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Through the efforts of the Haiti Property Law Working Group and support from The Digicel Foundation, families across Haiti — particularly those headed by women — are learning and asserting their land rights. This week, Habitat for Humanity Haiti is proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking manual on property rights in Haiti.

When Ferdinand showed up to court to defend his property rights, he knew he was well prepared. He had his papers in order thanks to a manual published by Habitat for Humanity Haiti and the Haiti Property Law Working Group. Another individual was occupying his property and claiming legal rights to the land – a common occurrence in Haiti where complex laws and a lack of education can make proving your legal rights to land complicated. Ferdinand won his case.

 

Security of land tenure is an essential tool in fighting poverty, yet prior to the 2010 earthquake, less than 40% of landowners in the country had documentation, such as a legal title or transaction receipt. Habitat Haiti recognized this gap and founded the Haiti Property Law Working Group (HPLWG) in 2012. Today, the HPLWG is a diverse group of over 300 experts, practitioners, donors, and government officials across various fields spearheaded by Habitat Haiti and working to clarify Haiti’s land law in an inclusive and transparent manner. The biggest obstacle: education.

 

The first step, the group decided, was to publish a manual educating the public on the legal process of buying and selling land. The manual was simple. The impact, however, was great. The first manual was published in June 2012 and included a compilation of laws and texts that guide an individual through the process of land transaction. With over 10,000 physical manuals distributed across the country in French, Creole, and English, families now had a simple step-by-step guide allowing access to the full economic potential of their land.

 

Individuals truly become landowners when their titles are registered with Direction Générale des Impôts (DGI) – Haiti’s tax office. Yet, many remain unaware of the process, so in 2014, a second manual followed. This one mapped the steps to registering your land and securing legal rights. These two manuals were generously funded by the Digicel Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development.

 

“With the ability to own land legally being an important catalyst in the fight against poverty and inequality, the land rights situation in Haiti needed to be clarified to ensure all persons understood the laws and could act toward applying them. The intent of our partnership with Habitat for Humanity was to help provide this information in a simplified format in order to set Haitians on a path to land ownership and prosperity.” – Denis O’Brien, Founder and Chairman of Digicel Group and patron of the Digicel Foundation.

 

The manuals were then translated into a visual, cartoon guide. According to Gilbert Giordani, a lawyer and member of the HPLWG, this was especially helpful as it allowed the information to reach even the furthest rural communities where literacy rates are low. Copies were also distributed to many universities and are still used by professionals in classroom settings, including Gilbert’s, to this day.

 

One of the largest groups to benefit from the work of the HPLWG, are female-headed households. In 2005, the Ministry of Health indicated that only 8.5% of women surveyed had sole possession of land and another 16.4% shared land ownership. Disputes over land inheritance are common across the country often arising between a widow and her late husband’s family. Without the knowledge of how to protect her land rights, a woman can find herself at risk of eviction.

 

The group’s work has greatly impacted farmers and workers who occupy government land and believe the land, therefore, belongs to them and can be passed down to dependents. Although this is not the case, there is a legal pathway toward ownership that can be followed. Legal documents do more than just prevent eviction, they can also provide opportunities. Families can now use their property as collateral for business ventures. Alexandra Jackson, Habitat Haiti and HPLWG Program Manager, believes “the manual has directly helped those who are at the greatest risk of losing their land or home, especially women who often don’t involve themselves in the legal aspects of owning land.”

Leveraging Land in Haiti

Over the last ten years, the popularity and usefulness of the manuals have paved the way for future projects. Additional manuals detailing issues of credit and land inheritance are now underway with plans to launch this year. The HPLWG routinely provides policy-making recommendations to the Government of Haiti to further land policy, administration, and management reforms. It became obvious that there are many occasions where two or more individuals claimed rights to the same land – an avoidable problem if there was a well-established cadastre, which outlined parcels of land, their characteristics, and owners. To tackle this problem, Habitat Haiti launched the Leveraging Land in Haiti project in 2019, which is using technology and data, community mapping and interactive training to strengthen land rights administration and land tenure security across the country.

