Reforestation in Haiti - Can the Young Lead the Way?
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.