Haiti: ‘A Gathering Storm’

Climate Change and Poverty

Published: 27 November 2009

In 2008, four hurricanes and tropical storms (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) hit the mountainous Caribbean island of Haiti. In the space of a few weeks, the hurricanes tore apart the lives of millions of people, hitting the poor the hardest. With little time for recovery in between, the small island could barely cope. Crops, livestock, and homes were destroyed; roads and bridges left damaged; water pipes ruptured; school buildings ripped apart. The damage was nation-wide affecting nearly 900,000 people.

It is impossible to say that every extreme weather event is caused by climate change but many scientists now agree that events such as hurricanes are likely to become more severe, if not necessarily more frequent. Climate change is creating conditions for more extreme weather events.

This report gives an insight into how poor people are experiencing climate change in Haiti, already one of the poorest countries in the world, and what challenges they are currently facing, and will continue to face in the future. Research was undertaken in several parts of the country, from Belle Anse in the southeast, Nippes in the south, to Cap Haitian and surrounding communities in the north. 

The report shows the complicated nature of climate change in Haiti, with more than 98 per cent of trees having been cut down to make charcoal, leaving bare slopes vulnerable to landslides when bad weather strikes.

Key recommendations

  • Secure livelihoods at local level and promote recognition of local knowledge and awareness.
  • Identify, develop, and support reforestation initiatives.
  • Introduce technologies to improve and control charcoal production, while working on identifying and introducing alternative energy sources.
  • Frame and develop national and local research and policy planning on adaptation on the needs of poor people.
  • Lobby the international community for the necessary financial support for adaptation.