Hiati: Haiti’s Unsteady Land

May 4, 2015

Originally found on: Pulitzer Center

By: Jacob Kushner on December 4, 2014

Unstable land is what caused the January 2010 earthquake that killed some 300,000 people and displaced 1.5 million more in Haiti. Five years on, land conflict is what’s stalling Haiti’s progress.

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Lack of clarity around Haiti’s land laws is a major barrier to building — or rebuilding — Haiti. These barriers keep poor families from finding a place to live or farm, and they prevent wealthy ones from opening businesses that would employ the former. Acquiring land is too expensive for most Haitians, and often too complex, with multiple people claiming ownership and no system to sort that out. Ten percent of the land in Haiti is owned by the government, but the government isn’t entirely sure which ten percent. Only five percent of Haiti’s total land is accounted for in official registries, according to the United Nations, and many records were lost in the earthquake.

Today, critical investment projects such as industrial trade zones and tourist resorts remain stymied due to land disputes.Now, as Haiti turns to manufacturing and tourism to build the country’s economic future, Haitians themselves are caught in the middle. On the small island of Ile a Vache, a new airport threatens to displace hundreds of rightful landowners in the name of tourism. And in the country’s north, a free-trade zone that overtook 600 acres of fertile farmland has failed to attract more than a few companies to fill the space.

Five years after the earthquake, Haiti’s leaders have a vision. But with limited assistance by the US and other foreign donors allocated to fix Haiti’s underlying land catastrophe, will Haiti’s grand scheme fail and leave ordinary Haitians landless?

Originally found on: Pulitzer Center

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