The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is helping Haiti fight climate change by increasing tree cover while supporting local farm economies. This Earth Day, USAID marked 2 million new trees planted in Northern Haiti through its Reforestation Project, implemented by Chemonics in partnership with NCBA CLUSA and local communities.
USAID’s Reforestation Project is tackling deforestation on both ends of the issue. By planting trees in critical watersheds, the project improves communities’ resilience to climate change risks, including flooding, erosion and drought. Simultaneously, the project supports sustainable agroforestry systems that generate more income for local farmers and reduce further deforestation.
“The U.S. government seeks to help Haitian farmers adapt and thrive in the face of climate change,” said U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison. “Deforestation makes Haiti more vulnerable to flooding, landslides, soil erosion and desertification. Planting more trees and helping farmers find profitable alternatives to charcoal production are essential to climate resilience.”
The USAID Reforestation Project, working in Cap-Haitien, Grande Rivière du Nord, Milot, Limonade, Ste. Suzanne, Terrier Rouge, Trou du Nord, Ferrier, Ouanaminthe and Perches, has established 45 nurseries that supply local farmers with tree seedlings. These seedlings, including high-value crops like cacao, fruit trees and shade trees like oak and moringa, are transplanted on the farmers’ land to protect vulnerable landscapes like those near rivers and on hillsides. To date, the Reforestation Project has planted more than 2 million trees and will plant and additional 2 million over the next 18 months.
Simultaneously, the USAID Reforestation Project provided training to 24,000 local farmers on modern agroforestry and land management techniques and helped them establish flourishing farms to diversify their incomes. The project has also worked with vulnerable households to establish woodlots that are sustainably exploited for charcoal production and construction wood, beekeeping for honey production, and hay production to feed valuable livestock, especially during the dry season.
The results have been life-changing for the region and local farmers. The project has helped farmers market their products. As a result, many have diversified their incomes by starting their own small businesses selling valuable fruits and vegetables, honey, hay for livestock, and wood for construction. Farmer Paul Rollin, who planted 1,500 trees on his one-hectare plot of land with seedlings he received from one of the project nurseries, said, “My land was completely barren, and the soil was eroding… Since we planted the trees, it has helped us conserve more soil and harvest construction wood.” Jean Daniel Desrosiers, a project field technician, said, “Before, the people cut the trees any which way. Now they understand wood as a value chain and that you have to plant to harvest.”
Paul also had great success producing hay for livestock feed. The forage production and conservation program has had a transformational impact on the community.
Over time, farmers have learned that, if managed correctly, these diverse agricultural systems grow on a repeating cycle that help diversify their incomes: cash crops contribute to cash savings, timber and fruit trees are long-term investments, livestock are an asset, and forage can be preserved for self-use or sold during dry seasons to feed cattle. USAID Mission Director Chris Cushing said it best: “This creates a win-win situation where we plant more trees to reduce climate change impacts, while creating sustainable economic opportunities for farmers to build a more resilient Haiti.”