Deforestation in Haiti

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A satellite image of the border between the denuded landscape of Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right).

Deforestation in Haiti is a severe environmental problem. Haitians burn wood charcoal for 60% of their domestic energy production.[1]

In 1923 over 60% of Haiti's land was forested. In 2006, less than 2% of the land was forested.[2]

Dynamics and impact[edit]

The rapid deforestation of Haiti began during the colonial period, and was intensified when coffee was introduced in 1730. Upland forest were cleared and fifty years later, a quarter of the colony's land was under coffee. The system of plantation monoculture and clean -cultivation between rows of coffee,indigo, tobacco, and sugarcane exhausted soil nutrients and led to rapid erosion (Paskett and Pholoctete, 1990).

Following the Haitian revolution, the government was forced to export timber throughout the 19th century to pay off a 90 million franc indemnity to France. No longer under colonial rule, land remained unequally distributed nevertheless, and peasants were granted access only to marginal slopes between 200 and 600m above the fertile plains and below the zones of coffee production. These hillside soils were particularly susceptible to erosion when cleared for farming. [3]

Deforestation sped up after Hurricane Hazel drowned trees throughout the island in 1954.[4] Beginning in about 1954, concessionaires stepped up their logging operations in response to Port-au-Prince's intensified demand for charcoal. Deforestation accelerated, which had already become a problem because of environmentally unsound agricultural practices, rapid population growth, and increased competition over land.[4] Techniques that could make forestry more productive for fuel like coppicing and pollarding were not used.

Soil erosion[edit]

The most direct effect of deforestation is soil erosion.[4] 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.[5] 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.[4]

Targeting of Dominican Republic forests[edit]

Because of Haiti running out of plant material to burn, Haitians have created an illegal market for coal on the Dominican side. Conservative estimates calculate the illegal movement of 115 tons of charcoal per week from the Dominican Republic to Haiti in 2014. Dominican officials estimate that at least 10 trucks per week are crossing the border loaded with charcoal.[6]

Environmental efforts[edit]

Most of Haiti's governments have paid only lip service to the imperative of reforestation.[4] The main impetus to act came from abroad.[4] USAID's Agroforestry Outreach Program, Pwojè Pyebwa, was Haiti's major reforestation program in the 1980s.[4] Peasants planted more than 25 million trees under Projè Pyebwa, but as many as seven trees were cut for each new tree planted.[4]

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.[4] Because most Haitians depend upon wood and charcoal as their primary fuel source, energy alternatives are needed to save the forests.[2] A 15-year Environment Action Plan, authorized in 1999, proposed to stop deforestation by developing alternative fuel sources.[2] Political instability and lack of funding have limited the impact of this reform effort.[2]

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.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The charcoal war". 
  2. ^ a b c d Country Profile: Haiti. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (May 2006). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ "Agroforestry and sustainable resource conservation in Haiti: A case study" (PDF). Retrieved 4/28/15.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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.[1]
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "The charcoal war". 
  7. ^ "Haiti - Reflecting The Light". Country Programs. Sun Ovens. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  8. ^ Kerry, Frances (2002-09-20). "Cost, Custom Obstacles to Sun Cooking in Haiti". Reuters. 

External links[edit]