Training Community Foresters in Haiti
Haiti's environmental challenges are profound and are magnified by overpopulation, intense poverty, and a history of explotive export logging driven by colonial powers after Haitian slaves led their successful battle for independence in 1794. The Caribbean nation is often portrayed as one of the most extreme examples of environmental degradation fueled by poverty in the Western Hemisphere.
Within that bleak picture however, there are encouraging signs. The often cited (but not substantiated) statistic that Haiti has been reduced to less than 2 percent tree cover is incorrect. While almost all of the nation's primary forest cover in fact been lost, recent remote sensing studies have confirmed what a casual visiter could conclude from a few days of travel - the actual tree cover throughout the nation today is closer to 30%, with a significant and increasing amount of cultivated tree cover around the nations's over one million small family owned farms. This disparity in statisics is important, in part because it illustrates the degree of success in bringing back tree cover that has been achieved through the efforts of smallholder farmers.
In 2016, the Guild began supporting a locally initiated and led effort to increase tree cover around the community of Mirebalais, about an hour north of Port au Prince. The "Trees for Tomorrow" is one of a number of similar projects around the country to restore more tree cover. In January 2017, more than 6 months of planning culminated in a 5-day training program led by local agronomists for over 75 community volunteers. As the group produces seedlings and continues securing agreements from smallholder farmers and other landowners, outplanting will occur at increasing levels in the months ahead.
Haitians are well aware of the challenges involved in restoring forest cover in a once-verdant island with a poorly functioning government. As a result of motivated and educated local leaders, and the efforts of entrepreneurs to help develop international markets for sustainably produced products such as shade-grown coffee or moringa leaf powder, the prospects for successful, durable models to drive reforestation at scale are better than ever. Most of these efforts will occur one community at a time. The Guild has been proud to provide financial and technical support for one of those communities to establish their own Trees for Tomorrow.
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