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In poverty-stricken nations across the globe, local artisans have the power to help to improve not just the economy but also the living conditions and education levels of their countries. When artisans have the financial and organizational support that they need to firmly establish a business of their own they can earn a steady income which allows them to provide their families with a stronger financial base. The Artisan Alliance, a subset of the Aspen Global Innovators Group, works in alliance with Kiva and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues to create resources for artisan support so that artisans can build and sustain their businesses.

How the Artisan Alliance Makes a Difference

The Artisan Alliance works to create a network of artisan support in four main ways. The Alliance first focuses on financing small artisan businesses with the capital that they need to create and maintain their businesses. Once a business receives financial aid, the Alliance provides artisan business coaching to ensure that the artisans can sustain their businesses and grow in the future. The Alliance focuses on building and maintaining a network of artisan businesses, social enterprises, NGOs and government agencies around the world to ensure that artisan businesses continue to receive the support that they need from global markets and investors to sustain their businesses. Finally, the Alliance curates and hosts global events to showcase the artisan entrepreneurs in their network to “share best practices, and uncover solutions to common barriers in the artisan value chain.”

The network within the Artisan Alliance includes 161 members that range from artisan businesses to online marketplaces. Of the more than 100,000 artisans in the 127 countries within the Artisan Alliance network, 82 percent of these are women. From the efforts of the Artisan Alliance and other organizations like it, the growth of artisan businesses plays a significant role in making the artisan sector the second-largest employer in the developing world.

Member Profiles

  • Himalayan Naari – The Himalayan Naari is an artisan business of a network of women based throughout three villages in the Indian Himalaya mountains. “Naari” is the Hindi word for a woman of strength and resolve and the women of Himalayan Naari are just that. Created in 2013, there are already over 100 artisans involved in Himalayan Naari. The artisans focus their work on knitting and weaving. The women combine traditional Himalayan weaving techniques with modern designs, creating beautiful wool pieces for sale in the U.S. and other global markets. The Himalayan Education Foundation (HEF) provides a network of artisan support for Himalayan Naari by supplying the women with the wool they need to create their products. Before the founding of Himalayan Naari, the women in these remote mountain villages saw a limited opportunity for economic growth and betterment for the lives of their families. One artisan in the Himalayan Naari network, Basanti Karki, has seen an improvement in her own life and that of her family since she joined the network as a knitter in 2010. She told the Himalayan Naari network, “Since joining [the network] I have grown in my self-confidence and can work very hard now. Naari is a breakthrough for women’s empowerment and I hope it will thrive in the future.”
  • Caribbean Craft – Caribbean Craft began in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1990. From its creation, Caribbean Craft quickly became a major provider of Haitian handmade goods for the tourist shops in Port-au-Prince. In 2006, the network became female-owned and in 2009 it purchased a showroom in Atlanta’s Americas Mart where stores such as HomeGoods and Anthropologie picked up its goods for sale in the U.S. In addition to providing a source of strong financial support for its artisans, Caribbean Craft also strives to look after the well-being and health of its artisans. Following the devastating earthquake in 2010, the organization began to provide a free meal a day to over 300 artisans. In 2011, Caribbean Craft began a literacy program with support from the Clinton Foundation, West Elm and Prodev finding success in 2014 by reaching 100 percent literacy among its artisans.

It is organizations such as Himalayan Naari and Caribbean Craft that the Artisan Alliance is proud to support. To see the meaningful growth of artisan businesses, small artisans require meaningful financial investment and organizational support to see a lasting positive impact on themselves and their communities.

Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

PortaPureThe company PortaPure began research on water filtration systems after a massive hurricane hit Haiti in 2010. Millions of people were left without clean water. By Christmas of that year, PortaPure began donating their PocketPure devices. Today in Haiti, where the company PortaPure still does most of their work, 60 percent of the population are still living in poverty. They do not have easy access to clean water. Although there are other solutions to clean water, those solutions can be expensive. To continue its mission to provide access to clean water all around the world, PortaPure has created multiple solutions that can help in their goal.

Efforts to Aid Haiti

After the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, PortaPure was not the only organization to invest in providing access to clean water. The U.N. came to help as well. Unfortunately, their sewage leaked into a clean source of water that contaminated it. Consequently, the leak exposed the Haitians to cholera. About 800,000 Haitians became sick from drinking and using water from the contaminated source.

The need to solve this problem was even more apparent after 10,000 people had died from cholera, so PortaPure knew their filtration system needed to be able to filter this out.

Their filtration system has the water pass through a series of filters that, in the end, filters down to .02 microns. This level allows for diseases, like cholera, to be filtered out and safe to use.

