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News Notes by Tom Gill

February 2010

One Approach to Haiti Reforestation

By Stan Hovey

            When I was a boy 8-10, I lived at the Forêt de Pin in Haiti, about 60 miles southeast from Port-Au-Prince.  My father was a forester and in charge of the forest operations for the Société Haitiano-Americaine de Développement Agricole (SHADA) at the time. This period was a hopeful time for Haiti/U.S. relations after a difficult 19 years of United States’ occupation of Haiti. The forest operations at Forêt de Pin mainly consisted of lumbering and building a sustainable forest of Pinus Occidentalis; which grew in that mountainous region.

            I became a forester in 1955 from the New York State College of Forestry, specializing in photogrammetric engineering where I spent most of my vocational career. Over the years, I followed Haiti’s ups and downs and developed a desire to go back to make a difference with regards to their tragic lack of trees across the country. In 2007 I made my first of many trips and am continuing to do so as long as I can.

             I decided to concentrate on teaching the children reforestation and natural environment recovery. I started by joining a United Methodist Mission Team going to Jeremie, Haiti. I met and worked with a terrific interpreter, Mr. Bergemann Abiello. He and I went to schools and orphanages giving the children a bit of Haitian history about how the landscape was 60-70 years ago and teaching reforestation. I had my mother’s scrapbook with about 250 black and white photos to show. Hardly anyone I met, including adults, had ever seen such pictures of their country. One person said, it should be in a museum and another said it was worth $50,000 if I was ever kidnapped and needed ransom! Anyway, the scrapbook gave me a bit of credibility and was interesting to children and adults, alike. I have pictures of President Lescot, who was president at the time, Les Holdridge who worked with my father (he taught me how to play chess and started me into collecting postage stamps), and many scenes you do not see (and some you still see) today.

            After classroom teaching, we would take the children into the field and have them plant seedlings and show how to do things in practice. I would encourage them to think of going into further schooling in the environmental sciences--forestry, or agriculture. For the last 3 years, I have been going back to the same schools, contacting other organizations, such as Trees For The Future, some folks in the Haitian government in Haiti and within the Haitian Embassy in Washington, DC. I have been trying to learn the various Haitian tree species by obtaining the book Bwa Yo. I have visited and corresponded with Les Whitmore of ISTF and he has been most helpful, by providing me with many items related to Caribbean tree nurseries and ecological study maps for Haiti. He has helped point me in directions for other contacts and I am grateful for his assistance.

            As I have done this, I have learned many things and have further appreciated the long time process with many disappointments involved in such an undertaking. The recent earthquake near Port-Au-Prince is an example of “two steps forward and three steps back” that seems to be the norm in that poor country. I’ve always known and told the children that this reforestation stuff is a 200-300 year deal, but they have to become involved in it NOW! Also, I’ve realized that short-term returns are needed as well as the longer-term tree harvesting. As a result I’ve encouraged the agro-forestry approach to most reforestation efforts, unless the terrain dictates otherwise. Also, I’ve learned that it is one thing to teach reforestation, but another to obtain the seedlings and keep records, etc.

            I have decided to try and develop an interest in establishing a small tree seedling nursery at all the schools in Haiti. I know I will never live long enough to see it happen, but I am convinced if it could begin and expand over the years, the people would catch on and a kind of “Haitian Arbor Day” could evolve. One encouraging thing happened last year. In April, they had a Haitian Flag Day parade in Jeremie and the school children had a procession carrying tree seedlings to plant. The kids will take their land back with a bit of assistance, while the adults in their families are trying to earn a living to survive. Perhaps we in the ISTF can help this process by becoming directly involved and/or encouraging others to do so.

            Please contact me with your ideas.


Stan Hovey


218 Nimcock Road

Urbana VA 23175-2508



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News Notes by Tom Gill

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This page updated: 13 January 2010