Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, faces an environmental crisis as a result of relentless deforestation. Less than 1.5 percent of the country’s natural forest remains and this loss of forests causes severe soil erosion at a rate of 35 million tons of soil each year. This type of devastation sets in motion a cycle of subsequent natural resource depletion. Experts estimate that an additional 5 percent of the cropland currently available will be lost each year until it is either completely gone or steps are taken to eradicate the problem. This continued erosion places an agricultural stress on the land and also leads to many water deficits and droughts because the soil is not there to hold and retain moisture. In addition to placing stresses on farming and agriculture, the extreme soil erosion leads to flooding rivers which carry with them heavy loads of sediment. Eventually this sediment ends up out in the ocean where the pollution destroys the natural coral habitat and devastates the fish stock.
Initially many of the trees were destroyed during times of political conflict and oppression; today poverty acts as the driving force behind the continued deforestation and decline in natural resources. As many Haitians struggle to survive, this intense poverty drives them to exacerbate the crisis by depleting the trees for use in cooking and producing charcoal. They need to be given a realistic alternative as they try to provide food for their families.
In the face of Haiti’s massive deforestation, steps must be taken now to restore the land, providing renewed agricultural and economic opportunities.
As Starfish Ministries continues to serve in Haitian communities, we have started some tree planting projects in order to act as good stewards of God’s world and to provide renewed agricultural and economic opportunities.
The leucaena tree is a fast-growing tree that is extremely valuable to the land and offers many positive uses. It is capable of growing as much as 25 feet in the first year in a tropical climate and has been known to the Mayan Indians for centuries as “the fertilizer tree” for its ability to add nutrients to the soil. Planting leucaenas helps to control soil erosion, enables hillsides to retain water, and restores vital humus to the soil. In addition, leucaenas can be cut for firewood and they continue to grow back, thereby providing a continuing source of renewable energy. Leucaena wood also can be made into excellent charcoal and this can be a way for people to generate income as well. The wood and leaves of the leucaena offer many other uses such as food for livestock and timber for fences and poles.
After fast-growing renewable trees like the leucaena are established, the land and soil are much more receptive to other crops and trees that provide food and generate income. All in all, planting leucaena trees can prepare the way for sustainable agriculture and provide new methods of generating income and supporting economic development.
Thus far in our tree planting project, 2000 leucaena seeds have already been planted and 13,000 more will be planted in the near future. We also have seeds for moringa trees that will be planted. The moringa is fast-growing and provides many nutritional benefits. It is rich in several vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A and C, calcium, magnesium, and iron. The leaves can be utilized in meals or made into a nutritious tea.
We are excited about this new endeavor and eager to see how God will work through it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where briers grew, myrtles will sprout up. This miracle will bring great honor to the LORD’s name; it will be an everlasting sign of His power and love. –Isaiah 55:12-13