Can You Hear Me Now? How Technology and Telecommunication Companies May Help Haiti

The advancements in technology that are often taken for granted in some parts of the world could be very beneficial to the growth and progress in Haiti. With a few well-placed programs, the use of clean energy, drone technology and telecommunications could drastically improve conditions in the nation and impact the daily lives of millions of Haitians.

Here are a few basic facts demonstrating the cycle of inter-connected issues the nation is currently facing:

  • Unfortunately, access to a power source is a major problem in Haiti.
  • Approximately 95% of the population is still without power and uses charcoal to cook or as a heating source.
  • Lack of power remains a primary reason of the continued deforestation in Haiti caused by charcoal production.
  • Lack of power is a major cause for the slow economic progress. As a result, minimal investments are being made in the country.
  • Deforestation leads to more poverty
  • Poverty is related to the lack of investment in Education
  • The lack of education results in no sustainable growth.

Clearly, two fundamental problems that plague Haiti: deforestation and lack of energy resource. These two problems are closely interrelated. Despite these serious issues, there are potential solutions. Technology and telecommunications companies could help save Haiti.

The same way wireless technology revolutionized telecommunication and brought modern communication to the poorest corners or the planet, in the next 10 years, clean energy and drone technology can help Haiti with its energy and deforestation problems. Haiti, due to its geographical location has an average of 259 days of sunshine or a total of 3115 hours of sunlight in a year (source: http://www.climaTemps.com) There is sufficient sun energy to power the whole island. Telecom companies should be investing in placing more solar panels to be readily available for the people to use.

In addition, increased investment in the telecommunications infrastructure would be widely successful due to the low costs. A great percentage of most Haitian’s income is used to purchase “cell phone minutes”. Telecom companies could revitalize the nation by installing single cell towers (which are able to serve entire villages versus the POTS lined that require every household to connect to a centralized switch). The investment would be even more useful if it is used to build or repair power plants.

Consider these benefits to increased technological investment in Haiti:

  • Clean energy (particularly solar)
    • Solar Panels are more efficient and less costly than other alternative forms of energy
    • More efficient batteries may store unused solar power
    • Does not rely on the expensive power grid infrastructure
  • Drone technology promises to speed up re-forestation efforts
    • Industrial grade re-forestation
    • Drones can access those remote places in the mountains that would be difficult to reach otherwise
    • Drones may be used to survey the land
    • Drones may plant 30.000 seedlings daily
    • Drones would permit better monitoring for the progress of reforestation efforts

Currently, approximately 3% of Haiti is covered forest. To have a healthy environment, a goal of 60% covered forest would be ideal. The populated area, watershed and land for agriculture would account for the remaining 40% of the island. Haiti is 27, 750 square kilometers (6.86 million acres). To reach the goal of 60% covered forest, with approximately 60 trees per acre; 250 million trees are needed to reforest Haiti. With optimistic government support, 50 million trees are planted annually. Unfortunately, 30- 40 million trees are cut down annually. Reforestation will require a minimum of 50 million trees planted annually.

The vast amount of trees needed requires use of innovative technology and highlights how drone technology has the potential to speed up the time required to reach the reforestation goals:

  • Drones may plant in remote area with little access. With the lack of access, the new trees will not be eaten by animals or used in the early development stages to produce charcoal.
  • Drones may deliver the 50 million trees needed per year. The process could be scaled and the use of multiple drones could double or triple the capacity, lessening the time needed to achieve the desired forest coverage.

Clémentine Lalande, Haiti head of investments for Yunus Social Business, has accurately summarized the issues in Haiti: “Deforestation and poverty are very closely linked in Haiti. It has been clearly identified in various studies as one of the main causes of poverty here, leading to degraded soil, decreasing agricultural yields, water scarcity, decreasing farming income and potentially malnutrition, in particular in rural areas.”

In conclusion, with the current advancements in technology, realistic solutions are possible for Haiti. Tech and telecom companies should invest more in Haiti’s clean energy programs by helping plant solar panels and by giving access to drone technology to help plant trees. The investment represents a win-win situation for the investors and the Haitian communities. By opening options in the developing nation, investors will benefit from a large return on investment. The impact on the Haitian economy would be immeasurable and vastly change the trajectory of the nation. Given all the reasons that companies should feel motivated to invest in Haiti, there has been hesitance in making the goals a reality. What possible solutions would help encourage technology and telecommunications companies to become more involved in revitalizing this amazing island nation? Please offer your suggestions in comments section below. We will share them in our future blogs.