 

Today, Habitat Haiti has uploaded over 34,000 land entries into two municipalities’ tax databases. Through support from the HPLWG, over 1,000 individuals and 38 municipal staff have been trained on the land tenure regulation process through this project. The impact of this work alone is enormous and will continue. While the Group is proud to reflect on the impact of our land tenure work over the last 10 years, they are already looking ahead knowing that together we can make a difference for the most vulnerable families in Haiti.

 

Alexandra Jackson reviews the 2012 manual on land rightsAlexandra Jackson reviews the 2012 manual

Laurence, 69, is a widowed mother of six with three grandchildren. After her husband died, she had no one to help provide for her and her children and this made her life much harder. Last year, she moved into her Habitat home alongside six family members. Her son Jameson, affectionately nicknamed Sonson, helped her with decorating and organizing the home. After Hurricane Matthew hit her community in 2016, her old home sustained significant damage, and the roof no longer adequately protected her from the elements. She had to place a tarp over the top of the home to keep it from leaking.

Laurence moved into her new Habitat home prior to the earthquake in August 2021. She proudly told us, “After this recent earthquake…I opened my home up so neighbors could seek shelter in it from the rain that followed. I was very proud that my house was so sturdy and able to help my neighbors. When I look around in my community, I realize that the house built by Habitat is a quality house because there were no cracks, no damage done. People often forget about the elderly, but Habitat came through for me.”

LES CAYES, Haiti (October 1, 2021) — Habitat for Humanity and ShelterBox have started distributing emergency shelter aid to communities who lost homes in the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that recently devastated southwestern Haiti.

The earthquake destroyed nearly 53,000 homes and severely damaged 77,000 more. People who lost their homes were left exposed to the elements, with little privacy or protection from the ongoing severe weather and other threats.

ShelterBox and Habitat for Humanity, in close coordination with government and local officials, are distributing shelter kits in hard-hit communities. The kits include tarpaulins, tools and fixings, thermal blankets, solar lights, kitchen sets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and water carriers.

ShelterBox is supplying emergency shelter aid as well as training and technical support to people using the items. Habitat for Humanity is using its strong local connections to run and monitor the distributions while also identifying shelter needs in communities.

“Quality shelter materials are in scarce supply and an absolutely urgent need right now here in Haiti,” said Jean Frenel Tham, national director of Habitat for Humanity Haiti. “Even many families whose homes are still standing are choosing to sleep outside for fear their damaged homes could still cave in. By working together, Habitat and ShelterBox will be able to get more families back on their feet faster, so they can begin rebuilding homes and entire communities.”

“Providing the vital emergency shelter aid that families need after the earthquake helps to ensure that much-needed resources are available for the initial emergency. As well as being used for emergency shelters and repairs, this partnership will also contribute to providing the foundations for further recovery and reconstruction. Families in Haiti deserve a place to call home” said Alice Jefferson, ShelterBox head of responses. “Habitat for Humanity has been a trusted and valued partner for many years. We know that by working together, we will make the biggest difference to the people who need support.”

ShelterBox has responded to several disasters in Haiti, including in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In 2010, ShelterBox provided shelter for 140,000 people, the organization’s biggest response to date, outside the long-running conflict in Syria.

Habitat for Humanity has worked in Haiti since 1984. The organization also helped rebuild and rehabilitate communities devastated by the 2010 earthquake. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew five years ago, Habitat partnered with families to build or repair more than 1,800 homes. Early assessments following August’s earthquake indicate that roughly 98% of those homes are safe and free of significant damage.

Habitat and ShelterBox have worked together in disaster responses around the world, from India and Malawi to the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Paraguay.

