News / Americas

Returning Trees, Jobs to Haiti's Eroded Hills

98 percent of the country's forests have been cut down

Restoring Haiti's hillsides with contour canals, vetiver grass, and trees
Restoring Haiti's hillsides with contour canals, vetiver grass, and trees

Multimedia

Audio

Edgar Griffin has lived on this hillside outside the town of Petit Guave for 80 years. He says when he was young, it was lush and green.  So green, he says, "You couldn't see a house across from you because it was so green."

Not anymore. Today the mountains are brown and barren. Farmers here try to grow peanuts, but the fertile topsoil washes away in the rain.

"Now, when people plant peanuts, they don't produce as much because the good soil goes into the ocean," says engineer Roudy Valmy with the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Clearing land for farming remains the main cause of deforestation worldwide, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. But in Haiti, the loss of tree cover - and the soil erosion that results - has made it much harder for farmers to grow food, worsening the hunger and poverty already gripping the country.

Ninety-eight percent of the country's forests have been cut down, largely to make charcoal - the main cooking fuel in Haiti - where alternatives are unavailable or unaffordable. The same forces drive deforestation in many other developing countries.

Changing attitudes

But villager Emmano Nobert says attitudes here are changing.

"In the past, the old people, they saw the trees, but they did not really know the meaning of a tree to the country," he says. "Today, we, the youth, we are studying, and we know the meaning of a tree to our lives."

Nobert and his neighbors approached the IOM for help restoring these hills. The IOM has several projects in the area giving local people jobs restoring the environment. The IOM's Francois Fournier put Nobert's group to work digging short canals in the contours of the hillsides, to slow down the flow of rainwater and curb erosion.

Fournier says, "In front of each contour canal we plant vetiver," a grass with deep roots to hold the soil in place. "And in back of every row [of canals] we plant trees - over 20 varieties of trees."

Villagers water trees on a volunteer work day.
Villagers water trees on a volunteer work day.

"Worth more alive"

Those include fruit-bearing trees like mango, cacao and coffee; and trees that make good building materials that the villagers can sell.

"They're worth more alive than they are as charcoal," says David Delgado with the US Agency for International Development, which funds this project and others.

Delgado notes that trees for charcoal are also planted in order to provide a renewable source of this important cooking fuel.

Results

The project near Petit Guave started just nine months ago, but the results are already plainly visible. From a nearby ridge, this hillside is noticeably greener than those next to it. The grass and trees help the soil retain more water, and Delgado says the villagers are starting to see benefits.

On a recent visit, he says "They pointed down to the bottom of the ravine...and they said, 'You see that tree that's down there? That tree used to never be green this time of year. Since we put in these soil, water catchment programs, that tree has leaves on it.' And more importantly, the water source at the bottom is flowing now year-round."

The denuded landscape near Petit Guave. Haiti is 98 percent deforested.
The denuded landscape near Petit Guave. Haiti is 98 percent deforested.

Longtime resident Edgar Griffin is hopeful about the change in attitude from the old generation to the new.

"It was poverty that made them cut down the trees. Now, we can tell the difference in the soil."

A tale of two hillsides

The trees need care in the first two years after planting to help them get established. The IOM does not pay villagers for this work. The IOM's Francois Fournier says the volunteer work is intended to help the community feel ownership of the project.

On a recent afternoon, Griffin's community was out watering and weeding the young trees, singing while they worked in the hot sun.

But other nearby communities do not share this enthusiasm. At a similar project nearby, villagers had stopped watering and weeding young trees months ago. The trees were much smaller and many had died. The hillside was much browner than Griffin's.

"It's better than it was, for sure," Fournier says. "But it was supposed to be two or three times better in the quantity of trees. I'm disappointed. What can I say?"

Fournier says he will not be pursuing any more projects with this community.

Experts say creating jobs replanting trees could make a significant difference across Haiti, where both deforestation and unemployment are rampant. In the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake and the country's chronic hunger problems, the government and international donors are considering planting trees as a way to help workers, farmers and the environment all at the same time.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Former El Salvador President to Await Graft Trial in Jail, Not at Home

Francisco Flores, who had been on the run until early Sept. before turning himself in, accused of misappropriating $15M in 2001 earthquake relief donations
More

US Won't Impede Venezuela's UN Security Council Bid

Washington is clearly unhappy, however, with idea of country joining the Council, which has the task of overseeing international peace and security
More

Video Dehydration Is Top Killer of Southern Arizona's Migrants

US Border Patrol's search and rescue unit launches 'blue blinking light of life program' - a series of poles strategically placed throughout desert that emit high-intensity blue light
More

US Steps Up Pressure on Guatemala Over Labor Rights

Trade representative says Obama administration will push ahead with legal action under free trade agreement to make country meet international standards
More

Video US Attempts Crackdown on Trafficking Along Southern Border

Nogales, Arizona, notoriously known as 'tunnel city,' used by traffickers to smuggle humans, narcotics into US and Border Patrol responds with new technologies
More

Video Arizona Non-Profit Helps Keep Dehydrated Migrants Alive

The Sonoran Desert, a common crossing point for illegal immigrants, is one of North America's hottest places
More