An article in a recent issue of Newsweek (A Tree Grows in Haiti by Jeneen Interlandi) describes how a revitalized landscape is needed to promote economic recovery in the devastated country.
Throughout the 1900s, almost all of Haiti’s forests were felled for timber production and plantations, and to provide farm plots, cooking fuel, and charcoal for a population that tripled during this time. The result is a denuded landscape that contributes to poverty and food insecurity, and exacerbates the effects of natural disasters.
International agencies and aid organizations are promoting reforestation as a way to rebuild Haiti, and indicate that this must happen quickly because the country’s little remaining forest is at risk of conversion to subsistence agriculture and harvest for the charcoal trade. Done right, restoring Haiti’s forests can reduce erosion and renew the soil, and these environmental benefits can ultimately improve the economy. Non-profit organizations, such as Trees for the Future, propose that a sustainable reforestation program, which includes training of Haitians in long-term agroforestry management, can help provide jobs, food, and energy.
The article states that “in Haiti there can be no economic growth without environmental restoration.” It is encouraging that a widely-read magazine is reporting not only on human impacts on ecosystem services, but that these impacts can be ameliorated by restoration and stewardship of natural resources, with benefits to human communities.
by Ruth Stafford