Jésula Coriolan is improving the banks of the Rouyonne river in Léogâne. WFP/ Stephanie Tremblay
A project in Léogâne, the Haitian town located at the epicenter of the January 2010 earthquake, is revitalizing the banks of the river Rouyonne while improving living conditions for hundreds of Haitians.
“In November, the water in my house was that high”, said Jésula Coriolan, pointing at her neck. So high that it took two months before she could go back. Two months she spent with friends who lived on higher grounds.
Jésula Coriolan lives close to the river Rouyonne in Léogâne. Heavy rains are often enough to force the river out of its bed. The passage of hurricane Tomas, last November, left the city underwater for several days, and flooded hundreds of houses, including Jésula’s.
The Rouyonne has been a source of problems for many years. Lack of maintenance on the riverbanks and deforestation on the hills above Léogâne resulted in this: heavy rains now bring with them torrents of water and mud that the riverbed can’t contain.
In January 2011, the World Food Programme, working in collaboration with the local NGO Makaya-Lib, started a cash for work project to improve the river. “We want to have riverbanks that are more stable,” said Vladimir Alliance, the agronomist in charge of the project. “This will help prevent flooding during the next rainy season and beyond”, he added.
And so, about 1,500 people from the community are now busy rehabilitating the riverbanks. Jésula Coriolan is one of them. Fixing the river is hard work she says but it’s worth it. “If we don’t do it, she said, one day, the river will destroy my house.”
For her work, she receives 200 gourdes (USD5) per day and she knows exactly what she will do with her salary. The first thing she needs to buy is food, but she also wants to use her money to restart her business. Before the November flood, she was selling chickens at the market but her flock died when the water rose. “I want to purchase two or three chickens and six banana trees”, she said. If everything goes according to plan, next year, she expects she’ll also be able to sell bananas on the market. She will also have managed to create a sustainable living for herself.
Preventing flooding elsewhere in Léogâne
Elsewhere in the city, other teams are also busy preparing for the rainy season. Under other WFP-sponsored cash for work projects, workers are doing simple but essential work: removing garbage from the open air canals and from the streets.
Dimanche Lemoine is 21 years old. His wife is pregnant and scheduled to give birth in a few days. He lost his house in the earthquake and a year later, his family still lives in a tent nearby.
Dimanche is fully aware that his labour will have a positive impact on his community. “My work prevents flooding, but it also protects us from diseases like cholera,” he said. He’ll use his salary to make sure his baby has nutritious food and everything he or she needs to grow up healthy.
All projects financed by WFP have one thing in common: they provide opportunities for Haitians to improve their communities while at the same time improving access to food. As of now, more than 160 projects employing over 100,000 people have been undertaken to improve food security, but also to support recovery efforts and build resilience in disaster prone areas. Working in close coordination with the Haitian government, local authorities, NGOs and UN agencies, cash and food for work activities include rubble removal, canal clearing, watershed management and agricultural rehabilitation.