PocketPure Offers Clean Water to Drink

PortaPure’s first innovation, PocketPure, was meant to be a cheap solution to provide developing countries access to clean drinking water. It is meant to be very portable, pocket-size, as it weighs less than a pound. Even though it is portable, it still allows the user to drink one liter of water.

This is one of the cheapest innovations on the market as it costs less than $20. PocketPure’s affordability allows for more people to be able to donate these systems to developing countries. Although this price might still seem like a lot, other filtration systems can be as much as 100 dollars.

PureLives in Africa

African families compared to families in first-world countries use much less water. Families in developed countries can use up to 550 gallons of water per day while African families use about five gallons per day. One of PortaPure’s most recent products, PureLives, addresses the need for a large amount of water.

PureLives is a water treatment system that can hold up to five gallons of water. This is just the right amount for families in developing countries. This water treatment system is also portable as it acts like a backpack, making it easier to carry water home if the water source is far away. Additionally, it is efficient as it can filter water into the system at a gallon per minute. The PureLives system also has a long filtration life as it can last up to three years or 5,000 gallons.

Although PortaPure’s mission was to provide access to clean water for Haiti, it has evolved into a global mission. There are 785 million people in the world without access to water service. Furthermore, two billion people use a water source that has been contaminated by feces. These contaminated water sources contain diseases, like cholera, and many others that contribute to 485,000 deaths per year.

Luckily, with inventions such as the PureLives system, PortaPure provides some cost-effective solutions that allow Haiti to have access to clean water.

– Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

Five Soap Brands that Give BackAccording to the CDC, nearly 2.5 billion people lack access to clean water. Without a sanitation system, diseases can spread at a disastrous rate. Each year, more than 800,000 children die due to the lack of sanitation in communities across the globe. This article focuses on five soap brands that give back to those without access to clean water.

5 Soap Brands that Give Back

  1. Hand in Hand
    After reading a startling statistic about the number of people affected by water-related illnesses, Bill Glaab & Courtney Apple founded Hand in Hand. Together, they partnered with My Neighbor’s Children, a non-profit organization based in Haiti focused on impoverished children. Through this partnership, all of Hand in Hand’s donations go toward these children. In 2013, Hand in Hand opened their first well in Onaville, Haiti, which now serves over 240 families daily. Through their “Buy a bar. Give a bar.” program, Hand in Hand has donated more than 1 million bars of soap. With every bar purchased, Hand in Hand provides a child in need with a bar of soap and a month of clean water.
  2. Pacha Soap Co.
    After a large flood in the Peruvian Andes, most families lost work and communication with the world they once knew. They depended upon the “pacha” or “earth” in Quechua. In 2011, Andrew and Abi founded Pacha Soap Co. with the mission to create a product that would help others as well as the earth. Since then, Pacha Soap Co. has supplied 14 communities with clean water wells, served more than 4,000 people clean water for the first time and have funded eight independent soap shops in Africa. Through all of this hard work, Pacha Soap Co. has donated more than 3.8 million bars of soap to schools in developing counties, provided over 74,000 children with hand-washing education and has created over 250 careers.
  3. Soapbox Soaps
    Founded in 2010 by Dave Simnick, Soapbox Soaps has made it their mission to empower consumers “with the ability to change the world through everyday, simple purchases”. Partnering with the Sundara Fund, a non-profit that recycles soap from hotels, Soapbox Soaps has been able to supply 30 women with a reliable job. With each purchase, Soapbox Soaps donates a bar of soap and proper hygiene education to someone in need. The proceeds also go toward research and development in reducing trachoma infections, an infection in the eye that could lead to blindness. Today, more than 3 million lives have been impacted through Soapbox Soap’s mission and over 6,000 lessons on hygiene have been taught. Soapbox Soaps is just one of the five soap brands that give back and partner with Sundara Fund.
  4. B.A.R.E. Soaps
    Another soap brand that partners with Sundara Fund is B.A.R.E or Bringing Antiseptic Resources to Everyone Soaps. This is a volunteer, all-natural and socially conscious company. All of the profits are either reinvested back into B.A.R.E Soaps or non-profits. In 2012, B.A.R.E Soaps partnered with Children’s Hopechest & Point Community Church to supply children with soap and vitamins in Kaberamaido, Uganda. When the Hepatitis B outbreak hit, B.A.R.E Soaps quickly diverted funds to support vaccinations. In 2016, B.A.R.E. Soaps funded a local research center where they could donate sanitary products. That same year, B.A.R.E Soaps partnered with Sundara Fund in Kalwa Slum, India. Every month, 500 school children living in the slums receive a bar of soap and basic health care and hygiene training.
  5. Lush
    Lush is known for its bright and colorful bath bombs and sweet-smelling shampoo bars. Using the freshest ingredients, Lush lives by six core philosophies to fight against animal testing. 100 percent of their products are vegetarian and more than 80 percent are vegan. All of its products are handmade and sold “naked” or without packaging to reduce the amount of waste in landfills. Lush advocates for those without a voice. Through their body lotion, Charity Pot, Lush donates all of the proceeds to “small grassroots organizations working in the areas of human rights, animal protection and environmental justice”. Since 2007, Charity Pot has helped Lush donate more than $33 million to over 2,450 grassroots charities in 42 countries. In 2010, the Sustainable Lush Fund was created. Since then, over 44 projects in 21 countries have been created.

