$200 million plan starts in impoverished Haiti

The United Nations this week launched a 20-year, $200-million environmental recovery program in southwest Haiti that aims to benefit more than 200,000 people and show that sustainable rural development, from fisheries to tourism, is indeed practical.

Lessons learned during the execution of the project, covering a land area of 780 square kilometers, about half the size of Greater London, and a marine area of 500 square kilometers, can be extended to the rest of Haiti, the poorest, least stable and most environmentally degraded country in the Western Hemisphere, the U.N. said.

“Restoring the region’s environmental services will be a key step towards restoring a real and long-lasting development path for its people and a stepping stone towards a green economy,” said Achim Steiner, U.N. Environment Programme executive director.

The Côte Sud Initiative, jointly sponsored by the Environment Programme and a consortium including the governments of Haiti and Norway, Catholic Relief Services, the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York and a host of local non-governmental organizations, comes as Haiti marks the first anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed 200,000 people and displaced some 1.3 million others. But the plan was designed a year before the disaster.

Severe poverty, food insecurity and disaster vulnerability – which are strongly interlinked with environmental issues such as deforestation, soil erosion and land and marine degradation – have profoundly affected local well-being for decades, and the initiative proposes a new approach.

Ten communes, with an estimated population of 205,000 people, will benefit directly from the program, which will include reforestation, erosion control, fisheries management, mangrove rehabilitation and small business and tourism development, as well as improved access to water and sanitation, health and education.

The broad-ranging initiative will involve between 50 and 100 projects over 20 years, at least 10 of them expected to last up to five years or more.

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