I hate to see ignorance and desperation destroy something good.
Pastor Daniel Paul and his wife Clynie run the Lambs of God orphanage in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. Pastor Daniel is Haitian, and is a university-trained agronomist. He has wonderful and productive gardens on his facility, and while surrounded by squalor and want, he is producing healthy food for his kids and extra to sell in the market. I was greatly impressed by him and his sustainable agricultural practices.
So imagine how I felt a few days ago when I learned that villagers had cut down one of his fruit trees for charcoal. Our friend Emily, who worked there as a volunteer last summer and again over her Christmas break, says that Pastor Daniel was “devastated” when he discovered what had happened. Villagers had also stolen cassava and sweet potatoes he was growing.
Haiti’s dependence on charcoal for cooking fuel has destroyed the environment there. A once lush tropical country is now sustantially denuded of trees–the country is 97% deforested. The border with the Dominican Republic is cleary visible by air. On the D.R. side are forests. On the Haiti side is wasteland.
The deforestation has affected weather patterns and leads to deadly flooding. It is not uncommon for a storm that does minimal damage in the D.R. to kill thousands in Haiti.
Haitians stubbornly resist efforts to move them away from charcoal. They insist that food tastes better cooked on charcoal, and it’s how they’ve always done it.
But it is not just stubbornness and ignorance that leads people to cut down a productive fruit tree that took years to grow, to cook beans and rice. There is also desperation. Since the earthquake the cost of charcoal has doubled and food prices have skyrocketed. Many Haitians simply cannot afford to buy charcoal, and they can’t eat beans and rice unless they cook it. So they steal trees.
Haitians crossing the border into the D.R. to steal trees have been a source of increasing tension between the countries. Both Haitians and Dominicans have been killed recently in skirmishes involving charcoal theft.
I am sad for Pastor Daniel. I know how he must feel. And how much more painful it must be for him, a Haitian who understands the importance of good stewardship of the earth, to see his desperate and ignorant countrymen dragging themselves deeper and deeper into misery.
My goats love to climb onto the waterers in their pature. By nature they like climbing and jumping, and they just can’t resist getting on top of the waterers. But, being goats, they poop wherever they’re standing. So they often poop into their own watersource, and it is very difficult for me to get it clean. I get very frustrated by their behavior, but they are, after all, only goats.
But why do we humans insist on pooping in our water? Why do risk the future of our planet for temporary conveniences?
Turning Haiti around is a monumental challenge. It is perhaps the biggest such challenge on the planet. In my opinion that turnaround will not occur unless and until Haitians understand and appreciate sustainability.
So God bless and strengthen people like Pastor Daniel Paul. May their tribes increase.