Government-backed campaign aims to double Caribbean country’s forest cover by 2016
More tree cover is considered essential if Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is to raise living standards.
“Deforestation and poverty are very closely linked in Haiti,” said Lalande. “It has been clearly identified in various studies as one of the main causes of poverty here, leading to degraded soil, decreasing agricultural yields, water scarcity, decreasing farming income and potentially malnutrition, in particular in rural areas.”
It also worsens the impact of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and the recent hurricane Sandy. “Just one day of continuous rain is devastating, it can cause catastrophe,” said Thomas, referring to the frequent mudslides that roll down Haiti’s brown, bare mountains, burying thousands, in the rainy season from May to October.
The global average of forest cover is 9%-12%, with countries such as Suriname and Bhutan exceeding 60%. The Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbour on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, has lush forests but satellite photos show Haiti is all but bare.
“This is a Haitian problem: every Haitian is guilty. We did not fight to prevent it, we are used to it now and we live with it as a natural problem,” Thomas said.