Foret des Pins, Haiti (IOCC) Cool, misty mornings on the mountains of Haiti's Foret des Pins create the perfect conditions for planting young pine seedlings on the steep barren slopes, and local farmers work hard to fill the empty spaces. A 79,000 acre preserve once covered in dense forests of pine, Foret des Pins was cleared of its vast stands of trees over the years by local residents for construction lumber, to produce cooking charcoal and to make way for cabbage and potato fields. The short-term survival solutions took their toll on the stripped land, as soil became less fertile and susceptible to dangerous landslides in the heavy tropical rains, driving away many of the young mountain villagers to neighboring Dominican Republic in search of work.
Deforestation has long been a challenge in Haiti, but it was worsened by the 2010 earthquake, leading to widespread erosion and landslides. At one time more than 70% of Haiti's dramatic landscape was covered in forest; today, less than 2% of this original forest cover remains, most of it in the isolated mountains of the Foret des Pins and Parc Macaya. In partnership with Lutheran World Federation, IOCC is working with Haiti's remote mountain farming communities to bring the forests back to life and preserve vital watersheds needed to keep soil fertile and the land stable. The reforestation effort targeting 370 acres of the highly deforested areas of Macaya and Foret des Pins is designed to not only stabilize the environment but also help create sustainable jobs for the locals.
With $100,000 in financial and technical support from IOCC, community-based organizations in the region selected the lands to be reforested and hired the local workers who would be responsible for maintaining the tree nurseries and plantations. During the six-month project, eight tree nurseries with reliable access to water were built, native and fruit tree seeds were planted and grown into seedlings, and a system was created for transporting the seedlings to mountainside plantations where they would be transplanted and nurtured to maturity.
Sowing the seeds of understanding the long-term value of reforestation and empowering locals with the tools needed to manage the area's natural resources reaps the added benefit of improved health through revitalized food security and access to water, so important to Haitian farmers like Renaud, who wants to ensure a better future for his children. As the mountainous lands of Foret des Pins and Parc Macaya grow more resilient through reforestation, the people of the forest gain strength in their newfound knowledge and respect for the lands they call home.