Paradise Is Overbooked

Clement Sabourin/AFP/Getty Images

In 2013, the Haitian government began seizing land on a picturesque island to construct a $260 million tourism hot spot. Two years later, the country’s opaque land laws have all but sunk the project.

ILE-À-VACHE, Haiti — Last October, an elderly couple watched a tractor plow over a grove of fruit trees and vegetables on the small Haitian island of Île-à-Vache. For decades, Mescary Mesura, 81, and his wife, Fanfan Clery Romany, 80, had harvested the grove, a 10-minute walk from their home, and sold the produce as their primary source of income. But that day, the island’s mayor, local police, and the tractor operator approached the octogenarians, informing them that the state required the land. “The police told us to stand there with our hands up,” Mesura said. “We … watched them finish off our garden.”

The grove is among the casualties of a $260 million development project planned by Haiti’s central government. It is designed to turn Île-à-Vache into the Caribbean’s next tourism hot spot. With an annual per capita GDP of less than $900, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. Five years after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and caused some $8 billion in damage, Haiti’s leaders are banking on tourism to help buoy recovery and drag the nation out of poverty. The Île-à-Vache project is ground zero for these hopes. Wooing investors with tax breaks and the promise of internationally funded infrastructure upgrades, the government has developed a plan that includes a new airport, a series of hotels, and an 18-hole golf course.

But just two years after it began, the project has stalled. As of March, not one of the 2,500 hotel rooms anticipated by Haiti’s government has appeared. The stoppage is not for lack of commitment from Port-au-Prince: Haiti’s annual investment in travel and tourism is estimated to have jumped from 4.3 percent of the national budget in 2013 to 6 percent last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Rather, the Île-à-Vache project has been stymied by conflict between the government and local residents over ownership of the island’s land.

Read the full story at Foreign Policy. Reporting for this piece was made possible by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Here and There’s David Marash interviews Jacob Kushner on Haiti

Today on Here and There we talk with reporter Jacob Kushner, who has spent recent months and years in Haiti, where the President now rules by decree…the Parliament has passed its re-elect-by date and gone home, where hundreds of thousands are still homeless, and disputes over who owns land threaten to paralyze economic development.

Listen to the full interview. 

Reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center. 

Tarnished: The True Cost of Gold (eBook)

Tarnished: The True Cost of Gold tells the stories of those who mine gold—the lustrous, coveted symbol of wealth. Eleven journalists traveled to 10 countries to tell these stories. Their work combines first-rate reporting, vivid imagery and video, previously published by the Pulitzer Center, an innovative non-profit that supports international journalism.

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In Chapter Four, Jacob Kushner investigates the future of mining in Haiti, a land ravaged by an earthquake in 2010. Gold remains its hidden treasure, one of the country’s few unexploited natural resources. Kushner asks where the wealth will go when—and if—tons of precious metals are unearthed. (A version of this chapter was originally published by Guernica Magazine).Download the eBook for iPad, iBooks for Mac or Kindle.

Four years after the Haiti earthquake, what have billions in US aid bought?

The United States spent $2.8 billion to help Haiti rebuild, but the results have been a disaster of a different kind.

By Jacob Kushner

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — In the four years since Haiti’s disastrous earthquake, the United States has promised $3.6 billion in aid, at least $2.8 billion of which has already been spent.
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Has it helped? GlobalPost examined more than one dozen studies and audits to estimate how much of that money made it through US government and NGO bureaucracies to the ground in Haiti — and what good it did there.

Read the article at GlobalPost.

In Haiti, all eyes on US to reform food aid program

US Congress is on the verge of rejecting a money-saving proposal that would deliver US food aid to more people and boost foreign farmers in the process.

Sacks of American rice for sale at a Port-au-Prince market. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The idea that the delivery of American food aid needs an overhaul goes almost without question here in the capital of a nation still recovering from the devastating earthquake of four years ago.

Farmers in Haiti and many of their counterparts in the United States are joining foreign aid organizations calling on the United States to stop sending American crops to Haiti through what many critics say is the deeply flawed and wasteful strategy of the current, multi-billion-dollar US Department of Agriculture Food for Peace program.

“Unfortunately US policy doesn’t consider first the political interests of farmers abroad, but of its own,” said Camille Chalmers, director of a Haitian farmers’ association.

“But now there is a chance to change that,” he added.
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Read the full article at GlobalPost.