Haiti Update 11/16/18

Deforestation may take all of Haiti’s Primary Forest

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that Haiti may lose all of its primary forest within the next 20 years:

Here, we find that Haiti has less than 1% of its original primary forest and is therefore among the most deforested countries. Primary forest has declined over three decades inside national parks, and 42 of the 50 highest and largest mountains have lost all primary forest.

The impact of this loss has been dramatic. The study is particularly concerned with the resulting loss of biodiversity. The authors find that:

surveys of vertebrate diversity (especially amphibians and reptiles) on mountaintops indicates that endemic species have been lost along with the loss of forest. At the current rate, Haiti will lose essentially all of its primary forest during the next two decades and is already undergoing a mass extinction of its biodiversity because of deforestation.

The loss of biodiversity and forest cover also impacts people’s lives directly, through increased flooding events and mudslides. As a result hundreds of people die each year in flooding events directly tied to deforestation.

Primary forests in this study refer to forests that have not yet been cut by humans – as opposed to secondary forests that are the result of reforestation efforts. While reforestation can have a huge impact in prevention of flooding, secondary forests lack the biodiversity of primary forest cover.

The one weakness in the report is that it lays blame on the poor who clear forests for charcoal and small-scale agriculture. While this dynamic is undeniable, the root cause of these practices is deep inequity in Haiti’s social-economy that drives the poor onto vulnerable land. Protecting forests from such encroachment may be necessary, but absent other solutions that provide avenues for alternative means to make a living, conservation efforts will simply further marginalize the poor. This is why our work in reforestation is first and foremost an agricultural project that integrates tree planting with agro-ecology, water protection, and animal husbandry. There is an inherent value in planting and preserving trees – but neither works sustainably unless accompanied by social practices that respond to the lived reality of the communities most directly affected.

TPS Extended for Haitians

As reported last week, Temporary Protected Status for Haitians will “almost certainly” be extended as the result of lawsuits moving forward in the federal courts. Temporary Protected Status is a special designation that allows people already in the United States to remain here following natural disasters or periods of political instability in their country of origin. Haiti is one of nine countries that have been granted TPS. Last year, Trump announced that TPS for Haitians in the United States would not be extended – and he has moved to phase out TPS for most other countries covered by it. Without an extension, Haitians living in the United States under TPS had until July 22, 2019 to leave the U.S. With the cases moving forward in the federal courts, this deadline will most likely be extended.

Canceling TPS impacts 50,000 Haitians living in the United States, and another 27,000 children born in the U.S. that would either be deported with their parents, or would be separated. Sejal Zota, legal director for the National  Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild writes:

In 2017, Trump announced that TPS for Haitian nationals would end on July 22, 2019…In response, NIPNLG filed a lawsuit, Saget v. Trump, with the law firms of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli and Pratt P.A, (Kurzban), and Mayer Brown. The suit was brought on behalf of a dozen plaintiffs, including Patrick Saget, Haïti Liberté, the largest weekly Haitian newspaper in this hemisphere, and Family Action Network Movement, Inc. (FANM). Trials these days are rare in cases like this: they are usually decided on motions. This makes the decision even more notable, suggesting that the court may truly wish to hold the government accountable. A trial will begin promptly on January 7, 2019.

Read more about what this means in this message from Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

 

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Haiti Program Update 11/2/2018

Earthquake News, Disaster Relief

The northern departments of Haiti were struck by a powerful earthquake on October 6. The quake was centered in Port-de-Paix, but also severely affected Gros Morne, where several schools and the pediatric ward of the hospital were damaged or destroyed, as well as many homes. Thanks to many of you, we were able to deliver $3,000 to Haiti last week to help with the purchase of emergency supplies to assist people in need of shelter.

Over the last few weeks communities near Gros Morne have had a chance to take stock of the damage. There was significant damage done to 500 homes in the immediate area. Some photos here from Perou demonstrate the impact. We will continue to coordinate activities with our partners in Gros Morne to discern next steps.

Other Program News

The program that Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center had another busy quarter. From July through September the program distributed just over 17,000 saplings through satellite nurseries in the nearby communities of Koray, Danti, and Moulen. Accompanying the delivery of saplings in these communities and elsewhere, Center staff held trainings that reached 700 people.

