Once known as "The Pearl of the Antilles," Haiti is now one of the poorest and most environmentally degraded countries in the Western Hemisphere. Less than two percent of its original forests remain, the result of a long history of unsustainable land use practices and a continuing dependence on trees for fuel. Deforestation is causing a decline in soil fertility, extensive flooding, and depleted groundwater supplies. Recent hurricanes have wreaked havoc by strong wind erosion and by raging currents of water racing down bare slopes carrying away valuable soil. As a result, mountains that were forested just a few years ago are now bald and lush landscapes are turning into deserts. Much of the land can no longer support human life. More than 80% of Haitians live in poverty, more than 50 percent in abject poverty. The majority of people are unemployed and two-thirds of people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The degrading environment threatens their livelihoods. Ineffectual and corrupt governments have resulted in slow, stagnant development, and social instability has plagued the country for decades. Since 2006, the UN peacekeeping force has been able to bring relative peace to the troubled country. However, Haiti still requires strong support from international organizations and donors in order to maintain stability and develop in a way that benefits its people.
Trees for the Future has worked in Haiti since early 2002, supporting projects throughout the country. Our program focuses on addressing the country’s and communities’ most urgent needs. Working with local farmers and farming groups, we plant trees to reforest degraded hillsides and produce sustainable sources of fuel, construction materials, food, and biodiesel. We’ve established intensive hillside farming practices. Since 2008, we have moved to reforest large portions of the Arcadine coast, particularly in the degraded mountains, les Chaines de Mattheux, that lie between Cabaret and St. Marc. We expanded our program to communities further North to Gonaïves in 2010, in partnership with the Yélé-Foundation. The program, known as Yélé-Vert, has established a central nursery in Gonaïves and works with communities in the surrounding mountains. In order to address immediate needs, Trees for the Future is implementing a program to train farmers in sustainable agriculture practices. The farmers receive agriculture tools and seeds, and have been able to produce significant amounts of food while planting more and more trees. We have training and administrative centers Gonaïves and Leveque (Arcahaie). In 2011, Trees for the Future worked with more than 1,000 farmers in 17 communities to plant one million trees. This includes a program in Medor in partnership with Our Lady Queen of Peace, a Catholic church in Arlington, VA.
Thanks to our parternship with Timberland, a U.S.-based retailier of hiking boots and clothing, the Yélévert program in Gonaïves now helps more than 1,600 local farmers. A new training center in Mapou Chevalier is complete and technicians are using the space to organize trainings in agroforestry and sustainable agriculture, composting, honey production, and holding classes for the new youth environmental education program. In addition to the central nursery, TREES is working with five rural communities and will plant over 1 million trees by the end of the year.
The agriculture program has been a major success. Farmers have already benefited from the first year with harvests of beans, corn, sorghum, eggplants, melons and peppers. They are eager to increase and diversify the variety of agriculture seeds we are providing. As part of the agriculture program, farmers are expected to return at least 10% of their seed back to Trees for the Future in order to increase the seed bank.
Ayiti Gouvenans (AG), Northwest region
Biocarburants d'Haiti, Cabaret
HOPE (Haitians Overcoming Poverty Everyday), Leogane
Lambi Fund of Haiti, Port-au-Prince
Rural Haiti Project,Gros-Morne
St. Boniface Haiti Foundation/RATRAP, Fond-des-Blancs
University of South Florida, USA
VIVA Haiti, Gros-Morne
Yéle Haiti, Arcadine Coast