Deforestation in Haiti
In 1804, Haiti won its independence from France after the world's only successful slave revolution. In 1825, a treaty was signed by which France would recognize Haiti's independence in exchange for 150 (later reduced to 90) millions gold Francs (see Haiti indemnity controversy). Haiti's trees were felled and exported to France, in order to service the debt.
Deforestation sped up after Hurricane Hazel downed trees throughout the island in 1954. Beginning in about 1954, concessionaires stepped up their logging operations, in response to Port-au-Prince's intensified demand for charcoal, thus accelerating deforestation, which had already become a problem because of environmentally unsound agricultural practices, rapid population growth, and increased competition over scarce land. Techniques that could make forestry more productive for fuel, like coppicing and pollarding, are not used. There is also a less discussed problem with feral goats which overgraze and eat seedlings that might otherwise replace ground cover.
The most direct effect of deforestation is soil erosion. An estimated 15,000 acres (61 km2) of topsoil are washed away each year, with erosion also damaging other productive infrastructure such as dams, irrigation systems, roads, and coastal marine ecosystems. Soil erosion also lowers the productivity of the land, worsens droughts, and eventually leads to desertification, all of which increase the pressure on the remaining land and trees.
Most of Haiti's governments paid only lip service to the imperative of reforestation. The main impetus to act came from abroad. USAID's Agroforestry Outreach Program, Pwojè Pyebwa, was the country's major reforestation program in the 1980s. Peasants planted more than 25 million trees under Projè Pyebwa, but as many as seven trees were cut for each new tree planted. Later efforts to save Haiti's trees focused on intensifying reforestation programs, reducing waste in charcoal production, introducing more wood-efficient stoves, and importing wood under USAID's Food for Peace program. Because most Haitians still depend on wood and charcoal as their primary fuel source, energy alternatives are needed to save the forests. The 15-year Environment Action Plan, authorized in 1999, proposed to stop deforestation by developing alternative fuel sources. Political instability and lack of funding have limited the impact of this reform effort. However, various grassroots projects have begun planting thousands of trees in an effort to combat deforestation and to reforest the country.
Several agencies and companies that produce solar cookers as an alternative to using wood and charcoal have been working in Haiti to establish solutions to the poverty and fuel issues, though their effectiveness and the degree to which they are used are questionable.
- Country Profile: Haiti. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (May 2006). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Malik, Boulos A. "Forestry". A Country Study: Haiti (Richard A. Haggerty, editor). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (December 1989). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Activity Data Sheet: Haiti – Environmental Degradation Slowed, 521-S002. USAID FY 2000 Congressional Presentation. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Haiti - Reflecting The Light". Country Programs. Sun Ovens. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
- Kerry, Frances (2002-09-20). "Cost, Custom Obstacles to Sun Cooking in Haiti". Wehaitians.com. Reuters.