Environmental Damage Makes the Poor Poorer
Non-profit organizations working to combat poverty in the developing world have long realized the correlation between poverty and the environment.
According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, “Whilst people living in poverty are seldom the principal creators of environmental damage, they often bear the brunt of environmental damage and are often caught in a downward spiral, whereby the poor are forced to deplete resources to survive, and this degradation of the environment further impoverishes people.”
The poor rely on food, water, and other natural resources to survive. Their livelihoods are connected to environmental issues to a greater degree than any other population. So when development organizations don’t consider the effect they are having on a local environment, they risk injuring not just the local environment but the very people they are attempting to serve.
We just celebrated six years since we moved full-time to Haiti to run our international non-profit LiveBeyond, and we’ve observed the air quality has just gotten worse and worse – especially in congested areas like Port au Prince. There is a large reliance on generators in Haiti to provide electricity, plus there are no vehicle pollution reforms, meaning more and more carbon is pumped into the air every day.
That’s why we have made it a priority to use alternative energy sources to run our 63-acre base in the Thomazeau region. At first, we used inverter systems to store power, but now our entire electrical grid runs primarily off of solar power. We are doing our best to negate any impact we have on the local environment so that we aren’t hurting the very people we came to help.
In just three years, since installing the first solar panels at the LiveBeyond base, we have offset over 58,000 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equivalent to planting 370 trees, or offsetting the carbon footprint of 3 ½ SUVs each year.
And that’s not the end of our environmental impact. On the LiveBeyond demonstration farm, our program coordinator for agriculture has seen a change in rainfall patterns because of his planting initiatives. He explains:
“When we bought the base in 2012, there was one tree on the entire plot. We now have hundreds of moringa, papaya, and neem trees planted across the base, along with our ever-growing banana and plantain grove on our demonstration farm. We have more than 1,000 plants in the grove now, and we’ve noticed that it rains more in our village now than it did a few years ago. That’s because the trees actually hold moisture and affect weather patterns. We regularly hand out moringa seeds to locals to plant around their houses. The trees are fast growing, and they provide shade and even food as moringa leaves are highly nutritious. Their root systems also act to hold soil, preventing further erosion on the mountainous terrain, a serious problem in the largely deforested country of Haiti.”
With these small changes in our reliance on power and how we treat the soil, we know we are creating lasting change in our region of Haiti, and we believe non-profits all over the world could follow our example, leading the way in bringing cultural change. We’ve realized that it’s often just an education process to help the people we serve understand that they can improve their situations just by doing things a little differently – it doesn’t cost any money and often leads to more food and cleaner water for their families.
Learn more about LiveBeyond’s agriculture program aimed at creating thriving communities here.
Here David speak with the Modern Christian Men podcast about agricultural development and the environment here.
Give to LiveBeyond’s agriculture program here.
Hear the latest news from Haiti, read posts about faith and community development, and find transcriptions from the LiveBeyond podcast.