In 2006 the Friends developed the Haiti Timber Reintroduction Program (HTRIP) an agro-forestry program in the Artibonite River Valley in Central Haiti. This program has become the Friends’ primary anchor in Haiti and is now flourishing in its 9th year.
Since its inception, HTRIP has supported local farming groups to plant more than 2 million trees in the mountains around the Artibonite Valley. The program uses a scientific education-based approach to training and developing Haitian mountain farmers to reintroduce trees into their farming practices. The program goes beyond putting trees in the ground, it cultivates a paradigm shift in the way Haitian mountain farmers approach their land through community engagement and education.
HTRIP: A Unique and Effective Model for Development
The HTRIP model is built around several foundational principles:
Community Engagement: HTRIP staff work with community groups to help them convert barren and unproductive land on steep hillsides into productive terrain. Community leaders obtain commitments from residents to allocate land for pilot projects, and support initial efforts for land recovery by providing basic tools, education and support for community self-determination.
Community Ownership: Formal written land titles are rare in rural Haiti, but years of use have established community-recognized authority over most of the highland lands, and a community’s commitment of dedicated land sites for HTRIP sites are recognized and protected.
Agroforestry: The combination of trees, interspersed with food crops, creates ecological synergies and both short- and long-term benefits. The restoration of land for agroforestry through erosion control, soil stabilization and water retention establishes a constantly-improving base for agricultural production.
Scientific Foundation: The HTRIP model is based on research on previous attempts at reforestation in Haiti, and on successful agroforestry projects elsewhere in the developing world. The founding director of the HTRIP program, Dr. Starry Sprenkle Hyppolite, based her PhD dissertation on the background research in Haiti and during the first five years of the HTRIP project. Continuing research, in collaboration with the Yale School of Forestry and other institutions, ensures the integration of the HTRIP model with best practices worldwide.
Sustainable Practices: As each community group joins the HTRIP program, the members participate in monthly educational session guided by the HTRIP agricultural specialists. A demonstration site is identified, and field training sessions include the construction of contour canals and rock walls to retain scarce water resources, while the tree roots slow the erosion of valuable topsoil. Tree species are diversified among timber, fruit and nutrient varieties. All are indigenous trees, with seeds collected from the valley and other regions of Haiti.
Economic and Social Gains: As trees grow in the agroforestry plots, they stabilize the soil, and food crops are planted between the trees, safe from the hazards of landslides, providing a secure nutritional base for the families and opportunities for sale of the products in local markets.
Cultural Respect: The entire HTRIP staff is Haitian, and many of the technicians are also farmers in the valley. Communal work days are organized as traditional Kombits, where many hands make the workload light, and the day ends with a hearty meal. At the end of the 9-month educational session, all of the participating communities join in celebration to receive diplomas, enjoy songs, speeches and dances, and to reflect on the shared experiences with members of other HTRIP communities.
The HTRIP Development Cycle
The HTRIP model entails a phased introduction of principles and practices. As each 5-year segment is completed, and the gains are consolidated, the next segment is initiated, building on the experience from the former segment.
Phase I; 2006-2011
During this phase, the scientific foundation of the program was established with Dr. Sprenkle’s research, and the inspirational leadership of Chris Snavely, a Pittsburgh-based wood products entrepreneur. The core principles of the community engagement strategy were established, and the first demonstration plots and soil conservation projects were established in 12 communities. A total of 2,818 participants graduated from the 9-month training program, and 370,749 trees were planted in communal sites.
Phase II; 2012-2016
In the second phase, many communities applied to participate in the HTRIP program, and the model was adapted to adjust for the planting of shade-tolerant cops between the growing trees, and the incorporation of animal husbandry the agroforestry model. Members from 63 communities participated, with 7,437 graduates, and a milestone was reached with the planting of the 2 millionth tree in June 2016.
Phase III: 2017-2021
The HTIP program is now entering a phase in which the projects will be extended to other local communities, and the harvesting and commercialization of the mature trees can be developed. Models will be developed for milling the trees into boards, and retaining the benefits of the value chain through to retail sales. The program will be extended to 2,000 plots in 200 communities, with 40,000 program graduates, and a total of 10 million trees planted.
Phase IV: 2022-2026
In this phase, the HTRIP program will evolve into a continuing cycle of renewal and expansion, as the model is implemented in other areas of the country, in partnership with organizations which share a commitment to community-led self-improvement. Economies of scale will be recognized in lumber production, sales and distribution, and further exploration of food diversity and nutritional values will lead to increased food security in challenged environments.