Food, fishing and a miracle plant – with these, ACT in Haiti is helping survivors of two hurricanes and a tropical storm get back on their economic feet. In the space of two years, tropical storm Tomas and hurricanes Isaac and Sandy crossed Haiti, a country still in the early stages of recovery from the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The storms left large tracts of damaged property and agricultural land. With 54 lives lost, the death toll from Sandy was the greatest of the three disasters, and it damaged or destroyed nearly 28,000 houses.
The work of a local ACT member with the community in Balan, 18km east of the capital, has been to reduce soil erosion and protect residents against the next violent storms. Work has also focused on agriculture and fish-farming programmes aimed at long-term development, restoring families’ purchasing power.
To improve agricultural techniques, our member has set up a field school teaching technical skills at demonstration plots, which students replicate on their own land.
Another programme reduces the need for women to fell trees to produce charcoal to sell. Instead, female heads of households receive seeds for growing a market garden – eggplant, tomato, pepper, onion, cabbage and other local vegetables – and agricultural tools such as pickaxes, hoes and machetes.
The fruits and vegetables improve the health of families, and excess produce can be sold for cash. Our member fosters links between government departments, local authorities and communities, encouraging them all to work on environmental problems and so lessen the effect of natural disasters.
To this end, they have helped to cultivate 72,000 papaya, cherry and citrus seedlings, which now flourish on beneficiaries’ land. Fish-farming and technical skills have been introduced by our local member to help combat the chronic malnutrition that affects nearly a quarter of children in Balan.
And to improve nutrition even further, thousands of Moringa oleifera seedlings have been planted. This highly valued plant has an impressive range of medicinal uses and is highly nutritious.
Through its achievements, ACT in Haiti has been able to stimulate the local economy by strengthening the livelihoods of more than 3,000 families from Balan, and has contributed to the rehabilitation of the environment.