Examining the Relationship Between Household Health and Environmental Conditions in Haiti’s Central

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Pearce, Duncan
McGrath, Deborah (Thesis Advisor)
Issue Date
University of the South , Sewanee, Tennessee , Sewanee Senior Honors Theses 2017 , Biology Department , agroforestry , carbon payments , food security , waterborne illness , water quality , Haiti's Central Plateau , Zanmi Kafe
For rural subsistence farmers in developing countries, human health and the environment is a complex and interconnected relationship. As part of a long-term agroforestry project, this study explored connections among household health, socioeconomic status, and environmental conditions of rural farmers in two highland communities of the Central Plateau of Haiti. Household surveys were conducted in Haitian creole to gather baseline information on family health, socioeconomic status, and farm characteristics. Environmental indices, such as tree density and canopy cover, soil chemistry, kitchen ventilation, and access to clean water were also assessed. Our preliminary findings suggest that environmental conditions are important determinants of both health and socioeconomic status. Deforestation of the Central Plateau has resulted in severe soil erosion that limits land productivity, which may be reflected in the narrow diet of grains (maize and millet), beans, peas and some fruits that households produce and consume. Since these farmers grow almost all of what they eat, this low dietary diversity may contribute to nutritional deficiencies and health problems, as well as exacerbate food insecurity when one production of one of these staples fails. We also found that most families rely on medicinal plants for treating ailments, although over-the-counter medicines are widely and indiscriminately available in the central markets. The overarching goal of this project is to help farmers adopt and manage more resilient and diverse agroecosystems that raise farm productivity and improve food security, ultimately leading to better nutrition, health, and economic gains.