Developing new 'green pearls' in Haiti: safe, thriving and empowered communities

With frequent earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, Haiti is no stranger to hazards. Due to overgrazing and deforestation, the country does not have a natural buffer to these risks anymore. This makes one of the world’s poorest nations even more disaster-prone, which reinforces a cycle of vulnerability and poverty. That is why the Green Pearl Programme was launched: implemented by the Netherlands Red Cross together with the Haitian Red Cross since 2019, it is an initiative of the Princess Margriet Fund to restore Haiti’s reputation as the Green Pearl of the Caribbean through the development of many smaller green pearls.

But, what are green pearls? Safe and thriving communities living in a healthy balance between human needs, natural resources and economic development. They consist of three zones: the natural zone, where reforestation restores a buffer against landslides; the combined zone, an area for regenerative and sustainable farming; and the economic zone, where people live and work. The goal of the Green Pearl Programme is to support local communities in becoming green pearls, where infrastructure such as disaster-proof schools are improved – and emphasis is given on First Aid and other emergency training.

Previous projects in Haiti revealed the success of this approach. Around Côtes-de-Fer, also in the south-east, recently constructed check dams protected communities from Hurricane Matthew’s landslides and mudflows in 2016, and the Ministry of Environment now recommends them as the standard. Furthermore, the country has an existing network of Red Cross volunteers and a history of strong partnership with the government, which are key for the success of the programme. 

To further improve this strategy and spread it to more communities, the Netherlands Red Cross has partnered with landscape restoration organization Commonland. They brought together part of the Red Cross Framework for Community Resilience and Commonland’s 4 Returns approach for landscape restoration, coming up with a joint approach: the 4 Returns for Resilience (4R4R) approach. The objective for each pearl is threefold: to build community resilience, restore ecosystems, and economically empower community members – all at the same time.

The first pearl is currently being established in Vallée de Jacmel, in the south-east, where the team works with local technical partner LEOS to implement the first activities. A nursery has been constructed for growing fruit trees. On water management, erosion control and soil conservation, training materials for local farmers and agronomists are being produced. In addition, locations for work on streambeds have been identified (in collaboration with landscape design specialists from United Designers). Two more pearls in the southern part of Haiti are planned for the initial phase of the programme, which lasts until 2024. Over the next two decades, a total of 30 pearls will be realised.

Farmers are already sourcing their seedlings from the nursery constructed in Vallée de Jacmel, the area where the first green pearl is currently being established. © LEOS – Stevenson Merolin

“I had to collect plastic bags and bring them to the nursery so that they can grow seedlings from them. We have already pruned the plants that have grown, while we are waiting for the other plants to grow,” explained Sherline Léger, local agriculture technician that helped construct the nursery. According to Romicile Prévôt Dadou, representative of a Community-Based Organization in Meyac, this project “will mean a lot to their community.” “Representatives from the Green Pearl programme met us at our home. They talked with everyone, and they raised awareness about the need to take care of our environment,” she said.

An essential factor in achieving the expected results is the ambition of the young Haitian population seeking better opportunities for their communities. By working together, a structural solution can be reached to restore Haiti’s resilience and reputation of the Green Pearl of the Caribbean. “Our community will be relieved thanks to this initiative,” highlighted Mettelus André, nurseryman at the newly erected nursery. “People will also have the opportunity to earn money. On behalf of all the members of the community, I wish that this project can go further.”

Basic information

Activity name

Green Pearl Programme

Country

Haiti

Duration

From 2019 to 2024 (initial phase)

Partners

Netherlands Red Cross, Haitian Red Cross, Commonland, LEOS, United Designers

URL

https://www.rodekruis.nl/en/disaster-prevention-princess-margriet-fund/#haiti