Friday, December 18, 2009


Since 1956, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) has provided vital health and economic recovery resources to the inhabitants of Haiti’s Artibonite Valley. HAS has always been more than a hospital—it works with Haitians to revitalize and improve the health and well-being of the over 300,000 inhabitants of that region. As a hospital program, the HAS Haiti Timber Re-Introduction Project (HTRIP) is unique amongst reforestation efforts. The project intends to have a range of positive impacts on people’s lives in this region: improved economic stability, and the basis for combating the environmental problems that lead to malnutrition and other serious health conditions. We haven't talked much about HTRIP on this blog, but that's just because we're so busy with this exciting project. Since its inception in 2005, HTRIP has become increasingly effective, despite its relatively small budget. This past summer, HTRIP added 5 new communities to the program, including over 1,050 graduates of its education programs. Now, there is a total of 35 participating communities involved in HTRIP, who have grown over 80,000 seedlings!

To boot, a pair of young filmmakers recently travelled to Haiti, and made a short film about the project, which we hope will be ready to show you in early 2010!

We recently received some seasonal updates from our collaborators in Deschapelles. Here's what they have to say!

Since October, our reforestation project has spent a good deal of time collecting data on the project's progress to date, throughout all the 35 participating communities. At present, we're really analyzing where we ought to focus our efforts for the coming year and beyond. Though this is a tedious effort, it still is not as exhausting as carving out terraces in the hills or building rock retaining walls as we do at the beginning of each year.

Most days, our team of about a dozen technicians splits into smaller groups, and we ride up to the more remote communities on motorcycles or ATV's, or occasionally (as distance and road quality dictate) our Landcruiser. Having arrived, we meet with the local community leader and walk with them to the plots. IT's normal to find only two or three plots on the side of one steep mountain, and often these plots have a great deal of distance between them.

After reaching each plot, we verify the owner of that plot, as well as the number, quality and length of the walls or canals within it, and the number of trees. Later in the spring, we'll start to measure the growth of each tree in relation to their distance from taller surrounding trees, neighboring canals and retaining walls, and tree mortality.

At this time of year (the dry season) our reforestation plots don't always look as one might normally imagine. The trees are planted earlier in the year, with the other crops the landowner has decided to grow. Young cedars, flamboyants, mahogonies and frenns are planted at one-yard distances from each other, and are interlaced with crops such as squash, peas, corn and millet. Now, in December, the millet is just about ready to harvest, towering with ten-foot stalks, and our seedlings seem lost in the mix. Fortunately, our trees are shaded from the brutal sun by other crops, and many of them will survive this hard season as a result.

In addition to data collection, HTRIP has been continuing regular instruction courses in new and old communities on some of the best strategies for soil conservation and sustainable farming strategies in the face of such harsh climate changes, and such tumultuous landscapes.

Stay tuned for more HTRIP updates in the new year!

See an HTRIP Slideshow here.

More info about HTRIP and other Friends projects here.

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