Reminders from the 3 days of torrential rain in southern of Haiti are many, compliments of Hurricane Sandy. A week before striking New York City, Sandy was parked just east of Haiti, sucking water from the Caribbean and dumping it back over the land. It was worst in the south, with upwards of 20 inches of rain on the vulnerable deforested countryside. Homes were washed away, crops were whipped out, and cholera spread with dirty flood waters. The storm killed at least 54 people. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Sandy caused colossal damage to Haiti’s crops, land, livestock, fisheries and rural infrastructures, leaving more than 600,000 Haitians at risk of food and nutrition insecurity.”
In the city of Baraderes, a brown line runs the circumference of the town square, five feet up and clearly visible two weeks later. Thick mud, stubbornly wet, has yet to go. It blocks the entrance to the church, clogs the intake for the minority of buildings connected to the cities’ water system, and suffocates what few crops remain in the fields. Opportunity for replanting is weeks away. Hunger will soon be rampant if food relief doesn’t arrive soon. Cholera is spiking yet again. This is life in Baraderes, fortunate to have lost only one of many lives taken by Sandy.
On Sunday November 4th, Father Jacques Junior began mass preaching the ten commandments. He transitioned into a sermon on protection of the environment. Much of Sandy’s flooding was the result of cutting the trees, he told parishioners. Approximately 98% of Haiti’s forests have been cut without replanting. “You must protect nature and teach your children to do so too,” he said. “When you cut one tree, you should plant 1000.”
Father Junior has a pronounced respect for nature. He’s been running the Saint Pierre parish, in Baraderes, for the past year. When the flood waters of Hurricane Sandy surrounded the rectory, he brought the animals inside. In the front room he stacked one table on another then put the two pigs on top. The three dogs went upstairs. The goats couldn’t be saved. When the water rose inside the house, one foot, two feet, three feet, fear overcame the pigs. Leaping from the tables they tried to swim for safety. Commotion below drew father Junior’s attention and he rescued the pigs again, bringing them upstairs too. Water levels on the main floor peaked at six and a half feet.
Father Junior dreams of building a vocational school for agriculture, animal husbandry, and environmental stewardship. Land has been donated. Funding is still unavailable. In the time being he plans to start a youth association to travel up the mountains once a month and plant trees. Seeds can be readily available by educating people to save them when preparing food. Cutting of existing trees for cooking needs to stop, he emphasizes, believing a substantial amount of fuel can be obtained by processing the leaves and remnants from the sugar cane harvest. Additional alternative fuel sources may be available. Efficient cook stoves could also significantly reduce wood consumption, but no programs are available in the Baraderes region.
All photographs ©2012 Adam Bacher. All rights reserved. Absolutely no usage without permission.