Since 2006, Haiti Friends has initiated and developed the Haiti Timber Reintroduction Program (HTRIP), an agroforestry program that services the land of rural Haitian farmers by providing them with a variety of free trees!
Since its inception, HTRIP has planted more than 3 million trees in the mountains around the Artibonite Valley! The program uses an education-based approach by first training Haitians about tree cultivation and then reintroducing a variety of trees to their farming practices.
HTRIP goes beyond putting trees in the ground, it creates a paradigm shift in the way Haitian mountain farmers approach their land through community engagement and education.
During a 10-month intensive training program, farmers learn proper techniques for growing and tending trees, improving water retention in soil, and other land conservation practices. In a country that has been stripped of its forest canopy over the past 500 years (with only an estimated 20% of the original forest remaining), HTRIP provides communities with the resources to not only restore their land's productivity, but improve the overall quality of their lives.
HTRIP FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES
Community Engagement: HTRIP staff work with community groups to help them convert barren and unproductive land on steep hillsides into productive terrain. Community leaders obtain commitments from residents to allocate land for pilot projects, and support initial efforts for land recovery by providing basic tools, education and support for community self-determination.
Community Ownership: Formal written land titles are rare in rural Haiti, but years of use have established community-recognized authority over most of the highland lands, and a community’s commitment of dedicated land sites for HTRIP sites are recognized and protected.
Agroforestry: The combination of trees, interspersed with food crops, creates ecological synergies and both short- and long-term benefits. The restoration of land for agroforestry through erosion control, soil stabilization and water retention establishes a constantly-improving base for agricultural production.
Scientific Foundation: The HTRIP model is based on research on previous attempts at reforestation in Haiti, and on successful agroforestry projects elsewhere in the developing world. The founding director of the HTRIP program, Dr. Starry Sprenkle Hyppolite, based her PhD dissertation on the background research in Haiti and during the first five years of the HTRIP project. Continuing research, in collaboration with the Yale School of Forestry and other institutions, ensures the integration of the HTRIP model with best practices worldwide.
Sustainable Practices: As each community group joins the HTRIP program, the members participate in monthly educational session guided by the HTRIP agricultural specialists. A demonstration site is identified, and field training sessions include the construction of contour canals and rock walls to retain scarce water resources, while the tree roots slow the erosion of valuable topsoil. Tree species are diversified among timber, fruit and nutrient varieties. All are indigenous trees, with seeds collected from the valley and other regions of Haiti.
Economic and Social Gains: As trees grow in the agroforestry plots, they stabilize the soil, and food crops are planted between the trees, safe from the hazards of landslides, providing a secure nutritional base for the families and opportunities for sale of the products in local markets.
Cultural Respect: The entire HTRIP staff is Haitian, and many of the technicians are also farmers in the valley. Communal work days are organized as traditional Kombits, where many hands make the workload light, and the day ends with a hearty meal. At the end of the 9-month educational session, all of the participating communities join in celebration to receive diplomas, enjoy songs, speeches and dances, and to reflect on the shared experiences with members of other HTRIP communities.