Haiti's greener future: From devastation to hope

Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT) June 27, 2013
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From Philippe Cousteau, photos from CNN's Jessica Ellis & edited by Katie Pisa, for CNN

CNN's Going Green team recently visited Haiti to see firsthand the environmental challenges the country is faced with today. Whether it be politics, poverty, the economy, natural disasters or environmental degradation, Haiti is a country whose myriad problems have been felt for years.

The team also had the opportunity to meet some truly inspiring locals who are working to make changes to benefit Haitians' poverty and unemployment through new agricultural ways.

There's a popular Creole saying which sums up the strength of its people: "Ayiti pap peri," which means "Haiti will not perish."

Cousteau visited Cite Soleil in Haiti, near the capital of Port-au-Prince. The river of trash starts in the villages up in the mountains and slowly moves through the city picking up more waste as it meanders.
Once a tropical rainforest, only two percent of Haiti's trees remain now. Haiti's widespread deforestation has done nothing to help farmers who are already vulnerable to natural disasters. CNN
Daily life in Cite Soleil, Haiti's largest slum which faced more poverty and crime after the 2010 earthquake. Many imprisoned gang members escaped during the 2010 earthquake and returned to Cite Soleil. CNN
Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti, was near the epicenter of the January 2010 earthquake which devastated the country and killed over 300,000 people. CNN
Children live amongst the canal of stagnant sewage and trash in Cite Soleil. Built to help accommodate workers in the capital, Cite Soleil grew quickly without many schools or facilities. The lack of such facilities has meant that gangs rapidly formed and have become a controlling force in the area. CNN
Much of the waste in the open sewage system of Cite Soleil comes from the wealthier towns higher in the mountains before ending up here. Haiti is currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. CNN
Jaden Tap Tap in Cite Soleil is a part of a large community center with gardens where locals are encouraged to learn to grow vegetables. It is a short walk from the river of sewage. CNN
Tillias, who grew up in Cite Soleil, escaped the slums and went abroad to university, but has returned to Cite Soleil to help bring hope to his community. CNN
Eggplants, peppers and basil are examples of vegetables grown at the Jaden Tap Tap. There are very few sources of fresh produce in Haiti. CNN
A young boy learning to plant and grow food at Tillias' community gardens, Jaden Tap Tap. 'Jaden' means 'garden' in Creole. CNN
Children and adults work to help feed the community as well as learn to run their own business. The gardens are a welcome diversion from the gang culture which is a huge problem in Cite Soleil. The area inspired the 2006 documentary "Ghosts of Cite Soleil" which addressed the gang and gun culture of the slum. CNN
Further north from Cite Soleil near the town of Gonaives is the Smallholders Farmers Alliance, a cooperative of 2,000 farmers which helps establish tree nurseries. CNN
The Smallholder Farmers Alliance is an oasis of green planted by members whose aim is to plant one million trees a year. CNN
The future of Haiti, children at the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, which hopes to spread its help to other farmers in Haiti and make them more self-sufficient. The alliance provides high quality seeds, tools and training which has already helped the farmers increase their yields by 40-50 percent. CNN
These are members of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and the farmers and micro-financiers of Haiti. These empowered women sang to the CNN crew. CNN
Deforested landscape near Gonaives, which becomes a massive problem for farmers as floods cause kill crops. When faced with the same crop loss as other farmers last year, the cooperative was able to purchase the extra seeds needed to replant their fields. Flooding has also been the cause of the ongoing cholera outbreaks. CNN
Over the last few years the Alliance has trained the farmers to start replanting trees on the sides of mountains to combat erosion. After planting, the celebration begins with joyful singing. CNN
During CNN's travels in Haiti they stumbled upon one of the main culprits to the country's deforestation -- a charcoal market outside Port-au-Prince. CNN
In the desperate need for charcoal, some thirty million trees are cut a year in Haiti as the majority of the population depends on charcoal for cooking. For most, it is their only source of energy. CNN
Sodo, known as Haiti's sacred heart, is one of the few remaining forests in the country. CNN
CNN's crew enjoying a break from the heat in Sodo, a rare sheltered spot and reminder of what much of Haiti was like prior to deforestation. CNN
A sewage canal in Cite Soleil is so clogged that locals walk across it. CNN