2003, Rome -- Two nations share the island of
Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea: Haiti and the Dominican
Their parallel histories and
realities meet along a single border and now they are overcoming
cultural and linguistic differences to fight a common enemy: the
deep poverty and deforestation ravaging swathes of the island.
Decades of uncontrolled exploitation of
forest resources have left land arid and unproductive,
especially on Haiti's side of the border.
The lack of any other agricultural alternative has
made this area one of the poorest on the planet, forcing much of
the local population into economic migration. Haitians flood
across the border to neighbouring Dominican Republic or further
afield to the United States. Dominicans, especially women,
abandon their homeland to migrate to Europe or the United
The Global Mechanism of the
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in
collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the
United Nations (FAO), is tackling this problem through a
development initiative called the Border Action Plan or PAN-FRO
(Plan de acción para la zona fronteriza).
The Border Action Plan (PAN-FRO) has been conceived of
as a planning mechanism that seeks to address problems related
to land degradation, drought, poverty and sustainable rural
development, and importantly, the linkages with each
country's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).
Weaving the fabric of
"Right from the
start we didn't want the outcome of this initiative to be
yet another framework document with fixed terms and
predetermined results," said Ana T. Sáez, Programme
Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Global
Mechanism of the UNCCD.
we were looking to create a planning mechanism, a social
platform that would unite everyone involved -- those that live
and those that work on both sides of the border. We wanted to
involve both communities in identifying the problems that are
stalling development in the region and, together, find solutions
to those problems," she added.
FAO expert Luc Dubreuil of the Organization's
Investment Centre explained that creating an alternative source
of income for the people of the region could offer the solution
to problems of land degradation.
"The area desperately needs well-planned and
sustained investment to develop the income-generating activities
of the population to benefit all households, including farming
households, to halt desertification along the border,"
"On the Haitian border
difficult living conditions -- both ecological and economic --
mean that many cross the border into the Dominican Republic
seeking work, often as farm labourers. They are willing to
accept less than the local farm workers in an area that already
suffers from high unemployment, particularly among young
Dominicans," Dubreuil added.
"For almost everyone who lives on both sides
of the frontier there is no choice but to overexploit natural
resources -- their earth and their forests, to supplement their
income," he said.
development must be bolstered within a social framework and
managed by those who live on both sides of the border, Dubreuil
After two years of
work in the Dominican Republic President Mejía has conferred
official recognition by presidential decree to the Dominican
Inter-Institutional Technical Group (ITG) on desertification.
The Government in Haiti is undertaking the same process.
"Officially recognizing the ITG --
which is made up not only of government but also various social
groups representing civil society, and development agencies who
work in the region -- shows just how successful the initiative
has been," said Sáez.
"It guarantees its independence, regardless
of political change, and meansthat UNCCD will be high on the
agenda in the long term," she added.
Recent developmentsonthe PAN-FRO have resulted in
investment projects in the Artibonito River basin, which
straddles both nations. Some of these projects have been funded
by the Canadian development agency, the Organization of American
States, and the German government development agency GTZ, as
well as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and FAO's
Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS).
Investment is supporting a wide range of
socio-economic activities at both the community and municipal
Today, with the continued support
of the UNCCD Global Mechanism and FAO, PAN-FRO is taking its
first steps. As a result, both countries are cooperating more
than ever before.
Soon PAN-FRO initiative
on both sides will join on a single, permanent platform so that
border communities, local authorities and cooperation agencies
from both countries can work together.
Nuria Felipe Soria,
tel. (+39) 06 570 55899