Media representations perpetuate stereotyped images of Haiti and Haitians. Such expressions typically emphasize extreme poverty, mismanagement, exploitation, hopelessness, and also environmental degradation. The environmental image of Haiti is that it is massively deforested, and the connection of deforestation to poverty and other problems has been captured in an iconic aerial photograph of the Haitian and Dominican Republic (DR) border. First appearing in National Geographic in 1987 and replicated since in various sources, the image displays a stark contrast between the tropical lushness of the DR and a desert-like Haiti, stripped of its vegetation. The stark image in effect dichotomizes a supposedly dysfunctional Haiti with a normally-functioning DR. This study analyzes the “mythologies” that are reinforced by the photo and the discourse surrounding it, which produces an accepted story of the way Haiti “is.” Going beyond such stereotypes, the study considers ways of rewriting such depictions to account for greater complexity.
Forêt des Pins Reserve, a state-owned natural forest in Haiti, has suffered severe degradation due to a land tenure system that does not guarantee security for farmers, illegal harvesting of trees for the production of firewood and charcoal, and an ongoing influx of people with varying backgrounds and different socioeconomic context seeking fertile land. This situation has resulted in environmental damage and posed a threat to the welfare of the inhabitants of this Reserve. Various approaches, essentially based on participatory and ìcommand and controlî regulations, have been unsuccessfully tried to persuade farm households to adopt conservation measures. Negative impacts on the welfare of farmers limit the efficiency of these approaches for forest conservation. The heterogeneity of conditions faced by farmers has also amplified the challenge for conceiving and implementing development strategies. This study addresses the effects of socioeconomic and institutional dynamics of land use change, and assesses the role of different policy instruments for forest conservation in the Forêt des Pins Reserve.
This dissertation analyzes important changes occurring in a remote Haitian village, which I call Malfini. This case study illustrates current problems facing the Haitian peasantry, focusing on the political relationships that are at the heart of these problems. The three changes are an increased economic stratification among peasant farmers, an increased use of wage work instead of traditional labor organization and a rapidly disappearing environmental base due to erosion and loss of soil fertility. Malfini is located on the margins of the last remaining rainforest in Haiti, and continued environmental degradation will result in a severe loss of Haiti's biodiversity.