Part 2 in a Series: Deforestation in Haiti
JÉRÉMIE, HAITI – Agronomist Boursiquot Edger says that a number of factors – both natural and manmade – can explain deforestation in Haiti.
Natural factors include climate change and insufficient rainfall, says Edger, who specializes in the environment and teaches botany at several universities in Haiti.
He also attributes the diminished green cover in Haiti to human exploitation of the land. This includes cutting down trees to produce charcoal; contaminating the soil with chemical fertilizer, which prevents the future growth of plants; and exploiting the terrain in an unplanned and uncontrolled way. He cites the lack of a building code and supervision of land distribution and construction.
He acknowledges that the Grand’Anse area is the Haitian department that has best avoided this deforestation. When compared to other areas in Haiti, the Grand’Anse still has its green cover, Edger says. It still has many trees and a large plant cover.
But the construction of a new highway linking Jérémie, capital of the Grand’Anse, to Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital, may threaten this.
The lack of accessibility between Jérémie and Port-au-Prince has shielded the Grand’Anse department from the rapid deforestation plaguing the country in recent years. But the construction of a new highway, meant to boost transportation and trade, threatens that. As a dispute between the government and the company building the road has paused construction, Haitians have time to weigh the economic growth versus the environmental risk at stake. Environmentalists and government officials agree that the best solution is regulating the export of wood used to produce charcoal and raising awareness about reforestation.
From 2000 to 2005, the deforestation rate in Haiti accelerated more than 20 percent, according to the U.S. Haiti Reforestation Act of 2011, which was reported to the U.S. Senate without amendment in May 2012. Tropical forests covered 60 percent of Haiti in 1923, but just 2 percent of that forest cover remains today.
Haiti is off track to meet targets to ensure environmental sustainability as part of the Millennium Development Goals, a U.N. anti-poverty initiative that countries worldwide have agreed to complete by 2015. Reducing the rate of loss of the nation’s forest cover is one of these targets.
Citizens of the Grand’Anse agree that the department is lucky to have retained its green cover as the rest of the country has suffered this deforestation.
They say that because subsistence farmers in Jérémie produce abundant fruits and vegetables, there is little pressure to pursue cash crops, including cutting down trees to produce charcoal.
“The population of Jérémie does not cut down trees as much because they have enough to eat,” says Jean Louis Fabrice, a management student at the University of the Nouvelle Grand’Anse.
Pierre Renel, an agronomy student at the University of the Nouvelle Grand’Anse, attributes Jérémie’s unique green cover to its remoteness.
“Jérémie stayed green with trees and fruit because there was no road,” Renel says. “Transport to go other places was very difficult. Maybe that is the reason we got this gift.”
Flobert St. Fleur, the mayor of