These five soap brands that give back, are more than just charitable. They have given many people healthier and cleaner lives. Despite how simplistic a bar of soap can be, many people lack access to hygiene products and even clean water. Even the smallest gift can cleanse generations of detrimental conditions.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

ways natural disasters affect impoverished nationsAfter a natural disaster, an impoverished nation faces even more struggles as it attempts to recover. While the media is a tool that helps inspire assistance to disaster-stricken nations, countries that experience natural disasters often still need more aid after the disaster is no longer in the spotlight. Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters, and it is important to remember these effects when thinking about what you can do to help a nation in distress. Here are five ways natural disasters affect impoverished nations.

Five Ways Natural Disasters Affect Impoverished Nations

  1. Women are at higher risk. Women are at a higher risk of danger during and after natural disasters. In fact, more women than men are killed or injured during floods and hurricanes. Because of the expectation for women to be household caregivers in most developing countries, they are less likely to flee from their homes in an emergency. They are also less likely to know how to swim if there is a water emergency. Medical Teams International (MTI), an organization that seeks to bring medical help to those in need after natural disasters, recognizes the need for intervention. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, women endured the brunt of a health crisis – in addition to a cholera epidemic, women experienced unsafe births and unhealthy pregnancies. To combat this, MTI entered the village of Crochu and provided vaccines and education about how to improve maternal health. The group also trained community members to help with births so the ordeal would be safer for the women. MTI remained in Crochu until 2018, when the community was able to maintain control of its health activities independently.
  2. Agriculture suffers. Natural disasters can damage croplands and livestock production, which hurts a developing country’s agricultural sector. Between 2005 and 2015, developing nations lost $96 billion in agriculture due to natural disasters, with half of these losses occurring in Asia, where floods, earthquakes and tsunamis are common. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. has created a risk assessment and reduction program that studies losses from natural disasters and implements new solutions to minimize future losses. This program also takes into account the losses in the forestry sector and fisheries, which provide additional sustenance.  The disaster analysis paves the way for other humanitarian groups, like the World Health Organization and the World Bank, to intervene directly.
  3. Children are more likely to become stunted. A child in India is seven percent more likely to experience stunting within five months of a natural disaster. For areas like India that face many disasters per year and already have a stunting rate of 38 percent, the stunting risk is great. Stunted children can face developmental difficulties that impact school performance and physical abilities due to a lack of nutritional fulfillment. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is an international group that helps individual countries after natural disasters by providing meals, developing food security education programs and strengthening agricultural recovery. In 2017, the group was able to send lifesaving nutrition products to Mexico after two dangerous earthquakes ravaged the agricultural sector. This was possible because of a $600,000 donation from Abbott Laboratories Corporate Giving Program.
  4. Natural disasters can spur economic activity. Studies have shown that countries suffering numerous natural disasters also have higher rates of economic growth. After a 2008 earthquake in China, the economic growth rate increased by 0.3 percent due to billions of dollars spent on rebuilding efforts. Creating new and more efficient infrastructures with the help of disaster relief programs can improve the economy by providing immediate construction jobs, but also can facilitate long-term economic growth with safer, newer work buildings. This is made possible by donations to humanitarian organizations like the International Red Cross or All Hands and Hearts.
  5. Disease is likely to follow. A natural disaster itself does not cause disease, but it can become easier to contract a disease after a natural disaster. When there is a flood, there is a higher risk of cross-contamination of water with toxic materials, and water sources become breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitos. In the event of an earthquake, people are forced to live in crowded shelters with limited access to sanitation systems and food. Immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases decreases significantly in this time. Doctors Without Borders is one group that helps disaster victims onsite and provides necessary vaccines or other medical treatment. The organization created pre-made disaster kits to send to countries in need of aid. The kid includes a full set of surgical tools and a large, inflatable tarp to be used as hospital space. The kit was introduced in Haiti in 2010, and now, it is known as a model for other disaster relief organizations.

