An ambitious environmental recovery and sustainable development initiative for southwest Haiti was launched yesterday in Port-Salut by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and a consortium of partners including the Government of Haiti, the Government of Norway, Catholic Relief services, the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a host of local non-governmental organizations.
The Côte Sud Initiative (CSI), which will be implemented over a period of 20 years, aims at the recovery and sustainable development of a severely degraded land area of 780 km² - about half the size of Greater London - and a marine area of approximately 500 km².
Ten communes, with an estimated population of 205,000 people, will benefit directly from the programme, which will include reforestation, erosion control, fisheries management, mangrove rehabilitation and small business and tourism development, as well as improved access to water and sanitation, health and education.
Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: 'Restoring the region's environmental services will be a key step towards restoring a real and long-lasting development path for its people and a stepping stone towards a Green Economy'.
'From the Mau forest complex in Kenya to Lake Faguibine in Mali and now in Haiti, UNEP and our partners are determined to demonstrate that large-scale ecosystem restoration is a cost-effective catalyst for overcoming poverty and reducing vulnerability to shocks and natural disasters,' he added.
The launch of the initiative, which was made possible by an initial US$14 million in grants provided by the Government of Norway, Catholic Relief Services and the Green Family Foundation, represents an important milestone for UNEP, which designed and developed this approach with the Government and partners starting early 2009.
Mr. Erik Solheim, Norway's Minister for Environment and International Development, took part in a launch event in Port-Salut, as part of a three-day tour of the country.
'The destiny and the development of Haiti are within the hands of the Government and the people of Haiti, and the role of Norway and its international partners is simply to support them', he said.