What you need to know about the Caribbean island with 500 residents and 83 houses

Ama Nunoo Dec 11, 2019 at 02:30pm

December 11, 2019 at 02:30 pm | Opinions & Features

Ama Nunoo

Ama Nunoo | Staff Writer

December 11, 2019 at 02:30 pm | Opinions & Features

Photo: Jenny Barker

Many may not have heard of this island not because it is uninhabited but because it is hidden in a Caribbean island where many people have written them off through no fault of theirs.

Ilet a Brouee  is a small island off the south coast of Haiti and at a glance it comes off as a mass of sticks, tarpaulins, and thatch, of wobbly edifices crouched on a sliver of beach, according to geographer Alex MacGregor, who took a trip to Haiti and went on further to explore Ilet a Brouee.

The island is said to be one of the most populated islands in the world as its land mass measures just about 4,000 square metres.

About 500 residents who live in about 83 houses in total call this island their home. There are no proper basic amenities on the island. “There are no doctors, nurses, schools or proper sanitation on the island.”

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Photo: Longreads

“There are a few wells around the island — perforated plastic buckets dug a couple feet into the sand. They don’t provide drinking water, but supply water clean enough for bathing. Drinking water is imported from mainland Haiti in plastic bags.”

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Ilet a Brouee’s toilet. Photo: Alex MacGregor

“The toilet, meanwhile, is a makeshift structure built over the water, so uncomfortable that people often use the adjacent beach instead.”

Fishing is the main occupation of the people. Ilet a Brouee  was more like a fish factory where during the day, many are out fishing and those who remain on the island were busy “repairing boats, mending nets, hooks, and traps, processing and preparing thousands of fish for shipment to Île-à-Vache and Haiti.”

This cannot be said of the island anymore, climate change’s effects have weighed in terribly on the island. Also, excessive fishing has made the usual fish stocks reduce drastically.

One other natural phenomenon that affects the island are hurricanes. Haiti is the fourth most hurricane-prone island on the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) because Haiti lies within the Caribbean hurricane belt.   

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Photo: Jenny Barker

A 60-year-old leader of Ilet a Brouee and a lifelong fisherman, Clement Ise-Die expressed his worries on the effects of the climate change on his island and his people’s livelihoods.

He said, “The storms are getting increasingly worse, destroying our homes most years. We rarely catch big fish anymore; it is mostly small fish and eels.”

Neighbouring island, Île-à-Vache is a haven for Ilet a Brouee’s people and Haitians every July to escape the adverse effects of the hurricanes. They however have the herculean task of rebuilding their homes when they return in November.

According to MacGregor, the island also lost 20 percent of its land mass in the hurricane and the habitat of islanders are endangered by sea-level rise. The people have put up concrete barriers to protect themselves although they still must evacuate to the mainland for nearly every storm.

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Typical reinforced shoreline on Ilet a Brouee. Photo: Alex MacGregor

What Île-à-Vache is doing to combat climate change is worth emulating on Ilet a Brouee. With the help of NGOs, they have set up “fish farms, mangrove restoration/preservation, artificial coral reefs and sustainable agriculture.”

Again, with the adoption of setting up mangroves which are among the best natural defences to reduce community susceptibility to the predicted impacts of climate change and sea-level rise, because they are a bumper against storm and flow impacts, and when properly managed, can provide numerous social, economic and ecological benefits for the foreseeable future, Independent.IE writes.

The way forward for Ilet a Brouee is to adopt some of these practices ongoing in Île-à-Vache to slow down the effects of climate change on the island and salvage what is left of the small island.

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