Carl Lewis, the legendary track and field athlete and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador has yesterday Tuesday concluded a two-day visit to Haiti to witness reforestation efforts aimed at helping the Caribbean country to protect itself against flash floods and mudslides…
“Trees are at the epicenter of Haiti’s renaissance” declared the Olympic champion whose visit to Haiti marked the celebration of the International Year of Forests of the UN.
Mr. Lewis travelled to the lakeside city of Léogâne, near the epicentre of the deadly January 2010 earthquake that killed almost a quarter of a million people. He saw Haiti’s denuded mountains and visited a Fruit Trees for Haiti school project, part of a larger FAO programme to reforest and shore up watersheds in the region.
Mr. Lewis, has also, visited a tree nursery in the grounds of a school that was destroyed by the quake. Children provide the planting material and plant trees themselves. They are also taught to value trees by being made responsible for one of their own. “Starting with educating kids is a very important step in stopping the cycle of environmental degradation which is now one of the most serious problems facing Haiti” declared the nine-time Olympic gold medallist “What FAO is doing is tremendous and it makes me optimistic to see that Haitians are realizing they have to take care of their land”, he added.
FAO forestry experts estimate that if 22 samplings are planted for every Haitian – a total of 222 million trees – the newly-elected President Michel Martelly’s goal of reforesting eight per cent of the country’s land surface in five years could be met. Haiti currently has just two per cent forest cover, one of the worst rates in the world, and experts say this is the main reason for the spate of deadly mudslides and floods that have killed thousands of people over the past eight years.
Before concluding his visit to Haiti, Carl Lewis met with the media, to the headquarters of the Minustah to reiterate its commitment, among other thing, to support the ambitious operation which consists in planting 222 million trees over 5 years, promising to return before the end of the year in Haiti, to monitor this project.