Natural disasters and the ways natural disasters affect impoverished nations continue to be a threat to global health every day. Donating to relief and recovery organizations is a great way to be involved in helping poor communities abroad.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Emergency Medical Care in Developing NationsNearly 88 percent of injury-related deaths happen in poverty-stricken countries. There is an urgent demand for emergency care in low- to middle-income countries. One study found that, in these countries, emergency professionals see 10 times the number of cases that a primary doctor does, and the rate of death in these areas is extremely high.

Many emergency care centers in developing countries are severely underfunded and under-resourced. Some lack basic medical instruments while others have medical professionals that work without training or any sort of protocol. The burden of emergency medical care in poor nations is not only due to the lack of medical care or training, but also poor infrastructure. Together for Safer Roads outlines the difficulties presented by deteriorating roads or indirect routes that affect both transport to the emergency scene and transport to the hospital. Improving these roads reduces the likelihood of crashes and unsafe traffic routes and increase the efficiency of trauma transport.

Kenya

Another study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has outlined a significant lack of emergency care. Only 25 percent of Kenyans are covered by health insurance, meaning that many must pay for medical care themselves. With so many bearing the financial burden of medical care, it is less likely they would seek it in an emergency.

There are barely any skilled professionals working in emergency medical clinics, resulting in a lack of specific training for emergency medical situations. However, it has recently been recognized as a specialty by both the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board and the Clinical Officers Council (COC). The other issue at hand in Kenya is the lack of resources. The nation is severely lacking in ambulances, and due to the significant cost of transport by ambulance, many patients take private means like taxis. There is also not a reliable dispatch system in Kenya, making the rapid response of an ambulance unlikely.

The study concluded that there needs to be a creation of new policies at a national level to improve access to emergency care. It also states it is crucial that Kenya recognize emergency care as a significant part of the healthcare system in order to develop authority for emergency response, improve the expensive cost of emergency care and implement a communication network for an emergency system.

Haiti

The country of Haiti has been struck by several natural disasters, making the need for an adequate emergency system crucial. One of the largest issues is the location of clinics and hospitals. The country has around 60, but they are primarily located in larger cities, leaving rural areas with little to no access to trauma care.

Basic necessities like gloves and medicine are things patients have to pay for before they can receive care. Even asthma attacks can be fatal because some cannot afford the inhaler. Also, the medical instruments patients have to pay for out-of-pocket are not necessarily the most up-to-date or high quality. Similarly to Kenya, medical professionals are rarely trained to deal with emergency situations. However, some groups have begun the effort to train professionals in Haiti to be prepared for emergency situations. Dr. Galit Sacajiu founded the Haiti Medical Education Project for this purpose after the earthquakes of 2010. Her courses not only train the nurses and doctors of Haiti but also provide them with the knowledge of what to do with the little or substandard medical instruments they have access to.

Economic Benefit of Improvement

If the amount of injury-related deaths that occur in developing nations was reduced to that of high-income countries, over 2 million lives could be saved. The same study also set out to find the economic benefit of improving emergency care. They found that, if these deaths were reduced, it could add somewhere between 42 to 59 million disability-adjusted life years averted. By using the human capital approach, they also conclude that there is an added economic benefit to the reduction in mortality of $241 to $261 billion per year.

There are several factors that contribute to the effectiveness and availability of emergency medical care in developing nations. These factors mainly concern infrastructure or quality of medical care. Although the issue of trauma care seems far from being solved, a study done by the Brookings Institution states there are indications that it may improve. By monitoring the improvements in medical care in high-income countries, they found that similar improvements were beginning to occur with emergency medical care in developing nations. As trauma care becomes increasingly recognized as an urgent need, it can improve and save thousands of lives.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Wiki

Sean Penn's Charitable Organization
Shortly after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Sean Penn established the J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO). Initially, an emergency relief association, Sean Penn’s charitable organization expanded to help vulnerable communities rebuild their lives in healthier and safer neighborhoods. The organization provided access to quality education, health services, improved housing and infrastructure and livelihoods.

Haiti + Beyond Fundraising Gala

As Penn’s annual J/P HRO fundraising gala approached its eighth year, the Oscar-winning actor and humanitarian renamed the event on January 5, 2019. Formerly known as Haiti Rising, the gala name changed to Haiti + Beyond to demonstrate the organization’s expansion into disaster relief around the world and not just Haiti. While honoring CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Puerto Rico’s Mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, and Ambassador Kenneth Merten, Haiti’s special coordinator during the evening’s social event, Haiti + Beyond, raised $3.5 million.

