We are continuing to read through Tending to Eden by Scott C. Sabin.
In chapter two, Sabin begins to explain the nature of poverty in Haiti. Of course, the book was written well before the earthquake, and so it’s a remarkable coincidence that Sabin focuses primarily on how to address the needs of this country. Of course, Haiti was likely the poorest nation in the hemisphere before the earthquake.
Now that so many churches and charities have been forced to focus on Haiti, the book is a great resource for those already planning for the long-term needs of that nation. After all, while the immediate needs are the most urgent, many will decide to stay and continue to do good after the emergency is over.
Sabin explains that deforestation is a major cause of poverty in many nations, including Haiti. The lack of trees leads to severe erosion and less feritility in the soil that remains. One major cause of deforestation is the cutting of trees to make charcoal.
For people with no other opportunities or resources, the forest becomes an emergency savings account. Charcoal production is one of the last options open for the poorest and most desperate, even in places where it is illegal. Some of the people we work with in the Dominican Republic have spent time in jail for charcoal production. But a parent will readily risk jail if it means being able to feed his or her children.
And it’s not that the farmers don’t know the value of trees. Rather, they know that it’s better to live a few more weeks without trees than to immediately die of starvation with the trees. Many other practices lead to the destruction of the land and deepen the cycle of poverty.
The key to relieving poverty in such communities, therefore, isn’t a handout or a freshly painted house. It’s breaking the destructive cycle that destroys the land. Help the farmers restore the land and learn methods of sustainable agriculture, and the farmers can provide their own food. They may even begin to prosper.