During 2008, in Leogane, Haiti, over 200 farmers with the assistance of our Partners Network planted over 250,000 trees with increased capacity and a growing network of organisations collaborating on the Haiti project, over 1,000,000 fruit and forest trees were planted along the Arcadine Coast.
Already one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and then further blighted by natural disasters such as the massive Earthquake in 2010, Haiti is no longer “The Pearl of the Antilles”. The degradation of Haiti’s natural resources, deforestation and a long history of unsustainable farming practices has left Haiti barren and the land practically unworkable.
Less than two percent of the country’s forests remain, the desertification of the land to meet the traditional fuel needs of its people has stripped the country of fertile farmland and soil. Natural disasters such as flooding, landslides and hurricanes complicate an already precarious state for impoverished Haitians, leaving them in desperate need to meet even their basic human needs.
Once a treasure in the Caribbean, the destruction of Haiti’s natural resources means the population, over sixty-five percent of whom depend on agriculture for their income, are left in an impoverished state. There is, in addition to this, mass unemployment. Over eighty percent of the population live in poverty, whilst fifty percent of Haitians live in abject poverty.
An unstable political situation, government corruption, and periods of social unrest have done little to address the needs of its people or assist in its development and economic recovery. The UN peacekeeping force and international support and donors are now assisting towards greater stability for Haitians, but this recovery is still in its infancy.
Since 2002, our partners and local farmers have been working to address the environmental crisis and meet the basic needs of Haitians. Both have been attempting to repair the widespread environmental damage, not least in the reforestation of the land. A sustainable agricultural future has begun to emerge. Planting trees and reintroducing sustainable farming practices have been the priority of the programme.
A major programme started in 2008 along the Arcadine Coast to reforest large sections, particularly the mountainous regions between St. Marc and Cabaret. This programme progressed further in 2010 and has expanded to address the needs of communities further north of this region to Gonaïves.
A central nursery has now been established in Gonaïves, which works with communities in the area. Furthermore, training centres have now opened in Leveque (Arcahaie) and Gonaïves which have enabled local farmers to access training in sustainable farming methods and supply them with seeds and agricultural tools. This has already resulted in greater food production alongside a continuous programme of tree planting.
2011 saw over 1,000,000 trees planted in seventeen communities by over 1,000 Haitian farmers.
The future sustainability of agriculture in Haiti seems more secure. The Mapou Chevalier training centre is now open, and alongside training in sustainable farming, there is also a new youth environmental education programme, ensuring that the future generations of Haiti can consolidate progress made thus far.