 

TAFH January 2017 Journey to Haiti

The Tree Angels for Haiti (TAFH) team had another successful trip to Leogane. As usual, the trip was filled with special moments, opportunities to fellowship with the community and rewarding projects to further the mission. Although words seem inadequate to describe the experience, here are a few journal entries to help share the beautiful memories:

Day 1:  “Oh Happy Day!” Wednesday 1/25/17 was a much-anticipated day! We spent 8 months preparing for this trip with a lot of excitement. We were so excited to arrive and reconnect with everyone that helped welcome us again.

Welcome to Haiti! Our one-hour drive from the airport to Leogane is, of course, a two-hour long and bumpy drive, but we don’t mind. We are captivated by the liveliness of the country and the human element that is felt everywhere in the densely populated streets of Port-au-Prince. We get to Leogane with not a moment to lose. The sun will set soon and all our work must be done during sunlight hours. The second day promises to be busy. Round up the volunteers; get the merchandise ready to prep for the workshops, scramble for food to feed over 60 people. Accept that 7am is really 9am. There you have it –ready for a good day!

Day 2: The day was centered on educational workshops. Off we go with chants and prayers. Onel opened the workshops with the fundamentals of reforestation and defined the function of a tree from its roots to its leaves. Lynette conducted a full session on the importance of the fruits and vegetables in our surroundings and the role they play in a well-balanced healthy life. Trinia gave a crash course on the fundamentals elements of gardening and how to maximize your yield. Chantey gave a global view based on her travels and helped everyone understand that– whether it’s Haiti, the USA or Africa– the possibilities are the same. In conclusion, she claims that whatever can grow there can grow here. Jonas shed some light on the urgency of land fencing and the importance of securing the land with the main nursery. Our short-term goal is to open the Morel land to all, make educational excursions possible for all and include endemic species native to the area.

Day 3: The workshops continued and the volunteers had the chance to apply what they’ve learned. No one was left out– Men, women, young and old all participated in the activities and learned a lot about the basics of tree planting. The goal is to help the people of that region understand why they’re planting trees and help them plant with a purpose.  Onel taught the basics of planting and walked everyone through the proper ways of tree planting. Jonas conducted a full session on soil mixing and how to prep the soil to plant. Lynette and Trinia were assisted by Enite to teach the young ladies and boys how to prepare and fill up the containers for seedlings. Chloe took the initiative of teaching the children the importance of picking up trash. She encouraged them and led a group to pick up all the trash on the land. Overall, day 3 was a great day and ended beautifully with a visit in the mountain of St. Etienne and a short visit to Josue’s nursery.

Day 4: The Excursion…We did not make it to the mountain top, but we excavated a cavern in Fondwa.

Such a rich history! There, we learned so much about Queen Anacaona. an indigenous queen who fought for the survival of the Taino people. She was the first Haitian heroine who fought against the Spaniards on the island of Hispaniola. It is believed that she lived in the Leogane region and hid in the caverns of Fondwa when the enemy went after her.

Day 5: Election Day in Haiti and a day for us to spend an afternoon relaxing at the beach. There, we found succulent food, beautiful art and relaxing waves.

Day 6:  Today was all about applying all we’ve learned during days 2 and 3. We mixed soil and compost to prepare seedling containers and focused on fencing the land. We purchased stakes and barbed wire and made it happen.

Day 7:

“The children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…” –Whitney Houston.

School distribution day!! We understand that the key to making our programs successful is education. Working with the youth is of utmost importance. Education is empowering. With that model, we toured four schools in the Leogane region: L’ecole Nationale des Frères de Bossan, John Wesley, Jerusalem and Rhode Valme school. No time outs taken, the message was delivered to each school. We encouraged them to build a small nursery and to incorporate environmental activities in its curriculum.

A few of us were privileged enough to make it to this Haiti mission trip and to follow through and implement some great projects.  Just a few months after a terrible and deadly hurricane, which ravaged and destroyed the lives of many on that small island, we had a million reasons to go to Haiti. Thanks to so many here and there, our trip was possible.

Looking back, we can’t remember how hard it was carrying lumber and helping out with the fencing under the hot sun. We have only happy memories of the soft and caressing waves and the delicious food prepared with love and care. On or off the field, the momentum never stopped. Our main goal was to spread hope and help the people of Leogane understand that we never stopped thinking of them…We are so grateful that we were able to deliver. And we can’t wait to continue our work together again soon!