Besides entertainment, an auction also figured into part of the soiree along with additional contributions and tickets for the more than 400 guests, which ranged from $5,000 to $10,000. Proceeds will go towards saving lives by strengthening helpless communities in Haiti and the Caribbean and enabling faster reactions and effective assistance in emergencies in the U.S.

Legacy of J/P HRO and Expansion

The earthquake in Haiti impacted an estimated three million people with 250,000 lives lost. In the nine years since its start, the humanitarian relief organization has provided preventative health care, education and community resources. With its success in the region, Penn and J/P HRO have set their sights on expanding efforts around the globe.

Starting in 2019, Penn will focus on investing J/P HRO’s resources in particularly disaster-prone areas around the world. J/P HRO, its partners and other like-minded organizations will join forces to work together with communities, municipal governments and the private sector to guarantee a swift response when disaster strikes.

As a result of this new expansion, Sean Penn’s charitable organization, J/P HRO, will now go by the name CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), dedicated to saving lives while empowering communities affected by or susceptible to catastrophe. The vision of CORE is a world where at-risk communities are prepared for disasters, resilient and able to respond quickly and quick to recover.

This move follows J/P HRO’s efforts in response to recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Antigua, Barbuda, Florida and North Carolina. Although Haiti has been the center of this organization and has a majority of Haitian employees and volunteers, these experiences have given Penn insight into how to react and support communities facing similar disasters in the Caribbean and U.S.

As part of the expansion, the organization will announce an expanded board while longtime board members, such as Penn, will continue to serve and engage new staffers. Consequently, strategic partnerships with other nonprofits to provide emergency services in low-income neighborhoods and at-risk areas will round out this development. While J/P HRO is branching out, Haiti will, nevertheless, be a significant part of Sean Penn’s charitable organization as the country remains a primary passion for Penn. The devastation that occurred in Haiti led to Sean Penn’s desire to assist in every aspect of rebuilding which lead to the launch of J/P HRO and has remained in place for a decade.

– Colette Sherrington
Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in haitiHaiti is a small island, yet it is the western hemisphere’s most impoverished nation. One of the many ways that poverty affects Haiti is through hunger. In 2015, 22 percent of Haitian children were suffering from malnutrition. Health is something that affects everyday life and is reflective of a country’s standard of living. In other words, learning about how malnutrition affects Haiti is important for understanding poverty and the development of this country.

Haiti’s History

Haiti became independent from the French government in 1804. This formerly colonized nation was the first country to achieve freedom through a slave rebellion. When Haiti became independent, most western countries (such as the U.S.) did not recognize the nation’s independence. This prevented any foreign trade from occurring with Haiti.

The first country to acknowledge Haitian independence was France; however, the acknowledgment was met with conditions. The French claimed that their economy would be hurt due to a loss in slave labor and, because of this, Haitians would have to repay the French with 100 million francs. The debt was not fully repaid until 1887 and, consequently, created negative effects on Haiti’s economy.

The country also regularly encounters natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. Since 1998, Haiti has faced 10 hurricanes in addition to other tropical storms. With a lack of infrastructure, every environmental disaster takes a large toll on the economy. After the 2010 earthquake, 1.5 million Haitians were displaced and the country was said to have faced $7.8 billion in losses.

The Role of Nutrition

Today, Haiti has a GDP per capita of $870, and 59 percent of the population works for less than 2 dollars per day. With such high rates of poverty, it’s no surprise that the country also suffers from malnutrition. There are some key facts to understanding how malnutrition affects Haiti.

  • Approximately 40 percent of the country is malnourished. In fact, one in five children is malnourished. In addition, 80 percent of rice, the country’s major food source, is imported, thus creating a large dependence on foreign exchange.
  • Agriculture in Haiti is also dependent upon external factors. Only 10 percent of the land is irrigated, making consistent rain a necessity for food production. When there is a drought, food production is affected. Lack of adequate crops increases malnutrition.
  • One-third of Haitian women suffer from anemia. Anemia is an illness that can be caused by iron and vitamin deficiency. It prevents oxygen from flowing through the blood to muscles and tissues, but it can be easily prevented through proper nutrition.
  • In rural areas, fewer than half of the people in Haiti have access to clean drinking water. Water is often contaminated. In 2010, the country faced a globally infamous earthquake. When U.N. workers arrived to provide aid, they accidentally created a cholera outbreak that spread quickly through the water. Since then, 770 thousand Haitians have been affected by the illness, creating an added risk to water consumption.

Who is Helping?

