The forest cover in Haiti has dropped from 80% of the total area in 1492 to 30% in 2014 – and not 3.5% as is usually claimed based on an FAO estimation which was proven wrong . In 1983 Jean Claude Duvalier’s government decided to consider this problem and established the Parc National de La Visite, in agreement with the 42 families living in this biodiversity “hotspot”. In 2012 a conflict erupted between the peasants living close to the parc and the new government together with the local NGO Fondation Seguin, who are working on the preservation of the forest. The peasants were considered by the government and Fondation Seguin as the main cause of deforestation inside the parc .
This environmentalist perspective puts emphasis on the technical act of cutting wood, by opposition to the socio-historical context. The practices of the peasants involve charcoal making, which is wood intensive and therefore contributes to most of the current deforestation . The proposed solutions to this purely technical problem are of three kinds. The first involves the creation of an environmental police who would prevent locals from cutting wood and cultivating where the risk of erosion is too high (steep slopes). The second solution is about developing and educating the local peasants to a set of agricultural methods and technologies to reduce their dependency to charcoal, such as agroforestry to combine ecological preservation and financial sustainability, or domestic technologies to replace charcoal by gas or renewable energies for cooking. The third one is a form of social engineering aimed at various “social variables” (education, income, type of cultures, sizes of the houses) that influence wood cutting . According to Fondation Seguin, the local peasants are considered to be too poor and enslaved to their material needs to have any environmental responsibility. The poor would be bound to perform damaging extractive activities, and they would need to be educated to environmentalism to become aware of their environment and the importance of conservation .
Actually, the serious erosion problems caused by deforestation mainly affect the poorer peasants in the Mornes, pushing their farming activities toward sloping ground and reducing their production. Their already scarce income gets scarcer, and it strengthens their dependency on charcoal to be able to meet their basic needs - which are not covered by the government .
The local peasants, while acknowledging the need for a reforestation project and the necessity of implementing such solutions, point out the limits of both the diagnosis of the problem and its responses . Far from recognizing a shared political responsibility, the environmental policies paradoxically keep insisting on their responsibility for deforestation while considering them as irresponsible . They would thereby have to refrain their hunger, renounce to yet unavailable public services and forget their desire for a real recognition because of the environmental police. They would also have to undertake the huge responsibility of reforestation alone for the benefits of the whole island while putting aside and abandoning social justice .
Their perspective based on history indicates that the origins of deforestation lies in the colonisation period, when the first massive land-clearings were conducted, opening the way for intensive land use with the sugar cane agriculture . They also point out the numerous sawmills which were built by constraint during the XIXth century to pay back the “colonial debt” they had contracted with France when they achieved independence , and more recently under the Duvalier dictatorship to export valuable wood. Even more than the actual action of cutting wood, a major local peasant organisation points out the colonial constitution of Haiti and the resulting “maroons”, the fugitive slaves who tried to escape from the colonial world and by their survival practices contributed to deforestation. The peasants would be the descendants of the maroons, living in a different “world” than the urban population or the environmentalists from Fondation Seguin . While recognising the damaging effect of their current practices on the forest, they also claim that they were historically the defenders of these forests in the absence of the State. The forest is still actually important for them and they call for both technical alternatives - to charcoal or firewood - and human consideration .
Other factors, such as the creole pig eradication campaign which happened in the 1970s under the pressure of American and Canadian authorities to fight swine fever also contributed to lower peasants’ income, and to strengthen their dependency on charcoal .
This conflict peaked on the 23rd of July 2012 when the delegation of the Haitian government came to expel the 142 families living inside or close to the Parc. The peasants refused to leave their homes – a compensation of 50,000 gourdes (about 470 euros) was proposed, but not any housing alternative was offered to them  – as they had expressed in previous meetings with government officials who were trying to come to an agreement with them. After multiple unsuccessful summons, government representatives’ henchmen started to destroy the first house with hammers. The peasants protested and started casting rocks on the men. Guns were fired, and 4 peasants were killed together with 2 cows, while one policeman was harmed . Despite their presence, neither the government nor the police claimed any responsibility about the death of the peasants, and there was no subsequent legal proceeding . The State gave 150,000 gourdes (about 1420 euros) to the victim’s families for the funerals.
This action was seen by the peasants as a way for the State to hide their crime. In response to that, they built a massive concrete grave, house-shaped and particularly visible amid the forest as a symbol of their profound mistrust. Peasants finally call for a different way to live together in a world in which Haitian peasants would be recognised in their human dignity, as stated by M. Antoine, one of the local peasants, in an interview with M. Ferdinand in 2012 “[The government] needs to give us space so that we can keep on living because [we are persons] !” (translated from French) .
In 2016, the local families were still living close to the parc and no other action had been intended to expel them .