Our reforestation partners in Guatemala, La Asociación de Forestería Comunitaria de Guatemala Ut’z Che’, have been very busy this year! Just in 2013, they have already planted 85,450 trees in 4 different communities throughout Guatemala, with more to be planted by the end of the year. Species planted include moringa, lemon, orange, pine, papaya, tamarind, noni, and guanaba.
These trees are important for both environmental protection and economic development. Local communities use these trees to improve watershed and soil health, as fruit orchards, and as future sources of timber and fine hardwood.
We are working with our long-time NGO partner, Proleña, in Nicaragua, to establish the National Center for Biomass Energy & Climate Change near La Paz Centro, Nicaragua.
The Center will be an educational resource where communities can learn about managing forests, renewable energy, cleantech, and clean cookstoves. In addition to the core training, we will develop the Center as a global facility, where people from around the world will be empowered with the skills that will help them adapt to climate change in their region.
Features of the National Center for Biomass Energy & Climate Change:
Usually when I return to Colorado from an extended period abroad, I notice many differences, and breathe a sigh of relief as I enter the world of the predictable, the reliable and the comfortable. However, as I left the airport in June 2012, after my 4 week stay in Haiti, there was a striking similarity in the air that brought my work full circle. It was sunset, and 70 miles northwest of Denver International Airport, I could see the tremendous smoke cloud of the High Park fire, burning the parched forests just miles from my home in Fort Collins, CO.
After the fires in our state, heavy rains brought thousands of tons of blackened sediment and tree parts into homes, over roads, onto agricultural fields, debilitating these vulnerable communities even further. From one natural disaster to another, severe swings in weather patterns like the ones we have seen recently in Colorado can be brutally destructive to people in all walks of life. Sadly, this debilitation is almost a yearly occurrence in the remote and remarkably barren wilds of northwest Haiti, where I spent 3 weeks before returning to safe, reliable and predictable (!!!) Colorado.
All of Haiti is experiencing a severe drought at the moment – a condition which puts agriculturally dependent communities in the crosshairs of hunger and destitution. The irony is that they are on the cusp of hurricane season, which almost always swings the pendulum too far in the opposite direction – flooding communities, causing landslides and ruining already mangled roadways. These extremes cause incredible unpredictability in what to (attempt to) grow, how to save, how to plan, and who of the family to keep in school, to send to the fields, or to send to the city for a “better” life. There are no guarantees, and no easy ways to reduce risk to one’s livelihood.
From our years of experience working with trees and biomass energy as a renewable resource, we are engaging struggling farmers throughout the region to examine their land and their agricultural productivity, seeking to dedicate under-utilized portions of their land to tree farming. Trees over 5 years of age can provide myriad benefits in food security, income stability, and soil conservation and sustained yield management can ensure these benefits are provided over generations.
By focusing on the economic benefits that trees provide over time (fuel, fruit, poles, lumber) and the environmental benefits (soil conservation, soil rehabilitation, water retention, shade), we are making the argument that banking value in trees will have a net positive impact on regional sustainability and economy over time. By providing the right incentives, the right team of local extensionists to provide technical support, access to high-quality seedlings from our tree-nurseries, and building wealth through self-driven community savings and loans groups, we are creating the foundation necessary to get farmers on board, and to plant and care for trees as if their future depended on it.
To be part of bringing positive change to northwest Haiti, please donate to TWP on our homepage at www.treeswaterpeople.org, with “Haiti Trees” in the comment field.
As part of his fellowship with the Center for Collaborative Conservation, International Director Sebastian Africano is working with our partners in Haiti to help local farmers develop more sustainable sources of income by adding diverse, agro-forestry plantations to their current farming practices. This will reduce their reliance on charcoal production and restore forest cover on Haitian landscapes, a country with only 2 percent of natural forest remaining. This proof of concept project will set the stage for a model that can be widely replicated for the purpose of recovering and rehabilitating Haiti’s natural resources while developing sustainable livelihoods for rural smallholders throughout the country.