The Haiti Reforestation Project was born out of a need to rehabilitate the environmental crisis in the country. Estimates suggest that 98 percent of Haiti’s forests have been cut. The Republic of Haiti is the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and ranks 154th of 177 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index (2006). Haiti is the only country in the Americas on the UN list of Least Developed Countries. Already, ninety-eight percent of the forests have been cut down, as most the overcrowded population is dependent on charcoal-based energy (derived from wood), to survive. Deforestation has meant that 70% of land is not cultivable there is no more lumber to sell and feed the family extreme soil erosion and deforestation have made Haiti’s environment one of the most devastated in the world. Experts say that the most effective way to reverse the situation is through grassroots efforts through local communities.
Art of Living Action
In November 2007, a team of five volunteers (two from Canada, two from US and one from Egypt) went to Les Cayes, in the South Western part of Haiti to give a special 10-days Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) to 35 Haitian youth and eight community leaders. The program was a complete success and initiated a long-term relationship between Haiti and The Art of Living. Our YLTP program is designed to revive and enrich communities through the upliftment and transformation of youth. When given the tools to see clearly, young people have the vision to do something positive in their communities. In this case, YLTP Haiti is meant to be part of a larger project vision of helping to reforest the island of Haiti by inspiring its youth to take responsibility. During the last YLTP, the participants, planted more than two hundred fruit trees and sponsored the planting of another 150 trees. The goal of this project – which began in 2007 – is to plant and nurture 1.5 million trees in Haiti. As part of the efforts, The Art of Living is partnering with other local NGO’s to make this happen. One of them, The Friends of Petite Anse Foundation, has secured commitments from both local government and private landowners for over 30,000 acres of land to be used in reforestation, soil conservation and education for the future phase of the program. The project empowers youth to bring about socio-economic development by conducting Youth Leadership Training Programs (YLTPs) which:
- Remove individual stresses through stress-elimination programs
- Strengthen the individual by personal development techniques
- Impart technical training on proper and sustainable reforestation techniques
A team from The Art of Living is visiting Haiti every three months to teach more youth and establish permanent reforestation projects in partnership with local farmers and grassroots organizations throughout the country.