In addition to the reforestation efforts, the Formation Center conducted a variety of workshops: Engaging  Environmental Education with 43 teachers in Danti, How to Begin a Community Tree Nursery also in Danti, a workshop on Reforestation and the Creation of Yard Gardens for 209 participants in Chato. In total workshops covered 4 zones and reached 420 people.

Some other activities include

  • Center staff assisted in the planting of 28.75 karos (just over 90 acres) of weevil resistant sweet potatoes.
  • The seed bank supported by the Formation Center delivered seeds to 123 families
  • 47 families taking part in the yard garden program were able to begin harvesting, and another 27 new families joined in the program.
  • The mobile veterinary clinic was able to provide care to many animals including 250 goats and sheep and 5 horses.

A final note, as you will be reading more about in our next newsletter, the Formation Center hosted a second annual conference on the environment in August. Quixote Center staff participated in the conference, alongside students from agronomy programs in the national university system and local farmers and activists. We look forward to attending again next year!

Migration

In other news, the Dominican Republic continues to deport Haitians in alarming numbers. Migration control teams composed of inspectors and agents of the Directorate General of Migration, in coordination with the military and National Police, continue to engage in enforcement actions. Recent operations led to arrest of 1,167 Haitians, 877 of whom were removed from the country. As we have reported here, the situation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic continues to be insecure.

On a more positive note, CARICOM has issued new rules on migration that allow people to travel within CARICOM members states without a visa for up to six months. The move was an initial step toward allowing the free movement of people within CARICOM member states, which include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago

 

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Climate Change Refugees and Haiti

Environmental changes have always been a driving force for migration. From natural disasters to drought and flooding, changes in the environment impact lives and livelihoods, forcing people to abandon their homes. Over the last 40 years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people forced to migrate as a result of environmental factors. Catastrophic storms are more common, areas suffering from prolonged drought have tripled in the last 40 years, and rising sea levels put coastal communities at risk. By 2050, the International Office of Migration estimates that as many as 250 million people could be displaced as the result of environmental impacts. Unlike those displaced by war or systemic violence, people forcibly displaced as the result of environmental change are rarely recognized as refugees when they cross borders.

Forced migration due to effects of climate change will impact all countries. The United States could see 13 million people internally displaced as a result of rising sea levels by 2045, especially along the east and gulf coasts. The majority of the communities facing permanent inundation are socioeconomically vulnerable communities. Around the globe, drought has already led to displacement and related social tensions as rural communities are forced to move to urban areas. The origins of social conflict and violence are certainly complex, but as climate change forces the movement of people, tensions increase. In Syria, for example, “record drought and massive crop failure beginning in 2006 led to the mass migration of predominately Sunni farmers to Alawi-dominated cities, increasing sectarian tensions and generating conflicts over diminished resources.” Rising food prices in 2007 and 2008, from drought and increased transportation costs, led to protests across the globe, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen. The UN estimates 144 million people were driven into poverty by the increase in food prices by 2011. In Niger alone, 5.1 million people became food “insecure.”

In Haiti the intersection of environmental degradation, climate change and forced migration is apparent. At the root of this crisis is the transformation of the rural economy that began under the U.S. occupation from 1915 to 1934. Haiti’s economy was re-engineered as an export platform to feed U.S. interests, from agriculture to banking. By the mid-20th century deforestation, soil erosion, insecure land tenure and population growth was driving an exodus from rural areas to cities. However, in the last 30 years these trends have accelerated. Under pressure to lower tariffs for imports from the United States, Haiti saw the local market for staple crops such as rice collapse. De-forestation accelerated, leading to a situation today where only 3% of Haiti’s tree canopy remains. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced, forced into urban areas not equipped to handle the influx of people. Today, less than half of Port-au-Prince’s population was born there. Areas like Cite Soleil, with over 400,000 people, are overcrowded and under-resourced. The rapid growth of insecure building and overcrowding is the reason that the 2010 earthquake was so deadly, killing up to 300,000 people.

