The poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and one that seems permanently mired in poverty, despair, and having to deal with one catastrophe after another, Haiti is a country whose many woes could be addressed with an ancient plant: Bamboo. Haiti has always been plagued by its location directly in the paths of one tropical storm after another but, regrettably, most of its problems are self-made. Overpopulation, corruption, political instability, environmental degradation, deforestation and subsequent soil erosion, are all among a litany of woes which have caused other nations to provide year after year of financial assistance to no avail.
In Haiti, even a modest rainstorm can trigger huge rock and mudslides which barrel down the steep mountain slopes and bury entire villages because there are few trees left to hold the soil in place. Once heavily forested with millions of trees gracing its mountains, experts from the United Nations estimate that only 1.5 percent of Haiti’s once lush forests remain. Most of Haiti’s trees are not cut down for cropland but for charcoal to fuel cooking fires. And after years of ignoring the problems only to see them worsen, Haiti’s political leaders have a new sense of urgency about addressing the problem. Mud and rockslides from tropical storms last August and September buried two of Haiti’s larger towns, Cabaret and Gonaïves killing hundreds and turning tens of thousands into refugees. Read the rest of this entry »