Haiti Competes for Grant to Tackle Deforestation

Haiti Competes for Grant to Tackle Deforestation


With less than two weeks until voting ends for the fifth annual BBC World Challenge ’09, volunteer ambassadors for the Love ‘N Haiti project banded together last week in New York to gather votes for the global competition.

As one of 12 World Challenge finalists, Love ‘N Haiti’s project will expand a new waste management project in the impoverished Caribbean nation. The project focuses on producing recycled paper known as “briquettes,” a solid white block can be burned as fuel. Organizers hope using briquettes instead of charcoal, which is made from tree bark, will help change the environmental landscape of Haiti.

“To create briquettes, you sort the waste out in landfills, take out the paper, and then compress the paper with sawdust into a cylinder disk,” explains Maxime August, founder and chairman of the Haitian Memorial Foundation Inc.

August’s New York-based foundation, along with five other Haitian organizations based in Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles, have pledged their support for the recycling program. Recognizing the need for initiatives in Haiti, August said she picked out the organizations who could best build global awareness and garner support for the project.

The World Challenge finds projects or small businesses from around the world that have shown enterprise and innovation at a grass roots level. The project that receives the most online votes receives a $20,000 grant. Second place will receive a $15,000 grant and a $10,000 grant will be awarded to the third place finalist. Voting ends Nov. 13, and the winners will be announced Dec. 5.

Other finalists include the United States Fungi Town project, Kenya’s Fuel Cell project, India’s Solar Sister project, and Indonesia’s Nothing Wasted project, just to name a few.

Years of political and social turmoil have devastated Haiti’s economy and environment and it is now the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Charcoal from burnt trees has provided 85% or more of the energy in Haiti for decades. As a result, there is huge deforestation and the denuded mountain slopes make the island vulnerable to flooding. By reducing the need to cut down trees, Love N Haiti hopes to create a healthier environment.

“Many times people ask for donations, but those are temporary fixes,” says Mona Scott-Young, founder of Monami Entertainment and an ambassador for Love ‘N Haiti. “We’re trying to help the country create its own resources and economic structure that helps them rebuild their country.”