Who Owns What in Haiti?

PHOTOGRAPH BY ALLISON SHELLEY

In the wake of the massive earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010, resolving long-standing land-ownership issues has been a low priority for Haiti’s leaders, even as they regard tourism, mining, and other industries affected by questions of title as crucial to the island’s economic development. France is helping to fund Haiti’s land-management office, but the Haitian government hasn’t allocated the resources it would take to create a national cadastre (a survey of the country’s land). Joab Thelot, a coordinator for the National Office of the Cadastre, says that it wouldn’t take much—just three million dollars a year—to pay the salaries of trained surveyors and buy the vehicles they would need to get around. In recent years, though, Haiti’s parliament has allocated his office just a third that amount.

Uncertainty over land ownership has played out across Haiti as the country attempts to attract foreign investment in tourism, mining, manufacturing, and agriculture—often without clear knowledge of who, precisely, owns what.

Read the full article at The New Yorker.

Reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.