Reforestation in Haiti - Can the Young Lead the Way?

  • Posted on: 11 May 2008
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

art of living Jule Hanus from the Art of Living Foundation sent us a video clip featuring a Youth Leadership Training Program which incorporates music, dance, yoga, and environmental preservation.  Take a look at it by clicking here.  Even when the Haitian government (someday) releases a strategy and appeals for funds to support nationwide reforestation communities will do the heavy lifting. In a country, where almost half the population is under fifteen years of age, there are many opportunities to involve the young in reforestation.


Other low resource countries such as Ethiopia have been very successful in their reforestation efforts - not by waiting for international donors to solve the problem, but by declaring it a priority, encouraging government officials at all levels to get involved, and providing support to communities so they could establish tree nurseries, take part in National Days of Planting, etc.




It doesn't matter what political party you are for, whether urban or rural, whether rich or poor, whether Christian or Voudouisant - As Jonathan Katz noted in an article last month, Haiti's future depends on being able to halt and then reverse environmental degradation.  If not, there will be continued food insecurity and political instability.  At a minimum, this should be something we can all agree on and thus something we should all be able to work together on. 



Haiti has a wide network of schools, churches, and other organizations that could and should be involved in reforestation.  If the students from each school were given one week a year to learn about the environment and to take part in reforestation, it could plant a seed in the minds of young students who could become the next generation of environmental leaders.   Regardless of whether you are Christian or Vodouisant (or both), nature is sacred and it is the responsibility of humankind to be a good steward over it.  If the environment were discussed in church, and if every church had a tree nursery, it would make a difference.   Both schools and churches would benefit from National Days of Service which could incorporate the environment and other important social issues.   


There are other organizations that could play a role.  Village banks, women's groups, youth clubs, Rotaty Clubs, etc. also have a lot of potential.  We hope that someday a nationwide Civilian Conversation Corps will be created and could have a complementary role - but there is no replacing the role of communities. 



In the Katz article, Mousson Finnigan, who heads up the Organization for the Rehabiliation of the Environment (ORE), states "Everything has been studies and the solutions are already known...but when it comes to implementation, it becomes a place where everybody is fighting for the money.  They are not fighting for results." 





The Youth Leadership Training Program is just one example of what can be accomplished with just a little bit of training and encouragement.  The energy and enthusiasm of Haiti's youth, if channeled, could help bring the results that we are all hoping for.




This is a great idea but some what inpracticle. Although Haiti could use trees for wood and to help keep flooding down as well as other things, Haiti doesn't need those things as much as food and clothes and most of all jobs. Jobs are the key because they provide food and clothes as well as stabilize the economy. Most churches that i know of wouldn't start a nursery for trees when they have christian brothers and sisters dieing of starvation.

But ask yourself why Haiti is hungry? It is largely because an agricultural society can no longer feed itself. The environment has been degraded (deforestation) and is less productive. Coupled with chronic under-investment in the agricultural sector and an over-reliance on imports, it is a tough situation to be in - and one that will get worse without environmental protection. Reforestation is a first step which will also protect against natural disasters. Think of fruit trees and hardwood trees (people are less likely to cut them) as well as quick growing scrub and bamboo (which has plenty of uses). Seeing as how Christians are instructed to be stewards of the earth, addressing immediate deforestation in one's own community is a logical place to start.

I don't think it is impratical for Haiti to concentrate on reforestation versus jobs. The population could be put to work (given jobs) doing reforestation work. Getting paid to plant trees is something that is done here in the U.S. and in other countries. Especially when you have a poor, uneducated population (no slight intended) it is a good way to employ them and is a great benefit to the country.

In the U.S. during the Depression, the government did anything and everthing to put people to work to generate jobs and stimulate the economy. They put people to work in the forests, building dams and other public works, they put artists to work painting art in public buildings. Haiti needs to do and try everything to help its citizens and its environment.

I was delighted to see yoga included in the leadership program. Yoga is often ignored as a vital solution to some of the worst ills in todays society.

Indian vedas recommends every human to plant atleast three trees in his lifetime to compensate for his uses.

