The Groupe URD Review

Methods and tools

Quality & Accountability COMPAS Quality & Accountability COMPAS
CHS Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS)
Pictogrammme Sigmah Sigmah Software
Pictogrammme Reaching Resilience

Reaching Resilience
Pictogrammme brochure Environnement Training
Pictogrammme brochure Participation Handbook
Pictogrammme globe terrestre The Quality Mission
Pictogrammme PRECIS Humatem PRECIS Method

Cyclones and LRRD
Caroline Broudic, June 2013

"Today, June 1st, is the official start of the cyclone season in Haiti, and in other countries in the Caribbean, and it will end on 30 November. It is a season which traditionally brings its share of disasters, such as flooding, violent wind, landslides, mudslides and even tidal waves in coastal regions… with a heavy price to pay in terms of loss of life and material goods and damage to the environment. For 2013, the experts have forecast 18 cyclones, 9 of which could transform themselves into hurricanes". Message from the Ministry of the Interior and Territorial Authorities, David Basile, to mark the beggining of the cyclone season. 1st June 2013

With the cyclone season upon us, we felt it could be useful to revise certain lessons regarding food security from the responses to disasters which hit the country in recent years.

1. The issue

More than fifteen cyclones and cyclonic storms have affected a variety of regions of the country, and particularly the southern peninsula, in the last fifty years. Recent events have confirmed this vulnerability to meteorological hazards. Though the frequency and intensity of cyclones in Haiti are sometimes attributed to climate change, the connection is still the object of debate amongst scientists and is not yet proven: “the data available in Haiti and the correlations with neighbouring countries and islands show that there has not been any major change in trends in terms of rain distribution since the beginning of the 20th century over and above the sinusoidal tendencies within the limits of climatic variability controlled by the synoptic systems for regional circulation. To date, the influence of climate change is not detectable in terms of the available data”. [1] Several studies have shown, however, that rural and urban communities are increasingly vulnerable to climatic hazards due to the deterioration of the environment and the pauperisation of communities.

A damaged environment

It has been widely proven that man-made causes have contributed to the successive natural disasters by increasing the effects of climatic hazards: "The extension of towns and cities into potentially floodable areas which had previously been natural floodplains explains to a great extent the transformation from a natural risk to a human disaster" [2]. The consequences of this uncontrolled urban development are made worse by prior massive deforestation which leads to an increase in surface runoff: "Each year, Haiti loses the equivalent of 20000 tons of arable land due to massive deforestation" [3]. Though the cutting of timber to produce charcoal is often criticized as a major cause of deforestation, the extension of cultivated land is probably even more destructive: “Each year, the extension of the land area used for cultivation, which is necessary for people’s survival, exposes a larger and larger area to the effect of the rain. This is probably one of the major causes of the increase in surface run-off and the frequency of plains flooding, perhaps even more important than the increase in wood being cut down to make charcoal which is often evoked” [4]. And yet, according to the Ministry for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR), more than half of the land in the country is unfit for hoed crops (slopes > 40%).

Illegal trade in wood with the Dominican Republic, which is not mentioned as often, is nevertheless a major cause in certain regions which are very exposed to cyclones (e.g. Sud-Est département).

[1] Haitian government, Analysis of multiple natural threats in Haiti, 2010.

[2] George Eddy Lucien, Considération sur la saison cyclonique dévastatrice de septembre 2008 en Haïti : de l’importance des actions majeures dans une perspective de durabilité, December 2010, Etudes caribéennes. Translated from French.

[3] GE Lucien, ibid

[4] Alex Bellande, Impact socioéconomique de la dégradation des terres en Haïti et interventions pour la réhabilitation du milieu cultivé, CEPAL 2009. Translated from French.