© Helvetas

Better Prepared for Storms

© Helvetas

Helvetas supports the population and authorities in Haiti in their efforts to prepare for increasingly destructive natural disasters. Terraces and trees protect steep hillsides against erosion. Local authorities are preparing to react effectively when the next storms strike.

  • Project Name
    Erosion control and preparing for natural disasters
  • Project Phase
    2014 to 2017
  • Funding
    This project is funded by donations.
  • Thematic focus
    Environment and Climate Change

Storms and erosion

Haiti used to be called the “Pearl of the Antilles”. It was a fertile country with rich animal and plant life and forests stretching from the mountains to the turquoise sea. But French sugar barons, tropical timber merchants, mismanagement and overfarming by smallholders have since deforested the island. The soil is worn out. Soil erosion has left deep scars in the steep hillsides.

And yet now, after a series of natural disasters, the population and authorities are starting to show the first signs of a serious interest in stabilizing the hillsides and sustainably managing natural resources. They are the recipients of a Helvetas project to preserve watersheds and prepare for natural disasters.

© Helvetas
Men from the community are building dry-stone walls that will break the force of the water and stop the erosion. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
Various structural measures are being taken to prevent the slopes from slipping. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
The work in the churches is undertaken jointly, and all families help. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
The work in the churches is undertaken jointly, and all families help. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
The work in the churches is undertaken jointly, and all families help. © Helvetas
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
Women grow tree seedlings in a nursery, which will later replant the cut down slopes. © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
© Helvetas
Trees will also grow out of it, which will strengthen the soil with their strong roots. © Helvetas

Under the direction of local experts, members of 2,000 families in mountainous Artibonite have begun protecting their surroundings. Dry stone walls along the contour lines break the water’s momentum and hold back the masses of earth washed down the slopes. Dense vegetation cover holds the soil together till the planted bushes and trees are big enough to secure the mountainsides. Once the soil recovers, it can store more water, and springs that were dried out for many years begin to bubble again. Haitian experts show their compatriots how to manage the restored soil more effectively and more profitably.

This project also targets local authorities. They are responsible for the protection and sustainable use of soil, water and vegetation. In training courses they learn how to protect their community from storm damage through a combination of regional development planning, protective structures and reforestation. They also learn how to draw up rescue and evacuation plans.

The efficacy of such plans was confirmed during hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Irma (2017): the local authorities that were prepared for disaster situations thanks to Helvetas were able to launch and coordinate rescue operations much more swiftly than most of the other municipalities.

Environment and Climate Change

Every year, we support over 1,000,000 people adapt to climate change, reduce the risks of disasters, sustainably manage natural resources, and conserve nature.

How Helvetas Supports People in Haiti

Haiti is hit by natural disasters again and again. Our first and foremost priorities are the water supply, sanitation and agriculture.