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17333: Raber: Re: 17324: Lemieux: LA Times: Erosion in Haiti (fwd)

From: P&M Raber <raber@valkyrie.net>

Could it be possible for the Haitian Government , or for an NGO with the
support of the Government to obtain grants to distribute the propane
start-ups for the estimated 1 to 2 million families cooking daily? By start
up I mean a small propane tank and a camping-style range.  Of course there
would still be the problem of affordability of refills.  Most families live
day to day buying a teaspoon of tomato paste, a pile of charcoal, one
bouillon cube, a cup or rice etc...They could not afford an entire refill at
once unless there were payment plans.  There is also the cultural aspect of
taste.  The majority of Haitian consider the taste of food cooked on
charcoal or wood, superior to that cooked on gas.  Has anyone done a study
to find out if mined American charcoal imported duty free would be any
cheaper than local charcoal?  If that was possible, there would again be the
issue of the poorest people losing yet one more source of livelihood.  Maybe
there could be another renewable grant to pay the peasants a set amount per
tree that they plant or maintain on the hills around their house.  Maybe it
could come in the form of school aid for their children?  Where I was at,
men would even cut mango tree when the time for school came.  Mr and Mrs
would get in huge argument over that.  The fruit of a tree was periodic long
term income to the woman who took it to market or "rented" the tree to
someone else  while the charcoal was instant cash for the man.

I visited the area of Paillant (behind Miragoane) in the early 1980's.  It
was full of lush and dense pine forests.  I went again in 2000 and found
that the forest had been really thinned out.  I asked the peasants what
happened.  They said that time were hard and they had to make money somehow.
The sad thing was that there were thousands of grapefruits and sour oranges
rotting all over the place.  Somehow they could make more money off charcoal
than fruit. In town, fruit was not cheap either.  I asked if I could
purchase some citrus.  I had to offer more money that what they were asking.
They filled up our car until we had nowhere to put our feet .
A good thing was that when you looked at the style of deforestation it was
not by clear cut and there were hundreds of small pines coming up on their
own all over the place.  If the peasants were given another mean of
livelihood the forest would once again be lush within 20  years.