Reforestation in Haiti: 1.2 Million Trees Planted


Haiti, one of the world’s most deforested countries, launched its first national tree-planting program. The big dig was planned for May 1. This was part of an ambitious government effort to reforest the country after suffering from landslides and desertification.

President Michel Martelly’s government calls the effort “a big signal” that the administration is determined to reverse environmental degradation and address one of the main causes of poverty on the Caribbean island.

Stripped of 98 percent of its trees, Haiti suffers deforestation’s impoverishing side effects, like soil erosion, poor agricultural productivity, and desertification. In the three years since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has been hit by multiple landslides during its six-month rainy season. This adds to the woes of some of its most vulnerable people, already affected by frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes.

The new reforestation drive aims to replace the 30 to 40 million trees cut down every year for firewood, a common source of fuel for cooking here. The tree planting will take place at seven sites across the country, and 1.2 million saplings will be planted in a single day, May 1, according to Jean Lucien Ligonde, a senior adviser to the ministry of environment. The four-pronged campaign kicks off just 14 days before President Martelly’s second anniversary in office. Some point to the initiative as a political move – a way to signal to the international community that his government is making strides to tackle some of Haiti’s biggest challenges like environmental degradation and its side-effects.

The campaign will also seek to educate the public about environmental issues, says environment minister Jean Francois Thomas. It will feature radio public service announcements, banners and pamphlets, environmental education in all schools, offer “green” cooking fuel as an alternative to wood, and use the Ministry’s environmental surveillance corps to watch out for illegal logging in protected areas, Mr. Thomas says.

With hands-on technical support from Cuba, $5 million from Venezuela’s Petrocaribe fund, sample pamphlets from Costa Rica, and 1,000 forest guards that it has yet to hire, Haiti is aiming to achieve just under five percent tree cover within three years.

[. . .] Martelly’s administration has declared 2013 the “year of the environment.” This year’s carnival slogan was the Creole phrase “Yon ayisyen, yon pye bwa,” which translates to “one Haitian, one tree.”

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