Agroforestry Program Sets to Reverse the World’s Largest Ecological Disaster

Planting trees in Haiti means SURVIVAL and an INCREASED QUALITY OF LIFE.

By: Haiti Friends and J/P Haitian Relief Organization  

Photos by Karen Meyers Photography

In an effort to change the landscape of Haiti through a highly successful agroforestry program that is reversing the world’s largest ecological disaster, the two-millionth tree was planted in Haiti this season as Haiti Friends’ Haiti Timber Re-Introduction Program (HTRIP) team transfers 400,000 seedlings into the ground during the summer planting season. 

“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 will not only plants trees, but also incorporate higher value crops to increase food security for the entire country.” In response to a 98 percent deforestation rate, Haiti Friends launched HTRIP in 2006 to tackle Haiti’s largest ecological problem.

 J/P Haitian Relief Organization, founded in 2010, works mainly in dense, urban areas in Port-Au-Prince, dedicated its efforts to relocating displaced people after the earthquake, and now focuses on community and economic development of marginalized people. J/P HRO has taken a recent and keen interest in reforestation and agroforestry, and will plant 50,000 trees in a separate initiative in the Port-au-Prince area by the fall of 2015. This effort has been made possible through a partnership between J/P HRO, the Swedish Postcode Lottery Fund, and the Clinton Foundation, called Build Back Better and Greener.

As a part of HTRIP’s effort, and spearheaded by J/PHRO’s Director of Programs and Co-Founder of HTRIP, Dr. Starry Sprenkle, J/P HRO contributed 3,000 trees to a monumental planting on the 30th of June.

 Trees planted, and water-catchments and rock walls built, reduce run-off of rich topsoil. As the trees mature, crops planted between the towering trunks allow families to farm on land that was once eroded.

Nitrogen fixing varietals help to add oxygen to the air, while timber varietals can bring upwards of $1,000 to families who plan to steward their trees for 7-10 years before cutting them down and selling the wood.

The HTRIP program goes beyond putting trees in the ground; it cultivates a paradigm shift in the way Haitian farmers approach farming their land.

“Being an HTRIP's 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. While planting its 2-millionth tree is a feat, it’s a drop in the bucket.

“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.” She says that “HTRIP has taught more than 6,000 people about how to take better care of their environment, and that’s for me, very powerful.”

To date, 63 communities - many of which are small and isolated - in the Artibonite Department of Central Haiti have been engaged, and more than 6,000 participants have graduated HTRIP’s rigorous 10-month education program, led by experienced agriculture technicians. The communities work together as a group or “konbit”, moving from farm to farm, and sharing an HTRIP-provided meal for the day, encouraging good work, while motivating 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, so now we don’t do it anymore [and instead,] to increase the fertility of our soil, we make traditional compost with animal manure and leaves.”

HTRIP is funded by foundations and individuals, including leaders in the US forestry industry. Haiti Friends and J/P HRO are both 501(c)(3) non profit organizations. Haiti Friends expands awareness of the culture and art of the Haitian people and of their need for health services, economic development, while improving environmental conditions in Haiti.  J/P HRO mission is to save lives and build sustainable programs with the Haitian people quickly and effectively.