovery programme in south-west Haiti that aims to benefit more than 200,000 people and show that sustainable rural development, from fisheries to tourism, is indeed practical.
Lessons learned during the execution of the project, covering a land area of 780 square kilometres, about half the size of Greater London, and a marine area of 500 square kilometres, can be extended to the rest of Haiti, the poorest, least stable and most environmentally degraded country in the Western Hemisphere.
“Restoring the region’s environmental services will be a key step towards restoring a real and long-lasting development path for its people and a stepping stone towards a green economy,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said at yesterday’s inauguration of the programme in Port-Salut, southern Haiti.
The Côte Sud (south coast) Initiative, jointly sponsored by UNEP and a consortium of partners including the Governments of Haiti and Norway, Catholic Relief Services, the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York and a host of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), comes as Haiti marks the first anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed 200,000 people and displaced some 1.3 million others, but it was designed a year before the disaster.
Severe poverty, food insecurity and disaster vulnerability – which are strongly interlinked with environmental issues such as deforestation, soil erosion and land and marine degradation – have profoundly affected local well-being for decades, and the initiative proposes a new approach.
These include a strong focus on aid coordination, national ownership and capacity-building of the Government and local partners to concurrently address the underlying drivers of poverty, environmental degradation, disaster vulnerability and lack of access to social services.
Ten communes, with an estimated population of 205,000 people, will benefit directly from the programme, which will include reforestation, erosion control, fisheries management, mangrove rehabilitation and small business and tourism development, as well as improved access to water and sanitation, health and education.
The broad-ranging initiative will involve between 50 and 100 projects over 20 years, at least 10 of them expected to last up to five years or more. In 2011, the focus will be on establishing sound baseline data about the state of the land and sea, and on working with local communities and partners to develop and implement practical action.
Yesterday’s launch was made possible by an initial $14 million in grants from the Government of Norway, Catholic Relief Services and the Green Family Foundation.
“The objective of this major, long-term initiative is to demonstrate that sustainable rural development is truly possible – given the right approach,” UNEP programme coordinator Andrew Morton said. “When the time is right, the lessons learned can be extended to the rest of Haiti.”