Vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation: Haiti

Dalia Amor Conde, Norman Christensen

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Abstract

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the most environmentally degraded. Over 60% of its income comes as aid from the USA and other countries, and 65% of its people survive on less than $1 a day. Almost all of the country was originally forested but now there is less than 3% cover left. As a consequence, from 1950-1990, the amount of arable land fell by more than two fifths due to soil erosion. At the same time deforestation has diminished evaporation back to the atmosphere over Haiti, and total rainfall in many locations has fallen by as much as 40%, reducing stream flow and irrigation capacity. The Avezac Irrigation System supports only half of the initially planned 9,500 acres (3,845 hectares). When the rains do come, hillsides no longer efficiently retain or filter water. Due to deforestation, even moderate rains can produce devastating floods. Ground and stream waters are laden with sediment and pollution which has degraded estuary and coastal ecosystems. As a consequence, nearly 90% of Haitian children are chronically infected with intestinal parasites they acquire fromthe water they drink. Due to flooding, Haiti has lost half of its hydropower potential since sediment clogged the Peligre Dam. Haiti is a stark example of the “vicious circle” of extreme poverty and environmental degradation. Much of Haiti’s poverty and human suffering derives from the loss of its forests, and extreme poverty is itself one of the root causes of deforestation and a powerful barrier to sustainable forest management. The alleviation of poverty must be a central strategy to restore Haiti’s forest and biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity : An Interim Report
EditorsPavan Sukhdev
PublisherPublications Office
Publication date2008
Pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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Keywords

  • Haiti, poverty, environmental degradation, biodiversity

Cite this

Conde, D. A., & Christensen, N. (2008). Vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation: Haiti. In P. Sukhdev (Ed.), The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: An Interim Report (pp. 24). Publications Office.