I agree totally with this example.
I am a forester that worked in south Argentina in private projects in a different climate than Haiti but I believe more challenging than the mountains of this Island because the amount of rain was far fewer and so the percentage of live plants one year later was sometimes lower than 20.
I know that if we could try to go commune by commune interesting the people that count (church, officials,main social people) in these villages, we could very well use an immense amount of labor an plant thousand hectares a year, starting from scratch: meaning nurseries starting the plants from seed or cuttings that are natural to that ecosystem, and valuable, to the time of planting them a year or two later , to the protection of the young plants in the fields by local people from goats or rodents.. The main thing is to work locally in a small scale project by project.
This is my personal project, go to Haiti when things are a little more clear, chose a place, contact the people of the village and try.
Lets see if it is possible.

USAID Impact Blog
By Kendra Helmer
In the mountains south of Port-au-Prince, there is little evidence of the earthquake that devastated the capital city last year. The mountains suffer from a different kind of damage: decades of deforestation. Haitian schoolchildren participating in a USAID project recently hiked into Parc National La Visite on a dual-purpose mission. About 40 kids, who live in quake-devastated neighborhoods, trekked into one of the country’s last natural habitats to fight deforestation while also commemorating those killed. USAID is partnering with a non-governmental organization, Fondation Seguin, to plant 300,000 pine and cedar seedlings in the national park. "This tree-planting project gives the students an opportunity to pay tribute to the more than 300,000 killed in the earthquake while also focusing on the future of Haiti and improving the environment for all,” said Nicole Widdersheim of USAID’S Office of Transition Initiatives, which implemented the project with its partner Chemonics.
The excited students clamored up the dusty mountain road, leaving some of us less-fit adults struggling to reach our destination before rain poured from the clouds which rolled down the hillsides. The hike ended at a nearly 6,000-foot altitude in La Visite, a crucial watershed for the Cul de Sac and Port-au-Prince areas. Its towering trees were a welcome sight from the barren hillsides that were our vista for the five-hour hike. Haiti’s once-extensive forests have been destroyed by human encroachment, including the cutting down of trees to use as cooking fuel. Student Esaie Joseph, 15, is dismayed that forests cover less than 2 percent of Haiti.
“I have always noticed that there are no trees around us,” Joseph said. “Therefore I have decided to … support this project because I believe that this is a personal choice one has to make.” Students and chaperones carry their seedlings to a ceremony in the forest. The group planted 2,000 of the 300,000 seedlings which are being planted in memory of earthquake victims. Over the weekend, the students camped out near a mountain lodge. Many were enamored with the lodge’s two dogs, while others screeched as the good-natured mastiffs lumbered up. The kids earnestly discussed reforestation, explored the woods and played games, relishing an escape from the dusty, traffic-clogged city.
Joseph, who has lived in a tent with his mother and siblings since the earthquake destroyed their home, delighted in the mountain air. “Before sleeping, my friends and I were talking about this place which feels like paradise, because when you live the way we do, a place like this is paradise even though we know that paradise is more beautiful,” he said. “We couldn’t wait for the next morning to plant trees for those who died.” The children rose early, singing as they carried seedlings to a ceremony in the forest. A large crowd attended, including the Ministry of the Environment, Haitian National Police, U.S. government representatives, some of the 350 workers temporarily employed for the project, and Fondation Seguin, which has a mission to protect the forest.
The non-governmental organization’s ongoing program, Ecole Verte (“Green School”), brings disadvantaged kids into the park to learn about the environment. This was USAID’s first time supporting their initiative. Richard Cantave, the foundation’s co-founder, emphasized the significance of the 6,000-hectare park, which provides water for about 3 million people. “We are taking about a lot of importance as a watershed is involved, besides all the biodiversity and all the rare birds and rare plants that exist only here,” he said. The project includes protective fencing to surround the new trees. In addition, USAID’s WINNER program is funding forest wardens and providing equipment to the Ministry of the Environment to deter arsons and illegal logging. Joseph, who threw his arms up in victory as he planted his seedlings, hopes others find similar ways to help the environment. “There are so many other places that could also benefit from this type of activity so that one day Haiti could be filled with trees.” Read about a related one-year memorial event, involving some of the children’s community, at which the first trees were planted.

Paul, have you been successful with your plans for Haiti? I lived there for a little while after the earth quake and met a few local haitians who want to start a reforestation project in Leogane.

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