Globalization and rapid technological development are the two notable tendencies peculiar to the modern society. Clearly, developing countries are involved in the process as well. Socio-cultural patterns, modes of behavior, and economic and political strategies transcend the limits of ethical and ethnographic issues in a sense that each of these influences the image of nations, as well as cultural and/or ethnic groups to a great extent. On the one hand, Haiti can be viewed as an example of a country with the developing economy that has rich historical and cultural background and climatic and weather conditions favorable for agriculture and farming. On the other hand, Haiti is considered to be the poorest country among all nations of both Americas. This contradiction needs further studying with account for the country’s geographical position, socio-historical peculiarities, political-economic traditions, and, above all, the country’s most topical internal issues.
Geographical position of Haiti
Haiti is a state located on the north coast of the island of Hispaniola. Haiti’s neighboring country is Dominican Republic, lying to the East. Haiti also has a sea boarder with Cuba, which is located to the North-West from the island of Hispaniola. Jamaica is to the South-West, and Great Inagua Island of The Bahamas is to the North. Haiti is washed by the Caribbean Sea on the South and West and by the Atlantic Ocean on the North. Haiti’s total area is approximately 28,000 square kilometers. Haiti’s coastline is approximately 1,771 km long. With the population approximately of 10 million people, Haiti is claimed to be one of region’s most densely populated countries.
Mountainous land forms prevail in Haiti, with Chaine de la Selle (2,680 meters) being its highest point. The Caribbean Sea is considered to be the Haitian lowest point. Nearly two-thirds of the country is covered by mountains. The climate of Haiti is influenced by its geographical position to a great extent. The climate of Haiti is humid and tropical due to prevailing mountainous land forms and ocean currents. In this regard, it is also important to admit that Haiti lies in the middle of the hurricane belt. Consequently, from June and till October severe storms are typical for Haitian climate and weather. Finally, extensive deforestation positions can be considered as one of the Haiti’s most burning environmental issues and a factor contributing to tropical storms and hurricanes that tend to become more and more severe season by season. Haiti is also exposed to such natural hazards as flooding, earthquakes, and draughts.
The biosphere of Haiti is unique in a sense that the country is biologically diverse. Main Haitian natural zones are as follows: Hispaniolan moist forests, Hispaniolan dry forests, Hispaniolan pine forests, Enriquillo wetlands, and Bahamoan-Antillean mangroves/Greater Antilles mangroves. Protected areas of Haiti are Pic Macaya National Park and La Visite National Park.
Historical and socio-cultural peculiarities of Haiti
The north-west of the island of Hispaniola was originally inhabited by Taino Amerindians. In the early sixteenth century, the Haitian indigenous people were annihilated by Spanish colonists. Navidad has become the first Spanish settlement established in the North-West of the island of Hispaniola, whilst Santo Domingo was the first Spanish colony in that particular area. Spanish dominion over these territories declined after the conquest of Mexico because Spain started to lose control over sea routes. In the middle of the seventeenth century, French settlers occupied the island of Tortuga, which enabled them to conquer the north coast of Hispaniola. French settlers took control of the northern and western parts of Hispaniola by the beginning of the eighteenth century. First French settlement in the North-West of Hispaniola was given a name of Sainte-Dominique. Later on, Sainte-Dominique was renamed Haiti. The name stems from the dialect of indigenous people and literally means ‘mountainous’.
Nowadays, Haiti is a republic. Department is the Haitian administrative unit. Haiti is subdivided into 10 departments. Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti. The 1st of January is the Haitian national holiday, commemorating its independence from France. The number of people living in Haiti is around 10 million people. 95% of the Haitian people are black and around 5% are either mulatto or white. The largest age group (approximately, 60.1% of population) is represented by people in the age from 15 to 64; the age group ranging from 65 years and above comprises around 3.9% of the Haitian population; children constitute approximately 35.9% of the country’s population. An assumed population growth rate is around 0.888% as of July 2012. An urbanization rate is approximately 52%, increasing at the annual rate of 3.9%. The Haitian net mitigation rate is approximately -7 migrants per thousand people. One of the recent researches stated that monitoring the use of cell phones could be useful in tracing the population movements.
The economy of Haiti
As far as the issue of Haitian economy is concerned, it is important to admit the following. Haiti is believed to be the poorest country amongst the Americas’ nations. Environmental issues, such as severe deforestation and erosion, land fragmentation, poor administration, and farming techniques, as well as the lack of private and public investments are viewed as the main causes of poverty and inefficacy of the Haiti’s economy. At the same time, researchers list poverty, corruption, and poor access to education among challenges that people of Haiti face nowadays. However, Haiti positions itself as a free market economy with low labor costs and tariff-free access to US exports. Apparently, the economy of Haiti has both its positive and negative aspects. It is rather alarming that the country who has suffered so much, with such a rich history, and with unique nature and such wonderful opportunities for farming and agriculture stands alone against calamities of globalization, technological development, and integration into the modern world’s political, economic, social, and cultural processes. Scholars suggest the labor market of Haiti be modified and its institutional capacity be built.
Agriculture constitutes the fundamentals of the economic life of Haiti. Haiti is rich in bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, and marble. The Haitian main cash crop is coffee. Other agricultural products include mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, sorghum, and wood. Researchers admit that farmers also focus on cultivating subsistence crops such as, for instance, cassava, plantains, bananas, corn, yams, sweet potatoes, and rice.
Political image and internal issues that characterize Haiti in modern times
The second half of the twentieth century in Haiti was characterized by severe political rivalry. Evidently, the years of dictatorship of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier that has lasted for more than three centuries (starting from 1950s up till late 1980s) and the years of instability that followed (presidencies of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval) brought neither peace to the people of Haiti nor stable socio-economic development to the whole country. Haiti’s earthquake of 2010 and cholera outbreak that followed were nothing but a devastating calamity. The natural disaster that stroke on October 20, 2010, became the worst in the past 200 years.
The United Nations’ Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established by the United Nations Security Council in 2004. To a certain extent, the mission was of little use when Haiti faced one of the greatest challenges in its history. Protection of human rights, restoration of the environment, promotion of political processes, strengthening and support of the country’s governmental institutions, and rule-of-law structures have become MINUSTAH’s key objectives after the elections in 2010 and 2011. By so doing, the United Nations has reinforced its impact on political and social processes in Haiti. The activity of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Haiti is called to increase the amounts of exports, cut the wages, and to grant opportunities for multinational corporations. Apparently, the policies conducted by IMF and World Bank in Haiti appear to be insufficient when it comes to the country’s internal issues.
Taking all the aforementioned facts into consideration, it is possible to make the following conclusions. Haiti is a country with the developing economy located in the North-West of the island of Hispaniola. It is the poorest and most densely populated country in the Caribbean region. It is largely a mountainous country with the two-thirds of its area covered by mountains. The geographical position of Haiti is mostly favorable for farming and agriculture; however, the island is exposed to such natural hazards as hurricanes, flooding, droughts, and earthquakes. The UN initiatives are nowadays established to guarantee stability and support progressive gradual transformation of the political system and the economy of Haiti.