 

Commemorating the Seven Year Anniversary of the Haitian Earthquake

On January 12, 2010, at approximately 4:53 pm local time, a devastating earthquake, measuring 7.0 magnitude, struck  near Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. The unprecedented destruction forever changed the island paradise:

  • Estimates of the death toll vary, however by most accounts at least 200,000 lives were lost.
  • An estimated 300,000 people were injured.
  • Approximately 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes.
  • By January 24th, 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or more on the Richter scale had been recorded, causing more destruction on the fragile buildings that remained.
  • More than 180 government buildings and 13 out of 15 key government offices collapsed, including the presidential palace and parliament.
  • Overall losses and damages from the earthquake are estimated to be between US$7 billion and US$14 billion (approximately 100%–200% of Haiti’s gross domestic product), making it the most costly earthquake event in terms of the percentage of a country’s gross domestic product.

Despite the unparalleled devastation, the spirit and determination of the Haitian people remains strong and persistent. Efforts to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure have been frustratingly slow, however the overwhelming international response has resulted in some progress. Undoubtedly there remains a great deal to be done and the hard-working Haitian communities are prepared to do whatever is necessary to reconstruct their beautiful island.

Tree Angels for Haiti honors the memories of those lost in this tragic natural disaster and those impacted by the effects. We remain committed to empowering the Haitian people and encourage all to continue offering support to the resilient Haitian people as they make strides towards recovery.

 

Celebrating Christmas in Haiti: A Time for Hope

Christmas or ”Nwel” in Haiti starts on December 24th and ends the evening of December 25th.

From the outside, some wonder with all the misery and suffering why do Haitians place so much emphasis on Christmas celebrations? As a matter of fact, no matter how bad things may seem, everyone looks forward to “ Nwel” in Haiti.

The focus is placed on the Nativity or the birth of the Savior. The birth of the Savior gives hope and is a sign for a new beginning. Even in the most remote areas of Haiti, you will see hand made “crèche” or nativity scenes and people using whatever they have to decorate their homes. They sometimes use ribbons, ropes, etc… but most decorations are made out of pine branches. They also use straw to create the nativity scenes.

On Christmas Eve (the night of December 24th), children place their clean shoes on the front porch and hope that “Papa Nwel”, or Father Christmas, will come and fill their shoes with goodies.  The adults get ready for “Reveyon” (translation: the wake up) — a community gathering which takes place after the midnight mass and lasts until dawn. Reveyon brings entire neighborhoods together. Everyone puts on their Sunday’s best and join in a community dinner. It’s a time of sharing and celebrations! It’s a special time to share meals and drinks. In rural Haiti, whoever is fortunate enough to own goats, pigs, poultry and sometimes cattle will donate one or many for the Reveyon celebration.

The Reveyon meal is a wonderful sampling of island specialties. The meat is seasoned for at least one day and then deep-fried into “taso” or “grillot”. The traditional holidays drinks are “kremas” and “anisette”. The kremas is a milky drink made out of coconut milk, carnation, rum and island spices. The anisette or “liqueur” is made of anise plant, rum and island spices. Often the meats are served with a “du ri djon-djon” a special rice cooked with a special mushroom. As sides, there is often baked macaroni, some green salad made with what’s found in that region and, of course, fried plantains and fried sweet potatoes. Various “marinades” and “accras” are also on the menu.

The Christmas “Reveyon” can last all night and children are free to roam around and stay all up night. Of course music also plays an important role in Christmas in Haiti. Someone usually brings a radio and plays festive Christmas songs. During that night of the 24th all troubles are forgotten. Delicious meals are served and everyone on the island gets a taste of paradise for a brief moment…

“Jwaye Nwel” (Merry Christmas) from your friends at Tree Angels for Haiti!

Four Ways Trees Plant Hope in Haiti

Although the media has moved on to report on other news stories, it’s important to remember that Haiti was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The result was massive wind damage to property, mudslides, flooding, and loss of life. Tree Angels for Haiti (TAFH) continues to work tirelessly to help those affected by Hurricane Matthew. We understand that this horrific, natural disaster will likely have major impact on the nation for years to come. However, we believe having adequate tree coverage may minimize damage from weather systems in the future.