Photo credit: © Habitat for Humanity International

Photo credit: © Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat homes in Haiti earthquake zone proved to be resilient and safe

While Habitat has yet to complete detailed assessments of more than 1,800 homes we built or improved in partnership with families here after Hurricane Mathew’s devastation in 2016, early assessments indicate that roughly 98% of them are safe after the earthquake, free of any significant damage.

This includes 15 new homes designed for elderly residents in Beaumont and funded by Maryland’s Habitat Choptank and 300 homes built in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, with funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, or ECHO.

But this is not the reality for most households in the areas impacted by the earthquake. Proof of this is the testimony of the mayor of Beaumont, Marcel Fortuné, who told Habitat for Humanity’s disaster response team in Haiti that he is still coming to terms with how much the city has lost; and how much remains to be rebuilt.

By Aug 19th, the death toll in Haiti stood at more than 1,900 as he spoke, including 45 residents of Beaumont, and roughly 10,000 injured — all figures expected to rise as search and rescue crews reach more areas. At least 61,000 homes have been destroyed across the region, and another 76,000 severely damaged.

According to rapid assessments conducted by Habitat Haiti and other organizations in partnership with the Haitian government, the earthquake destroyed nearly 1,400 homes in Beaumont alone. All the municipal buildings serving the city of 50,000, from the courthouse to the administrative offices, collapsed.

“We’re lucky this happened on a Saturday morning, when no one was in the building,” Fortuné says of the earthquake that started shaking the mountainous terrain on Aug. 14, 2021. “If not, we likely would have lost many of our staff members.”

Habitat for Humanity continues the work from the affected areas, with the goal of supporting the Haitian government and families in the aftermath of the disaster.

Habitat for Humanity Haiti was happy to participate in URBAcafe, a panel on urban resilience in Haiti organized through our partnership with the European Union. Habitat for Humanity was invited to provide expert opinion on international resilience in housing.

The socially distanced panel consisted of experts in the field, architects, engineers, as well as members of Haiti government in charge of building and construction regulations.

It featured lively debate about the true meaning of resilience, which is not just surviving a traumatic incident such as an earthquake, but to actively work to come out of it better than before. The meeting was attended by masked attendees as well as projected live on ZOOM for an international audience who also submitted questions and remarks on the topic.

Our lively conversations concluded that although Haiti has taken on many positive steps to prevent possible future national disasters from having such a terrible death toll in the future, there is still much work to be done. One of the steps the program has decided to take on to improve resilience, is research into alternative raw materials in construction, in partnership with three Universities in Haiti.

With your help, and your contributions, we can all make a difference.

 

Contact:

Isabelle Vasquez

(509) 3701-3262 EXT 6268

ivasquez@habitathaiti.org

 

At a time when a safe and healthy home has never been more important, Habitat Haiti serves over 9,000 people through new and improved housing

Local work contributes to more than 5.9 million served globally by Habitat in 2020

Port-au-Prince, November 17, 2020 — Despite economic and operational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Habitat Haiti successfully adopted new strategies and safe practices to continue helping families in Haiti. The 9,000 people who gained access to safe, decent and affordable housing in the past year helped Habitat reach 35 million people served since its founding in 1976.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we felt it was important to continue construction on the houses that were unfinished prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. At Habitat Haiti, we finished constructions on 11 houses in the northern part of Haiti.

This work is part of the more than 5.9 million people that Habitat for Humanity served around the world last year. Habitat Haiti is part of the larger Habitat for Humanity network, which operates in all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries.

Cado, 71, is one of the families that has been helped by our efforts and is able to shelter at home through the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her grandchildren now have a safe home, built to withstand hurricanes and other environmental disasters. Cado, whose parents felt it was not important to provide her with an education because she’s a woman, has made sure that her children and her grandchildren receive the education that she never had. She is able to use her home as a storefront for a small business which enables her to provide for herself and her family.

