On December 14, 2021, Dr. Tawainga Katawario (founder of Better Universe and Citizens) spoke (via Zoom) to the membership of the Magnolia Club about soil erosion in the country of Haiti and efforts to solve the problem. Pictured above is Dr. Tawinga Katawario.
Dr. Katawario is the founder of the Better Universe and Citizens NGO based in Tallahassee that works to plant perennial grasses throughout Haiti, specifically on the mountainsides. His organization believes soil erosion in Haiti and elsewhere in the world will become a story of the past! With support from the general population, the project can be scaled up to plant grasses on millions of acres of land in Haiti. 
Dr. Katawario showed many before and after picture of soil erosion in Haiti and explained that soil erosion in Haiti paralyzes the economy. It is continuously happening and will happen in the future if significant mitigation efforts are not implemented. The erosion is caused by cutting trees for charcoal and farming on steep slopes. Then when severe weather, like hurricanes, hit the island, the top soil is washed down into the ocean and this has been happening for years prior to his organization getting involved.
When "Better Universe and Citizens" first got involved, they evaluated solutions that can make a lasting impact and they determined that the planting of deep-rooted, heat and drought-tolerant perennial grasses was the most viable and a game-changer solution because the grasses will not be harvested for charcoal. The grasses also reduce mudslides during hurricanes, build soil health, provide a habitat for wildlife, and protect fisheries and critical infrastructure. The grasses also protect watersheds and groundwater and are used as feed stock for livestock. 
"Better Universe and Citizens" also introduced the first commercial grass nurseries in Haiti in order to make the grasses needed available locally. Once they established grasses on the eroded mountain slopes, they were pleasantly surprised to learn that the locals had started planting trees on the new grasslands. They in turn established tree nurseries for the communities. They are proud to have the largest community tree nursery in Haiti.  A significant portion of the funding for the project comes from individual donors. The project also gets funding from Rotary clubs, churches and universities. 
Women in Haiti are the breadwinners of their families. They assume responsibilities for the homes, raising children, as well as entrepreneurial activities in the markets to add resources to the family budget. In agriculture, women occupy the entire value chain; they grow the crops and sell them at the markets.  Environmental degradation only means that Haitian women have to work harder to keep their families together. Loss of soil health means low agriculture productivity. The topsoil being lost takes hundreds of years to form. Most of these communities already are unable to afford inputs such as fertilizers. Erosion destroys natural water reserves, which means women have to travel further distances to fetch water. Erosion destroys fisheries, a source of food for 400 villages in Haiti. 
Dr. Katawario listed some of the expected outcomes over time that his organization hopes to achieve:
  • Pristine mountain sides with vegetation and land reclamation.
  • Reduced mudslides and flooding at the national level.
  • Better functioning infrastructure including dams, irrigation canals and roads.
  • Better soil health for improved agriculture.
  • Clean water and oceans.
  • A step ahead in their battle with Climate change.
  • Employment opportunities and reduced poverty.
  • Ripple effect for tourism and better economy.
Dr. Katawario showed many photos like the ones below showing some of the before and after results of their efforts to stop soil erosion in Haiti:
For more information about Dr. Katwario and his "Better Universe and Citizens" organizations, go to https://www.hercampus.com/school/fsu/profile-the-man-the-myth-the-legend-dr-tawainga-katsvairo/. The interview is conducted by Dr. Penny Gilmer.