While the majority of Haitians still suffer from malnutrition, progress has been made. Hands up for Haiti is one nonprofit that is aiming to reduce issues surrounding nutrition in three different ways. The first way is through a supplement called Medika Mamba, a nutritional pill that is primarily nut based and is high in calories. The pill is provided to 600 children each year on the bases of medical evaluation. The second way is through educational programs that teach locals how to grow small plots of food to support their families. Lastly, the organization offers centers with professionally trained medics to treat illnesses relating to malnutrition.

Understanding how malnutrition affects Haiti is key to recognizing the effects of poverty. The country’s long-standing history of natural disasters and colonization has affected its current economic situation as well as the health of the nation. However, nonprofits such as Hands up for Haiti have been making large strides within the country, giving a hopeful outlook to the future of this nation.

Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

Cotton in HaitiAt the beginning of February, smallholder farmers in Gonaives, Haiti, along with three representatives of the outdoor apparel company Timberland, worked together to bring about the first cotton harvest the country had seen in nearly 30 years. Before the 1980s, cotton was the fourth largest crop in Haiti; however, due to politics and sinking cotton prices, cotton harvests were gradually decreasing for years before finally stopping altogether in 1987. Now, thanks to the work of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and the support of Timberland, it seems that the Haitian cotton industry may be making a comeback.

Timberland and the SFA

This first harvest was a test run for Timberland. Several different varieties of cotton were planted and harvested in order to see which will be the most lucrative. After analysis, a larger quantity of the most productive strain of cotton will be planted this coming August. Timberland has already pledged to source one-third of the cotton it uses in its products from farmers in Haiti if all goes well.

In addition, the company has begun working with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to involve other potential buyers in the apparel industry, including other companies under Timberland’s parent company, the VF Corporation. The footwear company Vans, another brand under the VF Corporation, also participated in funding the project to bring the cotton industry back to Haiti.

The cotton harvest is only the newest development in a long line of agricultural and humanitarian feats performed by the partnership of Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance. In 2010, the American clothing company began working with the SFA to create a business model for sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. At the same time, Timberland began investing in one of the SFA’s most ambitious projects: the reforestation of Haiti.

The SFA and Reforestation in Haiti

For Haiti, the promise provided by the SFA’s reforestation project could not be more necessary. With an estimated 1.5 percent tree cover, Haiti is one of the most severely deforested countries in the world. The environmental effects of deforestation have been devastating. A survey done in 2018 suggests that anywhere from dozens to hundreds of species native to Haiti may lose their habitats if deforestation continues.

In addition, deforested areas are at a greater risk for landslides and flooding, and the country has already become increasingly susceptible to flooding in recent years. In a country that is already vulnerable to tropical storms and floods every year, deforestation only exacerbates the potential damage to its population and its infrastructure. Hundreds of Haitians are killed or displaced every year by flooding.

Today, the main culprit for deforestation in Haiti is the economy of most rural areas. For decades, rural families made room for their farms by clearing away Haiti’s natural forests. In addition, the trees that were cut fueled the lucrative charcoal trade, as many rural families make a living by burning charcoal and selling it in urban areas. Millions of Haitians rely on charcoal for energy. The charcoal industry counts for 20 percent of the rural economy and at least 70 percent of the entire country’s energy supply. Between the country’s history of deforestation and the modern need for land and charcoal, not much is left of Haiti’s forests.

Tree Currency and Reforestation

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that smallholder farmers in Haiti are the ones responsible for the project of reforestation. Within the tree currency model, which was created by the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and sponsored by Timberland, smallholder farmers plant and tend to tree nurseries in order to earn tree credits. These credits can be exchanged for a variety of goods and services, ranging from seeds to training to new equipment and livestock. In addition, taking part in tree planting and tending makes farmers eligible to receive microloans, participate in local seed banks and get help with planting and harvest from work crews comprised of local volunteers.

Since the beginning of Timberland and the SFA’s partnership in 2010, more than 6.5 million trees have been planted by some 6,000 smallholder farmers in Haiti. In turn, those farmers have reaped the benefits of the tree currency model. Crop yields among farmers who participate in the reforestation project increased by an average of 40 percent while household income has gone up by 50 to 100 percent.

Through the tree currency model, Timberland and the SFA are healing Haiti’s forests and revitalizing agriculture at the same time. And now, with the return of the cotton crop in Haiti, they may have brought back the crop that used to be the cornerstone of Haiti’s economy while also creating a new source of organic and sustainable cotton for Timberland and other companies in the textile industry.

New Hope in Hait

During the harvest in Gonaives, many of the people present commented on the new hope brought by the cotton crop. Some older farmers remembered a time when their parents had produced their own successful cotton harvests and expressed gratitude that they and their children would be able to do the same. However, the implications of this harvest, which was funded by an attempt to reforest the country, go beyond cotton and even beyond Haiti.

