Haiti’s mountains, once covered with lush, green forest, are now brown and bare. Trees have been cut down for firewood and to make space for crops and homes, with just 2% of original forest cover left.
In this poem, Christian Aid’s Haiti programme manager, Starry Sprenkle, reflects on her recent visit to one of Haiti’s last remaining forests:
There is a forest in Haiti
Up on a mountaintop
Where tall pine trees stand in solemn fraternity,
Where daisies pop up, and birds dart about,
And it feels a bit like Yosemite.
But all too often the trees are battle scarred,
Blackened by fire and bloodied yellow by hatchets, falling,
For desperate people who need a harvest of wood fattened with sap, or charcoal, or 'lacho',
Hungry mouths calling
A lack of forest cover exposes people to the impact of natural disasters. Without trees, soil is also easily washed away in the rainy season causing large mudslides which can destroy crops and bury people and buildings.
Deforestation also degrades soil, meaning families grow less, negatively affecting their diet and income. Deforestation is therefore intrinsically linked to poverty and hunger.
There is a forest in Haiti,
On a high plateau
Where the wildlife is cows and mules,
Where springs run dry, gentle rivers turn to ravines, and the land is pockmarked by sinkholes
Where people farm in the forest, if they don't clear it, and no-one can stop them, because they need it.
The effects of deforestation are clear in Haiti – more than half of all food is imported as agriculture continues to decline. Food prices are unaffordable for many - 75% of people live on less than $2 (£1.28) per day.
But my friend, the point is, there is a forest in Haiti
So when the mist rolls in thick,
Close your weary eyes and dream, plant trees in your sleep,
And when the mist rolls out, get on your feet, heal the forest,
Bring back the birds, help the needy
Christian Aid, a member of ACT Alliance in Haiti, is supporting a reforestation programme, part of a wider project helping communities to be better prepared to respond to disasters and the effects of climate change.
100 families in the remote mountain community of Seguin have planted 50,000 forest and fruit trees and another 180,000 trees will be planted.
We have also worked with 50 families who live on the banks of the Massacre River to plant 25,000 fruit and forest trees, along with 36,000 bamboo and grasses to stabilise the river banks prone to landslides.
Both communities attended workshops and training sessions to explain the importance of agro-forestry. For them, the trees will not only protect the communities’ land and enrich the soil, but will provide food and a source of income.
Have faith, persevere, in the pain there is beauty,
Though the work never ends,
There is and will be a forest in Haiti.
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