Port-au-Prince metropolitan area (27,065.07 sq km)
51% agriculture, 38% services, 11% industry
Local resources the community depends on, and for what purpose:
Land with nutrient-rich topsoil for subsistence and commercial agriculture, animal husbandry, and carbon storage. Fresh water for agriculture, drinking water, and hygiene. Forests for agro-forestry income (charcoal, fruit, etc) and flood control.)
Local threats to resources:
Soil fertility has declined 20% in the last decade from erosion and years of heavy use with no soil amendments. Rivers and waterways are choked with untreated sewage and frequently flood. Over 98% of the mountainsides in Haiti have been deforested.
The Haitian community is extremely apprehensive about the rapid loss of topsoil and potential changes in the frequency and strength of hurricanes and storms in the Caribbean, which cause increased floods, mudslides, and droughts. In a detailed 2009 report from Oxfam International titled “Haiti: A Gathering Storm. Climate Change and Poverty,” it is noted that the global scientific community agrees that warming ocean waters will increase the intensity and most likely the frequency of hurricanes in the Caribbean hurricane belt where Haiti is located. Haitians report stronger and more frequent hurricanes, longer dry spells, and less frequent but stronger rains, leading to increased flooding. In 2008 alone, it is estimated that 900,000 Haitians were affected by a series of four devastating hurricanes, causing a tragic loss of life, severe food shortages and loss of crops, and infrastructure damages that equaled about 15% of the country’s total GDP. During these storms, the third most populous city, Gonaives lost 450 lives as it was buried in mudslides. In addition to immediate risks of injury or mortality in extreme weather events, changing weather patterns can have long-term impacts on community health, such as increased malnutrition during droughts and greater incidence of diarrheal disease during floods. A primary example of this is the cholera epidemic in Haiti which worsens after each rainfall.
Level of exposure to these hazards:
The majority of Haitians are extremely vulnerable to unpredictable weather events. The Port-au-Prince metropolitan region, the major population center in the country, is in a low-lying area at the base of deforested mountains, making it prone to flooding and mudslides. Over 70% of the population lives in densely-packed informal settlements with no access even to basic sanitation. Hurricanes, floods, and droughts affect the vast majority of the population’s health and livelihoods by causing disease, infrastructure damage, crop failure, and depletion of topsoil. Of course, the 2010 earthquake only worsened the population’s already severe vulnerability. And currently, along with unsafe urban living conditions and damaged forest and freshwater ecosystems, Haiti is currently battling the largest cholera epidemic in recent global history.
Level of sensitivity:
Even small tropical thunderstorms have the potential to cause widespread flooding, mudslides, and soil erosion. The Port-au-Prince metropolitan region and surrounding agricultural areas are currently experiencing higher than average damage each rainy season and this trend is expected to increase as a result of climate change. The following resources are directly impacted by climate hazards with significant impacts on the two million people living in this region: a) Soil: The cycle of soil degradation is accelerated by climate hazards making communities more vulnerable with each event. - Erosion and mudslides cause further removal of already depleted topsoil. This, along with a lack of soil nutrients, make reforestation efforts difficult and reduce yields for farmers. - Droughts reduce soil productivity decreasing the incomes of farmers and others who depend on the food and agricultural sector for sustenance and livelihoods, and also result in increased food prices for urban consumers as more food imports are required. b) Freshwater: Because of poor infrastructure, environmental degradation, and lack of access to sanitation and health services, each rainy season increases freshwater contamination. - Pathogens leaching from latrines into groundwater and streams results in increased waterborne disease such as cholera and typhoid. In Haiti, diarrheal disease is the leading cause of death in children under five. - Increased erosion and sedimentation of fragile coastal ecosystems results in less fish and less fishing income. c) Forests: 70% of the Haitian population use charcoal made from wood for cooking, meaning that forest resources are already extremely strained. The downward cycle of soil degradation and poverty brought on by climate change further exacerbates deforestation pressure as demand for additional forest-based income increases. - Dwindling resources make income generation based on fragile forest ecosystems even more insecure. - Reduced topsoil decreases the success rates of future reforestation efforts.
Level of adaptive capacity:
Current adaptive capacity is extremely low. In order to bolster adaptive capacity in anticipation of an increase in extreme weather events, Haiti needs to regenerate damaged soils, protect the remaining uncontaminated freshwater resources, remediate polluted aquatic systems, and reforest the barren mountainsides that currently threaten population centers with their potential for flashfloods and mudslides. The communities’ ability to cope with natural disasters and other climate hazards would also be improved with increased livelihood generation, increased diversity of income sources, and improved infrastructure.