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Bridging Planet and Prosperity: Sustainable Agroforestry for Long-Term Prosperity in Haiti

Mobilize farmers in Pichon, Haiti toward ecologically appropriate and sustainable agroforestry to promote short- and long-term prosperity.

Photo of Chang Lee
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Haitians depend on agriculture for their livelihood, so, environmental degradation is directly connected to economic prosperity. Unstable agricultural livelihoods lead farmers to adopt negative coping strategies—such as cutting down trees to produce charcoal for income—which leads to even worse agricultural, environmental and economic outcomes. With only 2% of its surface area forested, Haiti is in a precarious environmental situation. This is compounded by 63% of the land sloping at a grade of 20% or more. Without trees and shrubs to hold the soil, Haiti, which is often visited by tropical storms and affected by climate change, loses much of its fertile soil to erosion, making the land less suitable for agricultural production over time. When poor rural farmers make decisions trading long-term stability for minimal short-term benefits, they are making the best economic decision they know how to make, according to their analysis of their situation. Any change in behavior in this matter will require a change in understanding and beliefs through new information and experiential evidence. World Relief will expand a pilot to Pichon to restore hope in once failing coffee plantations, which holds soil well, using the following process: Engagement: Lead the community through a process in which they determine for themselves what is best for their long-term stability and what it will take to reach it. Demonstration: Inspire community members to try new methods through field demonstrations using existing resources, introduction of minor external elements, and through visits to other projects in Haiti that demonstrate viability of certain methods being considered. Test: Test pilot through direct application of proposed methods to raise individual interest. Collective Action: Channel economic self-interest toward community and environmental gains, mobilize community members to work together to establish and manage seedling nurseries and other labor intensive work

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are poor rural farming families in Pichon, Haiti.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Many reforestation efforts do not address that much of the land requiring renewed forest coverage is comprised of small parcels of private lands. These private parcels are managed by poor rural farmers whose primary concerns are their families' immediate economic needs. In most cases, poor decisions in long-term ecological management of these lands (i.e. cutting fruit trees for charcoal) can be traced back directly to an immediate, short-term need. Such needs are often a matter of life or death. Successful reforestation must mobilize collective action also fueled by collective self-interest and clear economic viability. Rewards of such collective action must be both long-term and immediate to attract farmers who must balance their short-term and long-term economic needs. World Relief promotes agricultural approaches that prove long and short-term economic viability to individual farmers to motivate communities to take actions at a scale only accomplished through collective action.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

World Relief and its partnership with local churches creates the potential for broad community saturation and catalyzes a movement of systemic change, resulting in thriving families, flourishing communities, and strengthened churches - both in the U.S. and abroad.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

World Relief approached coffee farmers in Thiotte in 2010, many were eliminating coffee plantations (an important soil and forest protector in the mountainous region) and planting annual crops such as corn and beans instead. Now, communities plant thousands of new coffee trees. When asked about their motivation, community members did not cite environmental benefits; they cited the economic interests of their families. This inspired World Relief to replicate this in other vulnerable communities.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Globally, climate change further puts livelihoods of rural Haitian farmers at risk. Small islands such as Hispañola are disproportionately at risk in the face of rising oceans and extreme fluctuations in weather patterns caused by weather phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña. By the summer of 2016, many Haitian farmers had lost their 4th consecutive harvest. Only months later, a 5th harvest would be lost to Hurricane Matthew. Unstable agricultural livelihoods often lead farmers to adopt negative coping strategies—such as cutting down trees to produce charcoal for income—which, in the long-run, lead to even worse agricultural and environmental outcomes. Locally, church leaders in Pichon have requested agricultural and environmental support, as the soil is the source of the region’s primary livelihood. The current generation has witnessed the effects of environmental degradation first-hand and are ready to do something about it.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

World Relief (WR) currently partners with 39 churches in Pichon, led in collaboration by their 3 zonal Church Network Committees (CNC). Over the last 3+ years, WR has mobilized these networks and built their capacity to work in partnership with each other and the community, empowering them to serve the most vulnerable in their communities. CNCs lead their community in initiatives on projects including water-point repairs, fundraising for local schools, home repairs for vulnerable families and building new roads and infrastructure. Projects are community directed and funded, with CNCs providing oversight and vision. CNCs also have good relations with local government officials and successfully petitioned for government support in road projects. As CNCs capacity increases, WR introduces and coaches them to manage and sustain programs more technical in nature, such as village savings groups, agricultural initiatives, family strengthening programs and disaster risk reduction.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Pichon is ripe for environmental and agricultural development, having all necessary elements for environmental prosperity (ie. water, favorable climate). Committed farmers work hard to provide for their families with donated time, effort, tools and resources to laborious projects. This was possible by the unity and collaboration built between local church, community and government leaders. It is well understood the local church is a key to unlocking the potential of a community in Haiti.

Geographic Focus

The project will take place in Pichon, 6th communal section of Belle Anse Commune, Southeast Haiti.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months are required for the project implementation: 6 months for community engagement, 18 months to demonstrate and test pilot, and 12 months for collective action.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Ellen Davis

Chang Lee It is great to hear about your expansion into Pinchon, Haiti. I have no doubt that this work will benefit families there in a holistic and sustainable way that both preserves the environment and empowers the families to provide for their children. We have learned so much from World Relief over the years, even back when we were known as Floresta (our founding name). Partnership between World Relief and Plant With Purpose in Haiti after the Earthquake was a beautiful picture of collaboration and working together to better serve and equip Haitian families. Thanks for your work!