You might wonder… with all the urgent needs the people of Haiti are facing right now, why focus on planting trees? Tree coverage in Haiti has decreased from 40% in the 1960s to less than 2% currently. This extreme deforestation has hampered long-term economic growth and social development for generations. But there is hope sprouting with every tree that is planted…

Here are four ways that Trees Can Help Haiti:

  1. Every year, thousands of Haitians and their valuable livestock die in floods and mudslides. Trees provide soil stability, minimize erosion, and contain rivers after rainfall. Trees decrease damage from earthquakes by keeping the soil together and absorbing force from tremors like those caused by the devastating earthquake in 2010.
  2. Trees help prevent disease. Moving water is cleaner than standing water, so by containing water in streams, trees reduce waterborne illnesses like cholera that cause a significant number of deaths in poor countries. Trees provide food and medicine. Fruit and nut trees produce food for the hungry and trees like Eucalyptus provide medicinal products. All of these products can be sold locally and potentially exported to improve the health and economy of Haiti.
  3. Trees support agribusiness that can build Haiti’s economy. They nourish the soil for agriculture and provide oxygen and shade for cash crops like coffee that cannot flourish in direct sunlight. Agriculture gives rural, poor community a sustainable way to make a living and become self-sufficient.
  4. Trees fight climate change. They provide shade from the hot sun, lower the ground temperature and decrease carbon in the air. Trees provide a place to gather for community meetings or simply a cooler place for children to study. Trees provide a habitat for birds and wildlife. They also add to landscape beauty. This could help create a tourist industry in Haiti, which would also boost the island’s economy. It only takes two years for a tree seedling to grow large enough to effect change for Haiti.

To date, over 90,000 trees have been planted through TAFH. We rely on our personal contributions, donations and fundraising to make a difference. After Hurricane Matthew, funds were raised that allowed the Haitian Tree Angels community to buy food to eat and dispense to the community, clean up their neighborhood and start rebuilding.

Tree Angels for Haiti is a US nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization partnered with the 
Haitian community in its efforts to fight death and poverty in the country. Members of our organization share the belief that planting and cultivating trees is a sustainable approach to combat poverty. Stay tuned for more information about Tree Angels for Haiti and our goals and dreams for Haiti.

 

Welcome to the Tree Angels for Haiti Blog

Welcome to the very first Tree Angels for Haiti (TAFH) blog post! As a small grassroots charity organization, we are excited to spread the word about our efforts to empower the people of Haiti. The goal of this blog is to provide up to date information on the TAFH mission. In addition, we will share our experiences from our mission trips and highlight the culture  and people of Haiti. We also look forward to exploring the challenges and triumphs of the beautiful island nation.

TAFH is a community-led reforestation program, aimed at decreasing environmental catastrophes, diseases, and poverty associated with the massive tree-cutting activities in Haiti.  Our primary goal is to plant trees where there’s an urgent need. We wish to establish environmental and economic stability, and therefore  decrease the poverty level.

With all of the environmental concerns currently facing Haiti, we recognize the importance of collaborating with the communities we serve. Therefore, TAFH creates opportunities to work with local Haitian volunteers on various projects (including community gardening, tree distribution and planting, environmental education and healthcare education programs). The result of our missions to Haiti has been a better understanding on the importance of trees to the Haitian landscape. We are working hard to make a difference through planting trees and re-establishing the landscape. Beyond the beauty of the lush vegetation, the impact will include soil regeneration, decreased risk of flooding, increased economic stability from the sales of the produce. Our hope is that within a few years, the devastation of natural disasters will be minimized or prevented. One tree at a time, we are confident that we will make progress.

Our organization is incorporated in the state of Virginia, USA as a non profit (501c3) organization. We are run entirely through the support of dedicated volunteers and generous donors. Our group welcomes partners from throughout the U.S. and Haiti from various professional backgrounds. The common link for our members is a willingness and passion for serving. For more information about our organization and how you may become a part of our efforts, please visit us on Facebook (www.Facebook/TreeAngelsForHaiti) or simply leave a comment on the Contact section above.Stay tuned for regular blog posts and please invite your family and friends to learn more about our cause.

The journey to help Haiti is an important one. We believe our work will provide lessons that can be applied globally and hope our outreach efforts will have a long term impact on the very special communities we serve. Our founder, Sandra Romulus, reminds us of the significance of our work with one of her favorite quotes:

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long time ago.“ (Warren Buffet)