Environmental Justice: Just Words, or Haiti's Key to Capacity?
A phrase that is coming into popular conversation about Haiti is "environmental justice."
Definition: Environmental justice concerns the equitable treatment and involvement of all people, especially minority and low-income populations, with respect to long-term development.
The 2010 earthquake in Haiti presented humanitarian workers with one of their most complex and difficult emergencies. The response to immediate needs must be accomplished with an eye toward fair and just long-term development. Capacity building must outweigh dependency. Collaboration and partnerships must outweigh going it alone.
Here are some examples of environmental justice in action, for and with Haiti.
Two to One Hiring Ratio
For every United Methodist volunteer, two Haitian workers are hired. The effort has provided jobs for hundreds of Haitians. The goal is to train a Haitian to ultimately take on the role of volunteer coordinator for the teams coming to Haiti. Read more at "Volunteers Build Relationships in Haiti."
New Businesswomen Through Microloans
Some 90 women in Petit Goave have begun to think of themselves as businesswomen. L'Eglise Methodiste d'Haiti has funded a microcredit program there for many years, with little outside investment. Business classes—led by a Haitian microcredit training organization—provide know-how in accounting and marketing. "The community bank is my life," says one participant, who has leveraged her first loan of $75 into a thriving grain and cosmetics firm. Read more at UMCOR.org.
Haiti's Land Its Treasure: Sustainable Agriculture
L'Eglise Methodiste has been on the forefront of agricultural development in Haiti. More than half of Haitians earn their livings as farmers. Leslie Desmangles, Trinity College professor, calls Haiti's land "its treasure. People must be able to feed themselves." Pre-earthquake, the church operated several schools where farmers could learn bankable skills as agricultural extension agents. A refurbished program—a collaboration of the church and UMCOR—will reach out to farmers in earthquake-devastated areas and help them increase production. Higher yields in cash crops like rice, corn and other products will provide an incentive to reduce reliance on food aid in the long run. Read more at UMC.org.
Educating Children for a Future with Hope
About 10,000 displaced Haitians live at Corail camp, an hour's drive from Port-au-Prince. Hurricane-proof tent dwellings dot the hillside. Nine schools—erected by UMCOR and its partners and furnished with locally made schoolroom furniture—now provide safe spaces for educating the children of this camp, one of the largest. The schools are all accessible to persons with disabilities. Newly constructed wooden dwellings, built to withstand hurricanes, are receiving families as soon as they are completed. Read more at UMC.org.