Few people consider Haiti a land of hope and opportunity. But the Conservancy does. We are leading a project on Haiti’s south coast that will improve the lives of local people by improving their fisheries. In a country where government assistance is unreliable, we are working directly with communities to establish the country’s first marine protected area.
There are many challenges to working in this remote corner of Haiti. Travel is difficult. Lodging can be rustic. But the most significant challenges are the cultural and language barriers that must be overcome if the project is to succeed.
Our Haiti Conservation Coordinator, Maxene Atis, is a native Haitian who speaks Creole—the local language—and understands the local culture. Based on his experience in community development, Maxene believes that this project will succeed because we are involving stakeholders at every step—and they understand what is at stake.
As one fisher told him, “We know we destroy nature when we overfish but we love nature. We want to help save it. We just need to know how.”
They believe that this project will show them how.
With support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the United Nations, the first year of the project focused on understanding the local social and ecological conditions—the foundation for a successful marine protected area. Conservancy staff surveyed fishers in 26 communities and learned what, where and how they fish. A team of Conservancy scientists carried out the first underwater survey of Haiti’s seafloor, mapping marine habitats and conditions along the south coast.
Though fishing will be restricted in the marine protected area, fishers understand that over time marine habitats will improve, fish populations will recover and nearby fishing grounds will be replenished—securing food for their families and a sustainable future for their communities.