The partnership between Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance goes to show that economic and ecological concerns don’t always have to be in conflict with one another and that big business can be successful on a basis of cooperation and reciprocity of the those who support it and not through exploitation. Who knows what could happen if more companies began following Timberland and gave back more?

Keira Charles

Photo: Timberland

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Haiti
The following 10 facts about life expectancy in Haiti reveal a domino-effect of massive natural disasters, fragile health care infrastructure and low access to preventative care in a country where half of the population lives in extreme poverty. On the bright side, poverty rates have improved and can continue to uplift if aid focuses on establishing long-term preventative care facilities and the government can effectively communicate with programs to meet needs. With the improvements in poverty rates and health care, life expectancy will consequentially improve.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Haiti

  1. The life expectancy in Haiti is 63.5 years, lower than that of its neighbors Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Female are projected to live longer with the life expectancy of 65.7 years while men are expected to live 61.3 years on average. The country’s population consists of 10.98 million people. The healthy life expectancy is alarmingly low, standing at only 44 years.
  2. More than half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, categorized as suffering from extreme poverty. A $2 daily budget allows little to no room for medicine, preventative care, hospitals or emergency clinics.
  3. The country has also seen various improvements over the last 30 years, as 1970 saw life expectancy rates that were as low as 47 years.
  4. The child mortality rate drastically improved since 1960 when it hovered around 249 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today’s rate of 71.7 deaths per 1,000 live births means care access for infants and children with complications or illnesses still needs to advance.
  5. On 12 January 2010, earthquake disintegrated medical and treatment facilities in Port-au-Prince within seconds. The magnitude 7 earthquake, powerful enough to destroy most of the city, put the medical system back to the most rudimentary stage with few facilities and overloaded the hospitals with the wounded people. Between 46,000 and 300,000 Haitians died and most areas were forced to wait for Doctors without Borders humanitarian aid for over a month due to the critical devastation of roads and airports.
  6. The country never had proper funds to establish a secure health care infrastructure amidst a crushing sequence of natural disasters. Quick and accessible care often spells the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, Haitian clinics that would have saved lives were destroyed in the earthquake. Of course, aid can never replace a health care system. Many international organizations partner with the country to provide health care access and immediate care. Plenty International, whose past and ongoing projects in Haiti include partnering with Haitian clinics, channeling medicine and supplies, including water sanitation tablets and offering Haitian midwives training in Home Based Life-Saving Skills, interventions that save women and children’s lives, is one of those organizations.
  7. After the 2010 earthquake, cases of cholera developed from unsanitary water conditions and lack of health care. By 2016, this disease had sickened 770,000 people and the U.N. promised to bring in funding to compensate the families of the deceased and ill. Cholera is not the only concern as Haiti suffers the highest percentages of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean at approximately 150,000 cases in 2016. Around 55 percent of the sufferers had access to antiretroviral treatment, an improved rate from 2010 when there were 10 percent more HIV-caused deaths. Progress shows up in malnutrition rates as well, as the number of undernourished children dropped significantly from 2006 to 2012 due to the government ramping up programs. As of May 2012, services included 285 outpatient programs, 16 inpatient stabilization units for severely affected children, 174 baby feeding tents and 350 supplementary nutrition programs.
  8. Annual per capita expenditure for health care is a stark $13. In comparison, this number is $180 in the Dominican Republic. After the administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose presidency was toppled in 2004, the health care budget took a hefty slash. Hopefully, as Haiti strives to create more sustainability in its health care infrastructure, the current government administration will prioritize preventative care and have the ability to increase the budget.
  9. Habitat for Humanity, responding to the need for structures and sustainable living situations after the earthquake, organized Pathways to Permanence, developing urban areas and teaching about land rights and finances. Their HOME program also provides access to long-term financing to reduce the housing deficit. They have helped rebuild the district Simon-Pelé, north of capital Port-au-Prince, whose former structures were predominately self-built. The organization also partnered with the community to provide water and sanitation projects and vocational training for adults.
  10. Text message donations from all over the U.S. brought immediate funding for disaster relief. A nongovernmental organization named Innovating Health International (IHI) combines community-oriented disease research, collaboration with local perspectives and prevention awareness to treat women with a range of chronic illnesses. IHI is carrying out the widest-reading study of chronic disease in a low-income country in the world.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Haiti highlight the hard road ahead to establish a sustainable infrastructure to address the country’s health care needs. Part of the struggle lies with its need for disaster-relief programs, many of which operated mainly to bring emergency care. As Haiti stabilizes its economic and employment rates, and more citizens can afford or be provided with preventative care, the crisis will decelerate. However, the economic, political, and health-care infrastructure all require stabilizing and the continued partnering of foreign aid for the country to progress to a more sustainable future.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 facts about girls’ education in Haiti
Education reform in Haiti has provided opportunities for women and young girls to escape the conditions of extreme poverty in the country. However, girls continue to struggle in getting an affordable education and traditional gender norms challenge the potential opportunities for women. Haiti ranks 177th out of 186 countries in the world in terms of national spending on education. Advocating for the benefits of education for young girls can break these barriers. In the text below, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Haiti are presented.   

