Trees Protecting and Educating Children In Haiti

How trees in Haiti trees became partners in educating, protecting and feeding the children.

Here at AST we want to reforest and rewild the world. However, in some areas of the world such as Haiti one has to start with agroforestry. But why, when rewilding is so important, focus on agroforestry?

There has to be a dose of realism when it comes to tree planting and addressing the reasons why they were felled in the first place is of prime importance. Fruit trees address food security problems and they are planted and distributed through the farmer cooperatives of Haiti. They are also distributed through the International Child Care Schools.

Feed the Children

The ICCM has been working in Haiti since 1966. Haiti is their largest country of operation, with nearly 5,000 children supported by individual sponsors and thousands of others benefiting from their school lunch program and high school scholarships. The Haitian team runs 53 elementary schools and six high schools, spread throughout the country – serving over 20,000 students total.

The Haiti Food Fund is a major program of ICCM in Haiti. If you were to ask a child, “What’s your favourite subject in school?” They will probably answer, “Lunch!”

Poverty and Food Security

For many children in Haiti, lunch is a primary motivator to attend school. Sometimes it’s their only meal of the day. Contributions to the Haiti Food Fund provide school lunches for 20,000 children at their schools. This need is urgent year-round and some schools offer lunch programs even during school breaks so that the children don’t go hungry.

59% of the population of Haiti live in poverty. On top of this, a further 25% live in extreme poverty. To give you an idea of how extreme the problem is there are many people who have moved into the cemeteries because there is no where else for them to shelter with families sharing the tombs of the dead.

For this reason, food security is a prime concern. After years of deforestation the consequences for the local ecology have been disastrous. These include, but are not limited to crop failure, flooding, soil erosion and water table depletion.

How Poverty Causes Deforestation in Haiti

The primary reason for this cycle of devastation is poverty and because of poverty now just 2% of Haiti’s original forest survives. This is because the main use for the wood is charcoal production for cooking. The poor simply do not have the option of other alternatives. So, the cycle continues as more trees are cut down, the land suffers even more and farmers become ever poorer. The proportion of children below the age of 15 in 2010 was 36.2%, so children account for a significant proportion of the population.

Hills with no trees in Haiti
Deforested hills in Haiti . Image by David Mark