Since 1984, Habitat Haiti has partnered with 9,000 people to increase access to affordable, safe and decent housing in the local community through new construction, rehabilitation and repairs. In fiscal year 2020, Habitat Haiti has continued to work with communities throughout Haiti, building homes, and safe water sanitation conditions for those who need it the most. With the ongoing pandemic, we shifted our focus to spread awareness about appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 especially in rural areas of Haiti where people were not aware of the dangers posed by the virus.

“While this year has brought many challenges and heartaches to communities we serve across the world, I’m grateful that Habitat has had an opportunity to serve so many families when they needed it most,” said Jonathan T.M. Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “At Habitat, we are religious about our principles, but not about our tactics. I’ve been blown away by the ingenuity and flexibility of Habitat organizations around the world who quickly adapted to the new normal and built new strategies to carry out our mission. We are clear-eyed that the future will bring more headwinds, but I know that the people who enable our mission — our donors, staff, volunteers and the people we serve — are as dedicated as ever to our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

To learn more and to read Habitat’s 2020 annual report, visit: habitat.org/multimedia/annual-report-2020.

 

Habitat for Humanity Haiti has partnered with the European Union to launch a 3-year program which aims to reduce pollution and create jobs in Haiti. This project falls under an umbrella program by the European Union in Haiti named URBAYITI; it will foster partnership with Haitian universities to facilitate research into turning plastic waste into roads and construction materials.

Urbayiti is a pilot program launched in three cities, Port-au-Prince, Jérémie and Cayes. Strategic partnerships have been implemented with universities and local governments to both help reduce plastic waste and pollution and build what should ultimately be cheaper and more durable construction raw materials.

In Haiti, plastic waste is already sourced by companies such as HP, to make ink cartridges, and shoe company Timberland, which is also using Haiti’s plastic waste for its heavy-duty boots. This provides jobs to local communities, where people can earn a living picking up plastic waste, which would otherwise end up clogging canals, and ultimately pollute the ocean.

 

In India, 620 miles of roads have been paved using plastic waste, the findings were conclusive, plastic roads were more durable than traditional asphalt, cheaper to build, and better for the environment. Habitat has met with the Mayor of Cayes, Sylvie Rameau, to begin a partnership to help implement this program and reinforce practices that will bring revenue to the city as well as ensure safer building practices.

In addition to its recycling for construction project, URBAYITI will also target people in the construction sector to teach them the latest in proper construction techniques, so that they may have the know-how to build houses that will withstand environmental disasters. Habitat also provides training to students who have yet to enter the job market in vocational schools in the three areas of operation. Habitat for Humanity is committed to empower through innovation.

Habitat Haiti recently hosted 147 people in a series of five seminars on property law in Haiti. The workshops were spread out over multiple days in order to ensure social distancing.

One of the speakers, Lawyer Jacques, explained, “I believe these interactive workshops are important…When you encourage intelligent discourse, people feel seen and are more engaged.” The workshop had several lively debates over urbanization, the proper management of slums, and what role, if any, the government has on managing places like Canaan, a community which sprang forth almost overnight following the 2010 earthquake.

James, a graduate student at Universite de l’Etat Haitienne, attended all five workshops as part of his research in social anthropology. Following a decree from then President Preval releasing the land in Canaan for private use, many people mistakenly believe that they now own the land where they have built their home. James told us, “I think these workshops are essential, if only to dispel the idea that the land now belongs to those who occupy it. Now, they can learn the channels to go through in order to claim proper ownership of the space they inhabit. They believe they can leave their spot of land to their children, but you cannot bequeath what you never owned in the first place.” Most of the attendees stated that they found a lot of value in the information that was shared and that they would in turn share it with friends and family members.

These workshops are set to continue over the next three years as Habitat is committed to ensuring all residents of Canaan understand their property rights.

James attended all five workshops as part of his research in social anthropology.

Residents adhered to social distancing and mask recommendations while attending the workshops.

Everyone deserves a decent place to live.