People migrating to major cities like Port-au-Prince, Gonaives, and Cap-Haitien are in effect moving to coastal areas. Here rising seas, more intense storms, and areas of extreme drought combine to create a recipe for recurrent disasters. Mudslides in 2004 killed tens of thousands of people near Gonaives, as treeless hillsides collapsed on the city. Every new storm brings with it the risk of crop failure, flooding and further soil erosion. Overcrowding has also increased the risks of disease. When UN troops introduced cholera in to Haiti in 2010, the disease spread rapidly, killing 9,400 individuals and infecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Interconnected with the process of internal displacement is outward migration. Nearly one million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, primarily seeking work on sugar plantations and other agricultural positions. Tensions have resurfaced in recent years leading to mass expulsions of Haitians from the Dominican Republic, whose government denied citizenship to people of Haitian descent. Over the last thirty years, the United States has been the primary destination for Haitians with 650,000 people moving to the U.S. since 1986. However, tensions have mounted within the U.S. over immigration – leading to the suspension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which covered over 50,000 Haitian migrants. Meanwhile, other countries with less restrictive policies are becoming a destination. It is estimated that close to 105,000 Haitians, equivalent to 1% of the population, moved to Chile alone last year.

The confluence of environmental degradation, climate change, and forced migration in Haiti is part of a global process driving people into insecure situations; exacerbating political conflicts and violence. There is no easy solution. Clearly, binding agreements to reduce emissions and move the planet away from a fossil fuel based economy is necessary. Even if this is acheived, the process must be inclusive. Alternative fuels are no panacea if accompanied by the expansion of extractive industries and agricultural practices that further drive forced migration. In the interim, people are already being forced to migrate.

International law is behind the times

The Refugee Convention of 1951 defines a refugee as a person who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. The Convention does not cover people who are forced to migrate due to environmental reasons when they cross borders. The result is a variety of short-term measures, such as TPS in the United States, that affords very little protection to people whose status can change overnight. Within the United States, at least, there needs to be more effort to craft lasting solutions, that offer people who previously migrated an opportunity to seek permanent residency.

Currently there are efforts to recraft refugee and migrant laws. For example, the United Nations’ International Office of Migration is overseeing the creation of A Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The draft compact should be completed this year. However, enforcement mechanisms will be limited. In the United States and Europe in particular, migration is re-crafted as a crisis for the receiving country and thus there is resistance to any kind of binding obligations to accept more people. Given the current political environment it is not surprising that Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Compact negotiating process in December last year.

Until there are binding protections afforded to migrants as well as binding agreements to ameliorate the worst impacts of climate change, the world will face increasing migration, accompanied by ongoing political conflict. The current zero-sum, nationalistic orientation of so many, who view migrants as a threat rather than as fellow human beings in need of solidarity, continues to infect any effort for change. We must be better than this.

 

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Farmworker Awareness Week Day Seven, Support UFW’s’ Push for Overtime Pay

“Life here is very hard when we harvest fruits and vegetables. The sun burns so much and we get weak, and you get irritated from so much heat. And despite that we have to work all day putting up with the fatigue, dehydration and hunger. I’ll also tell you that it’s very sad to be far from our land which is Mexico… and our loved ones like my parents, my wife and my son. But we’re here working hard so that we can support our family… and well, it’s very hard to be a farmworker, and sad because you work from sun up to sundown in the fields.”

Farmworker Awareness Week is an effort to educate people about the conditions under which farmworkers labor and the economic forces the lead so many to do this work away from family members. In supporting this year’s Farmworker Awareness Week we have been taking the lead from Student Action with Farmworkers. Student Action posts daily actions for the week, with quotes like the one above from farmworkers to offer reflection.

The action for today is to support the United Farm Workers efforts for legislation to ensure that farm workers receive overtime pay. UFW is working on a proposal that would, “remedy the discriminatory denial of overtime pay and the minimum wage to all farm workers under current law. Farm workers deserve basic minimum wage and overtime protections like any other US worker. Workers in agriculture would be entitled to time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours in a week. It would phase in overtime pay over a period of 4 years beginning in 2019”

The campaign for national regulation follows on UFW’s successful campaign for reform in California:

The farm worker movement is determined to address Jim Crow era discrimination against farm workers like the UFW’s huge 2016 victory in California that ensures the implementation of more inclusive regulations for farm workers starting in 2019. In California, overtime law for farm workers ensures farm workers will have an equal right to overtime pay and continues the process of reducing discrimination in employment laws against agricultural workers. The change started in California it is time to set this standard for the entire nation.

