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August 5, 2008

By Darin McQuoid

A curious mix of events brought me to somewhere I had never imagined myself traveling, or honestly ever thought of. Getting off the Middle Kings as the finish to our epic California spring, I bid farewell to my truck and kayaking gear as Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic dropped me off in Sacramento with the few shirts I had packed for our weekend trip. Ben and I had originally planned to drive down for a quick run on Dinkey Creek before the work season started, and here I was six weeks later flying to Haiti for another three weeks.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I thought I had seen poverty before, both in the states and when deep in Mexico in ’06. On arrival in Haiti I found out that I was wrong. The United Nations lists Haiti as the only “Fourth World Nation/Least Developed Nation” in the Americas, a designation I didn’t even know existed. Frustrated by the recent costs of rising food? To put it in perspective riots continue to flare up in Haiti because people are starving to death.

I have been amazed at the utter lack of infrastructure, even the capitol city often has day long power outages, and if you don’t live in a city you don’t have power or running water, let alone sanitation of any kind.

It’s no surprise that Haiti is plagued by considerable, complex problems. I can only grasp the faintest tip of the iceberg. A lack of infrastructure, overpopulation and political instability are the most obvious issues. Even more simplified through, Haiti simply has no economy. Once relying on mahogany timber harvest, Haiti is now 98% deforested. Subsistence farming supplies the majority of work for two thirds of Haitians. Despite desperate foot shortages, crops have hardly any value because food donated from other countries nullifies the ability of local farmers to sell food.

HTRIP, short for the Haitian Timber Reintroduction Plan, is one of the only programs I have seen that does more than just address the symptoms of a problem. I’ll refer to the founder’s statement for the description. “The HAS Haiti Timber Re-Introduction Project (HTRIP) began in 2006 to enable Haitians to re-create productive forests in order to improve their environment and health. HTRIP is not a research project, but rather a trial in applied, community-based, sustainable agro-forestry. HTRIP assists Haitians in growing commercially valuable timber tree species on marginal hillside lands, encouraging soil conservation practices and agro-forestry. HTRIP provides the trees and the technical expertise while the farmer provides the land and labor. Nursery and planting activities are monitored and guided by HTRIP staff.”

While I wouldn’t call Haiti a fun place to visit, the experience of traveling to the island to visit my wonderful girlfriend working with the program and taking photographs for their fund raising was a humbling and wonderful experience.

To say the least kayaking hasn’t really been on my mind, but now that I have returned stateside the updates from our adventures will continue to flow in – Darin


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Haitian Apartments

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Malnutrition at Hopital Albert Schweitzer

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Third Year Plot

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Tree planting

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Voodoo shaman