In 1956 my father Dr. Richard Bond purchased a tract of forested land at Estate Bellevue for the purpose of establishing a Mahogany farm for reforestation.
At the time the promising market for Mahogany seed and seedlings was Puerto Rico, which had been heavily deforested by cattle ranchers and charcoal burners. With the sharp decline of Puerto Rican sugar more livestock is raised in former cane fields permitting the reforestation of uplands. Their own tree farms now provide adequate sources of reforestation materials. The households of Puerto Rico have electrified.
Haiti, by contrast, has gotten progressively worse as even in the cities the majority of people are off the grid. Charcoal burning there continues to be the main source of fuel for both urban and rural Haitians. The result is that original forest trees of any height now only cover 4 percent of the island. Everywhere else, except for fruit trees or coffee shade trees, the trees, which reach a substantial size, are cut down for fuel.
The best market for the reforestation from our family's tree farm and our island's conservation programs is now Haiti. There are reforestation programs in Haiti but the
effort there is a small measure compared to the larger number of Haitian woodcutters. The principal species used is tan tan leucaena leucaphylla and leucaena glauca.
The most successful planting project has been the use of trees to protect shade grown coffee.
I think Mahogany would be most useful planted as buffer zones around the National Parks. The woodcutters would cut the zone first tipping off rangers to patrol, stalling damage to the biodiversity in the Park.
There are techniques for tree conservation, which could be taught to Haitians "coppicing", and "pollarding". Coppicing consists of cutting down trees when they reach 12 feet, but then safeguarding their root structures because they regenerate from the stump and it prevents soil erosion. Pollarding consists of trimming off low-lying branches. The materials thus collected can be burnt for charcoal without furthering the disastrous practice visible around Gonaive. If the root structures had been retained many of the thousand dead would be still alive.
When I read of the Haitians washed up on our shores I wonder if any have arborist training or inclination. Would they be willing to learn it and go back? I say bring Haitians in for six months on rotation. Show them the forest conservation techniques on St. Croix, so much in need in Haiti, to thin and trim and then send them back after they have earned the U.S. minimum wage for six months.
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