You can read more about this effort and sign the pledge to support the effort and hold legislators accountable here.

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Farmworker Awareness Week, Day 6: Sign Petition to Support VUSE Boycott

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee has been organizing with farmworkers in tobacco giant Reynolds American’s supply chain for years. For Day Six of Farmworker Awareness Week we are asking you to join with FLOC and sign a petition supporting a boycott of VUSE, an e-cigarette sold by Reynolds. From FLOC’s page:

For ten years, FLOC has been challenging Reynolds American to work with FLOC to end abuses and human rights violations in their tobacco supply chain by guaranteeing a process that would protect freedom of association on their contract farms. After five years of refusing to meet, Reynolds began meeting with FLOC in 2012, but these talks have not led to an actual mechanism that would allow farmworkers a voice on the job and the ability to negotiate better working conditions. Last year, FLOC members voted to boycott VUSE, an e-cigarette brand made by Reynolds, until Reynolds signs an agreement with FLOC that guarantees farmworkers freedom of association.

The VUSE e-cigarette brand is Reynolds’ hallmark product and is sold at most convenience stores. 36% of tobacco sales are via convenience stores. FLOC and its allies have made significant efforts to communicate with the corporate officers of 7-11, Couche Tard (Circle K and Kangaroo), and WAWA convenience store chains, but the chains have not responded to repeated letters and emails.

We need you to stand with farmworkers by boycotting VUSE and demanding that convenience stores stop selling this product until Reynolds agrees to give farmworkers a voice and a practical mechanism that they can use to negotiate better working and living conditions without fear of retaliation!

To sign the petition go here.

For more information on FLOC’s work check out their website here.

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Farmworker Awareness Week, Day Five: Support Community, Student Action with Farmworkers

“I’m away from my family for eight months to come work in this country. Work here is very hard because we have to work ten to twelve hours a day. The work helps me support my family, but I am happy because I’m reaching my goal of having a house of my own.”

Farmworker Awareness Week is an effort to educate people about the conditions under which farmworkers labor and the economic forces that lead so many to do this work away from family members. In supporting this year’s Farmworker Awareness Week we have been taking the lead from Student Action with Farmworkers. Student Action posts daily actions for the week, with quotes like the one above from farmworkers to offer reflection. Student Action offers the following explanation for why they do the work:

Farmworkers feed the world– 85% of our fruits and vegetables are handpicked. There are an estimated 2-3 million men, women, and children work in the fields in the United States. Farms are in every state, including yours, yet farmworkers remain largely invisible and continue to live and work in horrific conditions.  We demand dignity for farmworkers!

Farm work is the third most dangerous job in the United States. The people who plant and harvest our fruits and vegetables suffer from the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any other workers in the nation and have higher incidences of heat stress, dermatitis, urinary tract infections, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis than other wage-earners.  We demand safe working conditions for farmworkers!

Farmworkers are treated differently under the law. Overtime, unemployment insurance, and even protection when joining a union are not guaranteed under federal law. Farmworkers were excluded from almost all major federal laws passed in the 1930s. The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1978 to mandate minimum wage for farmworkers on large farms only and it still has not made provisions for overtime.  We demand just living and working conditions for farmworkers and an end to unfair treatment under the law.

The actvity Student Action with Farmworkers encourage today is to get out into the community and support Latinx restaurants and other businesses. We would encourage this, as well as support for organizations doing the work of raising awareness, like Student Action with Farmworkers. Get involved! Get Connected! Make a difference.

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Farmworker Awareness Week, Day Four: Pledge to Boycott Wendy’s

Bioparques workers who spoke to Times reporter Richard Marosi for an investigation published December 10, 2014, described subhuman conditions, with workers forced to work without pay, trapped for months at a time in scorpion-infested camps, often without beds, fed on scraps, and beaten when they tried to quit. (Harper’s Magazine, 2016)

We are quite happy with the quality and taste of the tomatoes we are sourcing from Mexico. (Wendy’s spokesperson, 2016)

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been organizing since 1993 to improve labor conditions for farmworkers. In 1998 CIW won its first major victory:

Combining three community-wide work stoppages with intense public pressure – including an unprecedented month-long hunger strike by six members in 1998 and an historic 234-mile march from Ft. Myers to Orlando in 2000 – the CIW’s early organizing ended over twenty years of declining wages in the tomato industry.

