Haiti deforestation

Since 2002, more than 9,500 people have died as a result of floods in Haiti.  In that same amount of time, just over 200 people have lost their lives in the United States Considering how much larger the U.S. (2.9 million sq. feet vs 10,714 sq. feet) is and how many more people reside in the U.S. (318.9 million vs 10 million), that makes the percentage of people dying of flooding in the United States minuscule in comparison to Haiti.  

Of course, Haiti is an island in the middle of an ocean. It is expected that they would see more hurricanes than the entire United States. Perhaps it would be better to compare Haiti to its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. When hurricane Matthew hit, 1,300 died in Haiti, but only 4 died in the Dominican Republic. The island these two countries share is only 401 miles at its longest point. The difference between the flooding in these two countries is a direct result of the lack of forests and vegetation in each country. If you compare the picture above, you can clearly see the difference between the levels of vegetation in the two countries.

Haiti has the single worst example of deforestation in the world and has for some time now. Starting in the 1700’s, Haiti started clearing forests to make room for coffee crops. As time went on, further forests were cut down to supply the island residents with charcoal for heating and cooking. It is now estimated that only 1.4% to 2% of the forest is remaining. Given that the country is only a little larger than 10,000 square miles, that puts the forested area at about 200 square miles, or roughly 1/5th the size of Rhode Island.

Because there are very few trees or vegetation, there is nothing slowing the water and allowing it to soak into the ground with there is a heavy rain or hurricane.  Without the roots of trees and plants, any rainfall runs unimpeded down the hillsides into the ocean. As a result, most of the topsoil is now found in the bottom of the ocean. Without a good layer of topsoil, there is a lack of nutrients necessary for plant growth, making it harder to grow anything, which of course just adds to the deforestation. They have created an environment that can no longer slow natural disasters or sustain human life. It is a vicious cycle.

Even though they have quite a bit of land available to grow food, their soil will not support crop growth. Because of this, Haiti imports approximately 50% of their food. They also receive a large portion of foreign aid in the form of food, yet it is estimated that 60% of all deaths under the age of 18 are caused by malnutrition.

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