Haiti

Haiti is suffering from the massive Jan 12 earthquake and needs our help. Below I've posted some first-hand accounts of the quake from people in Haiti. Please consider a donation to an organization in Haiti. If you would like to give directly to a Haitian family, please contact me (anna.versluis@gmail.com).

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I just got back from visiting some govt offices with Ludger. Still no luck with the 1986 air photos, but I will call the Office of Urban Planning next Friday and in the meantime they will search their archives to see what they can find. The director has only been there for 2 years so isn't familiar with the photos.

Then we went to the Ministry of Environment and looked through their "library" (not much of one--very dusty and with stacks of books crammed everywhere, but we found two piles of reports on the Foret des Pins). A couple of the reports look interesting. I read bits of them and will try to find copies in the ag univ library. I already feel I'm getting faster at reading in French.

It is pretty interesting to learn about the history of land settlement in the higher elevations of my study area. There are ruins of a coffee plantation from colonial years, but the area was very little populated until a road was built from Fond Verrettes (middle of watershed) to the Pine Forest (top of watershed) in the 1920s--probably by the Americans, I think, since they (oops, we) were occupying Haiti at that time and building many roads. A law in 1926 designated the general pine forest area as a forest reserve. Then, in 1937, there was a huge massacre of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic under the rule of dictator Trujillo (read a good fictional account by Edwidge Danticat in her book The Farming of Bones), and many who survived the massacre were repatriated to Haiti and, in some cases, given the opportunity to cheaply buy land from the state in the area I'm studying. Thus some of the towns in the region are the result of agricultural colonies established in 1937.

In 1942, the US government via a "society" known by its acronym, SHADA, was given permission to harvest timber from a huge tract of land in the Pine Forest. The opportunity for jobs connected to this timber operation and the renting of SHADA land to raise food for its workers attracted many people to the area--the second and largest migration of people into the Pine Forest. In 1957 SHADA conceded its land to private logging operations, called "the unscrupulous exploiters" in one literal translation. Under Jean-Claude Duvalier, the land was reclaimed by the state and designated as a protected area for reforestation (dictators often have stellar environmental records in this sense). In the last 20 years, however, the various governments have been unable or unwilling to practice much oversight of the Pine Forest, which continues to be exploited for timber, agriculture and fuel.

Okay, so maybe I can cut and paste that for part of my dissertation. Anyway, I think it's pretty interesting.

I'm at the RNDDH office and things are coming together for the party tonight. I can smell someone grilling something in the courtyard--yum!

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