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Haiti

  1. Girls have shown an increase in primary school enrollment. From 2008 to 2012, primary school attendance for girls has grown to 77.7 percent compared with boys at 76.7 percent.
  2. Haiti’s education system has some challenges as ineffective teaching methods contribute to low-quality education. In addition, there is a persistent shortage of qualified teachers who remain unpaid. Around half of the public sector of teachers lack basic qualifications, 80 percent of them have not received any pre‐service training and 25 percent have never had a formal education or have attained a secondary school.
  3. The 2010 earthquake left Haiti in shambles and further damaged already-weak school infrastructure. The earthquake destroyed 4,000 schools, including one of the biggest educators of Haitian women and girls, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. Schools have struggled to provide students with a quality education. In some instances, children aged 5 to 12 attended classes in one-room local churches. Following the earthquake, these were temporary measures to shelter student so they could resume their schooling.
  4. Educate a Child is an organization that implemented a project called Quality Basic Education for Out of School Children (OOSC) with the goal to increase access to education by building primary school options in Haiti, as well as expanding them. The project’s goal is to reach at least 50,000 school children or OOSC within the following sub-groups of girls and boys: in domestic servitude situations, in rural and semi-rural areas, in rural farm situations without economic means to attend school and in street or semi-street situations. Currently, there is one OOSC program in Haiti. The project benefits parents of OOSC, teachers, school officials and an estimate of 227,000 children.
  5. Young girls with little or no education are more likely to have children and be victims of domestic violence. About 70 percent of women in Haiti have been victims of gender-based domestic violence. One survey found that 13.1 percent of girls and 14.6 percent of boys between the ages of 10 and 14 who were not enrolled in school were among the estimated 150,000 to 500,000 children who lived with non-relatives as unpaid domestic servants, and 65 percent of them being girls. Girls who are unable to attend school go to domestic labor and become vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological abuse, unlike the girls who finish primary and secondary school who are more likely to escape these conditions and marry later in their adult years.
  6. Gender discrimination continues to be an obstacle for girls seeking access to education. Children from the ages of 5 to 17 work as unpaid domestic laborers. These children are also called restavek, and the majority of them are girls. Though girls enter school on par with boys, they are marginalized and are subject to higher dropout rates.
  7. Most Haitian schools follow French education model and French is used on the national tests. This creates a language barrier since most Haitians speak Creole. Less than 22 percent of Haitian primary school children pass the entrance examination at the end of grade five. About 13 percent of girls succeed in these entrance exams, while the rest are ill-prepared and unable to proceed to secondary school.
  8. The literacy rate is approximately 61 percent- 64 percent for males and 57 percent for females. Haiti Now is an organization committed to investing in accelerated educational programs for girls vulnerable to domestic servitude and at risk to drop out. They build on literacy skills by distributing and purchasing textbooks for young girls. As of 2016, 7,246 textbooks have been distributed to classrooms throughout Haiti and 425 girls have been recipients to textbooks.
  9. Malnutrition and natural disasters pose an obstacle for girls to stay in school. The World Food Program (WFP) delivers daily hot meals to about 485,000 school children in over 1,700 predominantly public schools throughout Haiti. WFP found that girls’ education contributes to a 43 percent reduction in child malnutrition over time, while food availability accounts for 26 percent reduction. For families who struggle to provide food at home, food programs in school also ensure that girls stay in school and are focused and ready to learn.
  10. The access to primary education in Haiti has improved with 90 percent of primary school-aged children enrolled in school to date. Although these changes are an improvement in Haiti’s education system, quality education remains a challenge. Many students repeat a grade and about 53 percent drop out before completing primary school, while 16 percent of girls stop attending primary school altogether.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Haiti demonstrate how barriers are broken and how conditions continue to improve for girls that are eager to learn. However, gender discrimination continues to be an obstacle to Haiti’s development in education. Despite these inequities, women in Haiti continue to be the necessary leaders, caregivers, professionals and heads of households by serving their communities and responding in times of crisis. As Haiti continues to rebuild, it will be critical to providing educational opportunities for the current generation of girls to ensure sustainable development efforts are met.

– Luis Santos
Photo: Flickr