By 1998, farmworkers had won industry-wide raises of 13-25% (translating into several million dollars annually for the community in increased wages) and a new-found political and social respect from the outside world. Those raises brought the tomato picking piece rate back to pre-1980 levels (the piece rate had fallen below those levels over the course of the intervening two decades), but wages remained below poverty level and continuing improvement was slow in coming.

In the early 2000’s CIW brought its creative energy to campaigns for corporate responsibility. The strategy was to pressure companies directly for wage increases and improvements in work conditions, aligning CIW’s labor membership with consumers around the country.  In 2001 CIW launched a national boycott of Taco Bell. After four years, Taco Bell reached an agreement with CIW touching on all of the boycott demands.

The next step for CIW was launching the Fair Food Program, a monitoring organization that brings workers, farm producer company, and retail companies together through commitments to support core labor standards. There are currently 14 major retailers, including fast food giants, McDonalds, Burger King, Yum Brands, and Subway.

CIW began targeting Wendy’s to join the FFP in 2005 as well. Wendy’s response was to stop buying in Florida – shifting its production chain to Mexico where labor conditions and wages are even worse. CIW has called a boycott of Wendy’s until it agrees to adopt FFP standards.

Read more here, and pledge to join the boycott today!

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Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Wangari Maathai

Part II of the Inspirational and Influential Women of the World Blog Series

“Some of our human rights is environmental rights.” – Wangari Maathai

We all know that the #FutureIsFemme 🙂 but we also have to take a step back to acknowledge the remarkable women who helped paved that way. One African queen, in particular, is Wangari Maathai, Kenyan activist and founder of the Green Belt Movement.

Madame Maathai was born in 1940 in the rural compound of Nyeri, Kenya. An environmental scholar that studied in the U.S., Germany, and later Kenya, Madame Maathai returned to Kenya to receive her doctorate degree in veterinary anatomy in the late 1970s. She was the first woman in the East and Central African region to earn her doctorate. Her work as a department chair and professor for the University of Nairobi was short-lived in comparison to her grassroots environmental activism which began in the early 1980s and lasted until her death in 2011. She began her activism by being an active member (and later chairwoman) for the National Council of Women for Kenya. It was in this position that she informed members and communities about the importance of planting trees. Her commitment to the environment and the people of Kenya as a whole was relentless and no one, regardless of wealth or power, was immune to it:

“In the 1980s Maathai led a courageous fight against the construction of a skyscraper scheduled for construction in the middle of Uhuru park, Nairobi’s most important public space. Her vocal opposition to the location of the proposed complex led the government of President Daniel Arap Moi to label both Maathai and the Green Belt Movement ‘subversive.‘ She was vilified in Parliament and in the press and forced to vacate her office of 10 years with 24 hours’ notice. Nevertheless, thanks to Maathai’s opposition, foreign investors withdrew their support for the Uhuru Park complex and the project was canceled.” (Goldman Prize)

Madame Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, with the premise of paying local women to plant trees in their community. An organization which started off with an environmental focus soon elevated itself to a human rights organization. She allowed people to see their growth and power by planting trees which made her a threat to the Kenyan government but ultimately a hero to not only the people of Kenya but all over the world. She worked with communities, mostly women around different parts of Kenya, to plant at least 20 million trees while she was alive (Nobel Prize). Today, the number of trees planted has surpassed 51 million (Green Belt Movement). Her work soon spilled over to neighboring countries in which tree planting initiatives began in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Lesotho, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. In 2004 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because of her human rights and environmental conservation work.

In 2011, Wangari Maathai, passed away from ovarian cancer. She was an author, politician, environmentalist, professor, activist, but ultimately a visionary who saw that in order to properly help ourselves, we must help our environment.  Her impact continues to resonate across generations and countries because she was a fighter for justice; in fact, in Washington, D.C. there is a community garden named after her called Wangari Gardens. Today, her legacy continues to remain intact because of the continuous work of the Green Belt Movement which is still a positive force within Kenya.   

“Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come.”

Wangari Maathai 

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)