One Billion Trees Planted in 2007 - But How Many in Haiti?

  • Posted on: 28 November 2007
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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According to the United Nations Environmental Program, more than one billion trees were planted worldwide.  Mexico and Ethiopia led the way.  Ethiopia, not exactly a model of good governance,  illustrates that when a government has the political will and when communities are aware of the importance of the environment, motivated to preserve it, and the resources to do it, social change can happen rapidly. 

Much of this success is due to Wangari Maathai, the first African winner to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai remembered growing up in a Uganda which had ample tree cover, while at present many areas of the country have been utterly deforested.  Over many years, and not without resistance, she was able to organize mass tree plantings that have made a difference and inspired other countries to do the same.


In a country like Haiti, reforestation is important for many reasons.  It will prevent natural disasters, keep the soil productive, help ensure people have enough to eat and by extension maintain the health of the people and also protect and create livelihoods (beyond wood charcoal production).  There are non-tangibles as well - when the country is forested, it is beautiful and encourages national pride.  It is difficult for even the most stalwart Haitiphile to be proud of the dustbowls around Mount Kabrit, Saint Marc, or worst of all, the Northwest region.  


It is worth mentioning that the smaller of the two countries, Ethiopia, planted 700 million trees compared to Mexico's 217 million.   UNEP Honorable Mentions include:  Turkey 150 million, Kenya 100 million, Cuba 96.5 million, Rwanda 50 million, South Korea 43 million, Tunisia 21 million, Morocco 20 million, Myanmar 20 million and Brazil 16 million. 


See Haiti on there?  Me neither.  Haiti is not even in the game when it comes to preserving the environment.  Not even protecting the tree-cover that is left. There are some international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and grassroots organizations doing their part but until the Haitian government and the civil society priortize the environment, these groups will be treading water.  


Other countries have taken notice. UNEP reports China, Guatemala and Spain are expected soon to announce new plantings of millions of trees. Indonesia  is expected to plant almost 80 million trees in one day alone in the run up to the Bali climate meeting. According to UNEP, the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF),  the environment can be rescued by afforestation. 


If that is the case, then it can save Haiti as well.  We have all been inundated with reports, papers, books, conference discussing what will happen to countries like Haiti if nothnig is done.  But the initiative has to be internal and it has to come from Haitians themselves and not the outside experts - once the country demonstrates it is serious, donors will get behind them but not until then.


It took hundreds of years to deforest Haiti, it may take as long to restore it to its former glory.  But we need to start now.




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