Soil use and Haiti

At the beginning of the semester we talked about the main functions of soil and what they can be used for. We learned that soil cycles and transports nutrients. Soil provides habitat for many different organisms and provides support for our building/structures. It filters and buffers any liquids or hazardous materials that make its way to the soil. Soil gives us to a place to throw our trash away as well, meaning landfills. Humans can make tools and ceramics from soil that was particularly handy a long time ago.

The tools gave way to better crop yield yet they overused the crop land and extenuated the land to make it infertile. We see the same kind of pattern today, like people clear-cutting the forests in Brazil and make farmland out of it. But the problem is that the overused land quickly deteriorates and it becomes exhausted. Due to the low organic matter content in the B horizon they tend to be a unsuitable source for farmland for long-term use. Once the land becomes infertile they leave the land barren for nothing thus cutting down rain forest for a couple yields of crop.

Overall the main use of soil for humans today is for our source of food meaning either growing crops or eating the soil itself for nutrients! A good example of a country overusing their soil is Haiti. “Virtually since 1492, when Columbus first set foot on the heavily forested island of Hispaniola, the mountainous nation has shed both topsoil and blood—first to the Spanish, who planted sugar, then to the French, who cut down the forests to make room for lucrative coffee, indigo, and tobacco.” Once Haiti became independent the rich exploited the few fertile lands. “Today less than 4 percent of Haiti’s forests remain, and in many places the soil has eroded right down to the bedrock. From 1991 to 2002, food production per capita actually fell 30 percent.” Their land was so eroded that it actually was eroded right down to the bedrock! This is remarkable to me, I can actually imagine having no topsoil beneath my feet. So with this highly eroded soil they are forced to get their from from imports. They only grow 1/4 of the food they eat which extraordinary and expensive for the middle-class as well. So the idea that people are throwing at them is to be more self sufficient so that more mouths can be feed and less deaths happen. “If Haitians had more local production, they would not be so vulnerable to imported food prices.” The Haitians are so overwhelmed by the imported food prices that they are almost forced to eat what is free, the soil beneath their feet. They mix clay up and eat them like they are pies, giving them very little nutrients and energy. The problem is that since the soil is so eroded it’s hard to find a piece of fertile land that can be self sufficient and give them the yield they desperately need. The picture below is a the dirt pies I was talking about above.


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2 Responses to Soil use and Haiti

  1. amynoelsmith says:

    This is so sad! I could never imagine having to eat soil pies. This just proves we need to realize how much more important of an issue erosion is than we think. Erosion that got all the way down to bedrock?! How does that happen? We need to focus on this topic and find a solution for this problem before it’s too late.

  2. ccaammii says:

    I agree with Amy.. this is really sad. Those must be so dry to have to chew and to actually swallow! The picture is really getting to me.. It’s so hard to imagine living like this.
    You could also look positive at it though! It’s good that they have found an idea of something that helps for the hunger, it’s better than starving.

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