In the effort to change Haiti’s landscape since the 2010 earthquake, one agroforestry program is reversing one of the world’s largest ecological disasters. In planting the two-millionth tree this season, Haiti Friends’ Haiti Timber Re-Introduction Program (HTRIP) team has transferred 400,000 seedlings into the ground. Haiti Friends launched HTRIP in 2008 in response to the resulting 98 percent deforestation rate. The initiative, which encourages community engagement across Haiti, is essential to survival and improves Haitian quality of life significantly.
“It is my dream to reverse the effects of one of the world’s largest ecological disasters and reforest Haiti in my lifetime,” said Edward Rawson, Haiti Friends executive director. “We have developed a model for reforestation that not only plants trees, but incorporates higher value crops to increase food security for the entire country.”
Recently, J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO) implemented the reforestation and agroforestry program with a mission to plant 35,000 new trees by Fall of 2016. Spearheaded by J/P HRO’s Director of Programs and Co-Founder of HTRIP, Dr. Starry Sprenkle, the organization contributed 3,000 trees to a monumental planting on the 30th of June. This effort was made possible through J/P HRO’s partnership with the Swedish Postcode Lottery Fund and the Clinton Foundation called “Build Back Better and Greener.”The HTRIP program goes beyond planting trees as it cultivates a paradigm shift in Haitian farming— crops planted between the trunks of maturing trees allow families to farm on formerly eroded land.
“Being an HTRIP leader makes me more environmentally responsible. Now, I am very engaged in planting trees, and raising awareness about the negative effects of deforestation in the mountains,” said Joseph Josue, HTRIP leader in the Mathurin, Lachapelle District.
“The Haiti Timber Reintroduction project is not only about planting two million trees,” said HTRIP Manager Melissa Sanon. “It’s a project that transforms lives, communities, and the environment. HTRIP has taught more than 6,000 people about how to take better care of their environment, and that’s very powerful.”
To date, 63 communities in the Artibonite Department of Central Haiti (many of which are small and isolated) have been engaged, and more than 6,000 participants have graduated HTRIP’s rigorous 9-month education program led by experienced agriculture technicians. The communities move from farm to farm as a group or “konbit,” sharing an HTRIP-provided meal for the day as they encourage hard work and motivate neighbors to help one another. The educational component of HTRIP directly transfers classroom knowledge to the field.
“In my community we used to do slash burn agriculture, and this is one of the reasons why our soil is so degraded,” said Pharissaint Pharius, HTRIP leader in the Savonette, Verettes District. “HTRIP has been teaching us about the negative effects of this method. Instead, to increase the fertility of our soil, we make traditional compost with animal manure and leaves.”