Why Planting More Trees isn’t Enough
An effective solution to deforestation in Haiti must take into account the reasons behind the issue at hand. No singular cause is solely responsible for the 96% loss of forest. The reasons span the political, economic and home economic. One concrete culprit is the production and use of charcoal.
It’s an economic concern as much as it is a household concern. People will cut down trees to make charcoal, a process that can greatly damage the soil. The charcoal is then sold domestically; individuals and families use the charcoal for cooking, predominantly.
Charcoal, in a sense, is a method of getting by. Need money? Make and sell charcoal. Charcoal is also engrained in lifestyle. Need to eat? Of course you do. Charcoal is then necessary to cook your food. The cycle perpetuates itself, however the natural cycle is not complete: trees don’t grow back anywhere near as quickly as they are taken down.
One alternative is to cook with a rocket stove, a highly efficient which requires significantly less charcoal. Sadhana Forest Haiti has taken on an initiative to introduce and incorporate rocket stoves within the community of Anse à Pitres, and other projects work to establish a greater presence of rocket stoves in Haiti. The rocket stove is composed of clay and organic matter. I was a volunteer with Sadhana in 2013. We used donkey dung, tera rouge (“red earth”/clay) and water to make bricks. The bricks were then assembled into a stove on site.
Fuel efficient, less polluting, and inexpensive to make, the rocket stove is one alternative to slow down the process of deforestation and environmental damage. To be sure, rocket stoves still require charcoal, and so they may not yet be the ultimate answer to the daunting task at hand: to restore a traumatically devastated environment through everyday practices.
Reforestation could potentially become an economic boom if workers were paid to plant trees. Eddy Jonas of Gaia Ansapit tells me that employing people is part of his vision for the grassroots organization, which delves into community gardening as well as reforestation. eddy uses permaculture design, a sustainable ecological model that he has been certified in since 2012. Thousands of trees must be planted, hundreds of thousands, to revitalize the nation's wilderness.
What ever the solution may be, it is certainly multi-layered:
• it requires an alternative to charcoal fuel that is renewable and clean
• it requires an alternative economy to the current domestic charcoal industry
• it requires restorative actions to replenish the top-soil that has been depleted
• it requires quality reforestation efforts that do not cause harm to the current ecosystem