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Pulitzer Center Update April 20, 2015

This Week: Haiti—Struggling to Rebuild


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On the island of Hispaniola, conflict over land is putting people’s future on unsteady ground.

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Members of KOPI, a grassroots organization made up of four local groups to press the Haitian government for transparency and community participation in its development plans for the island of Ile-a-Vache, Haiti, meet together on the island. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2014.


Five years after a devastating earthquake displaced 1.5 million people, Haiti is still struggling to rebuild. One of the biggest hindrances to economic recovery is lingering uncertainty over land ownership. The chronically impoverished Caribbean nation has an antiquated system of land registry as well as weak rule of law. To make matters worse, many records were lost in the quake, making it nearly impossible to establish who owns what.

"Across Haiti, title conflicts keep poor families from finding a place to live and grow crops, and sometimes even prevent wealthy ones from opening businesses that would boost the country's dismal economy," writes Pulitzer Center grantee Jacob Kushner in his report for Foreign Policy.

Jacob documents several cases in which the Haitian government has abused its authority and used the confusion to its advantage by appropriating large swaths of land—displacing hundreds of poor people in the process—for industrial development schemes and tourism projects that never seem to materialize.


Back when Moammar Qaddafi was in charge, Libya's sovereign wealth fund purchased 100,000 hectares of prime agricultural land in Mali, a desert country wracked by political violence and hunger. The deal in 2009 was reportedly negotiated directly between the heads of state of the two countries. Naturally, the details were not made public.

Pulitzer Center grantee Chris Arsenault has been traveling in rebel-held northern Mali trying to find out whatever happened to that deal now that Libya has descended into chaos, with rival militias controlling different cities and two parallel "governments" fighting for power. Along the way, he has been filing periodic dispatches for the Thomson Reuters Foundation that paint a vivid picture of life under Mali's warlords.

"There's no runway, just a patch of loose gravel where the white World Food Programme plane touches down in rebel-controlled northern Mali," writes Chris in this story about how food gets distributed. "Several waiting pickups mounted with heavy machine guns take position around the aircraft; U.N. soldiers in green camouflage and blue helmets fan out into dry, leafless trees, scanning for a possible ambush."


Kashmir remains a flashpoint in the rivalry between India and Pakistan, but the heavily militarized "line of control" that separates the two sides is startlingly porous when it comes to lucrative international drug trafficking.

"The most common drug crossing the line of control is Afghan-produced heroin and similar opiate-based drugs, whose production has flourished since America's 2001 invasion of that country," writes Pulitzer Center grantee Michael Edison Hayden in a feature article for Roads & Kingdoms. "Once over the border, heroin smuggled into India from Afghanistan and Pakistan has an uncertain journey ahead."

Much of it eventually makes its way to the distant shores of Europe and North America, but as Michael and photojournalist Sami Siva document, increasing amounts of the drug are staying in India and fueling a deadly epidemic in the country's north.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor


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Land Rights

Land Rights