Haiti: The Caribbean’s First Agricultural Island

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Haiti, officially the Republic of Haiti, is located in the eastern half of the Caribbean. According to the official census of 2010, its population was 19.1 million, almost three-quarters of the population of the Dominican Republic and seven times that of Cuba. Haiti was hit hard by Hurricane Dennis in October 2005, with over 1.5 million people made homeless, but still had nearly $1.6 billion of food aid in the country as of 2006. In March 2007, the United Nations estimated that Haiti had an annual growth rate of about 13.2% for the preceding three years, and that 2.2 million people were still out of work.


Haiti’s climate is divided into two seasons: the rainy and the dry season. Rainfall is heaviest during the summer and early fall, and dries up in the winter. The tropical nature of the island’s climate and geography have resulted in several factors that have contributed to its development: its strategic location at the crossroads between the two continents of Africa and the Caribbean; a tropical rainforest along its eastern coasts; and its high population density.

Haiti began as an island known as Terre-de-Haut, or ‘Land of the High’, near a high point on Haiti’s northern coast. Over time, and due to the island’s development, it was renamed either Terre-de-l-Inde or Terre-de-la-Mara, and today is known as Haiti. The earliest settlers on the island were the Amerindians, followed by the Caribs, the Arawaks and the French.

In 1791, the colonial government began a program to colonize the southeastern region of the island, known as the Petit Artibonite or lower Artibonite Valley. The capital of Port-au-Prince was planned as a center for sugar production and trade. When the sugar industry boomed, however, the

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