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Reforestation project by Fondation Seguin in the Parc National La Visite, Haiti


Description:

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 [1]. 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 [2]. 

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 [3]. 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 [4]. 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 [5].

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 [5].

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 [6]. Far from recognizing a shared political responsibility, the environmental policies paradoxically keep insisting on their responsibility for deforestation while considering them as irresponsible [7]. 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 [7].

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 [8]. 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 [9][10], 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 [5]. 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 [5]. 

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 [7].

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 [5] – 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 [11]. 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 [5]. 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) [7]. 

In 2016, the local families were still living close to the parc and no other action had been intended to expel them [12].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Reforestation project by Fondation Seguin in the Parc National La Visite, Haiti
Country:Haiti
Location of conflict:Parc National La Visite
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Deforestation
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Charcoal
Timber
Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Local NGO Fondation Seguin wants to restore the forest coverage in Parc de La Visite in Haiti. They planted 8,000 trees from 2004 to 2008, and with the new government, they planned to plant 300,000 trees after the 2012 earthquake. A tree nursery that would produce 200,000 seedlings per year was set up. However, forest cover dropped from 6300 ha in 1943 to about 1200 ha in 2016.

The 142 local families were held responsible for this, and the government ordered them to leave before the 1st of May without any compensation first. Financial compensation of 50,000 gourdes (about 470 euros) was eventually proposed to each family. After the 4 peasants were killed, the families received 150,000 gourdes (about 1420 euros). No compensation was offered for the 7 houses which were destroyed and the 2 cows that were killed.

More than 2 million households, and small businesses in Haiti, still rely on wood charcoal to cook. The socioeconomic cost is enormous: exposure to indoor air pollution causes premature deaths of children and respiratory diseases among women forced to cook indoor. It also entails a waste of productive time and energy and, the use of charcoal has a direct and negative impact on the environment, IT ALSO COSTS MORE. Demand for biomass encourages deforestation (30 Million trees cut per year). Most studies have proven that for now, switching to LPG may be the single best solution to reverse, or at least slow down, this environmental disaster. Many barriers impede the conversion to LPG: Purchasing power (76% living with less than dollars 2 a day), No credit mechanism to purchase stove and tank, Availability (a complete kit , was never offered), Weak distribution network to exchange bottles.

Project area:2,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:142 families, and potentially 72% of the population of Haiti which is dependent on charcoal
Start of the conflict:23/03/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Fondation Seguin from Haiti - Reforestation of Parc de La Visite
Relevant government actors:Ministry of the Environment of Haiti (MDE). It was created in November 1994 by the Haitian government to promote sustainable development and encourage environmental conservation.
International and Finance Institutions United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from United States of America - Finance, agricultural intensification, rehabilitation of rural infrastructure, governance of natural resources, collective awareness, public-private-peasant partnership
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) from Germany - regional and technical expertise, management know-how, financing, education to "sustainable development"
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Important local association of peasants for environmental justice

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Landless peasants
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Land occupation
Strikes
Refusal of compensation

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession

Outcome

Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The 142 families could not be evicted, but 4 men were killed and 3 children missing (one of them returned)

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[11] Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH), « Rapport d’enquête sur l’éviction des occupants du parc de la Visite », 8 août 2012, p. 2
https://radiotelevision2000.com/home/?p=19431

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Churches, Christopher E., et al., « Evaluation of forest cover estimates for Haiti using supervised classification of Landsat data », International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, vol. 30, août 2014, p. 203-216.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0303243414000300

[9] Védrine, Emmanuel W. , « Le reboisement d’Haïti, un défi politique et environnemental »
https://www.potomitan.info/vedrine/reboiser.pdf

[8] Bellande, Alex, Haïti déforestée, paysages remodelés, Montréal, Les Éditions du CIDIHCA, 2015
https://lenouvelliste.com/article/168941/haiti-deforestee-paysages-remodeles

[7] Ferdinand, Malcom, Une écologie décoloniale, penser l’écologie depuis le monde caribéen, 2019, édition Seuil collection Anthropocène
https://www.seuil.com/ouvrage/une-ecologie-decoloniale-malcom-ferdinand/9782021388497

[4] Dolisca, Frito, et al., « Land tenure, population pressure, and deforestation in Haiti : The case of Forêt des Pins Reserve », Journal of Forest Economics, vol. 13, no 4, novembre 2017, p. 277-289.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222226689_Land_tenure_population_pressure_and_deforestation_in_Haiti_The_case_of_Fort_des_Pins_Reserve

[3] Michel, Georges, « La fabrication du charbon de bois par distillation du bois (pyrolyse), peut-être la clef du déboisement d’Haïti », The Journal of Haitian Studies, Santa Barbara, Center for Black Studies, University of California, vol. 17, no 1, 2011, p. 274-276
https://www.jstor.org/stable/41711922?seq=1

[5] Ferdinand, Malcom, Penser l’écologie depuis le monde caribéen - Enjeux politiques et philosophiques de conflits écologiques (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haïti, Porto Rico), p. 417-473, thèse de doctorat en science politique, Université Paris Diderot, soutenue le 30 septembre 2016
http://theses.md.univ-paris-diderot.fr/FERDINAND_Malcom_1_va_20160930.pdf

-[5] Ferdinand, Malcom, Penser l’écologie depuis le monde caribéen - Enjeux politiques et philosophiques de conflits écologiques (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haïti, Porto Rico), p. 417-473, thèse de doctorat en science politique, Université Paris Diderot, soutenue le 30 septembre 2016
http://theses.md.univ-paris-diderot.fr/FERDINAND_Malcom_1_va_20160930.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[2] Jérôme, Jean Farès, « Qui protège le Parc La Visite ? », Le Nouvelliste, 14 Novembre 2008
https://lenouvelliste.com/article/64014/qui-protege-le-parc-la-visite

[6] Fleurant, Maismy-Mary, « Mettre le paysan au cœur de la reforestation d’Haïti », Le Nouvelliste, 23 août 2011
https://lenouvelliste.com/article/96189/mettre-le-paysan-au-coeur-de-la-reforestation-dhaiti

[10] Maertens, Lucile et Stork, Adrienne, « Qui déforeste en Haïti ? : pour un nouveau regard sur le charbon de bois et la déforestation », trad. C. Richard, La Vie des idées, 27 mars 2018
https://laviedesidees.fr/Qui-deforeste-en-Haiti.html

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[11] WAME, Breaking the barriers to clean cooking in Haiti
https://www.wame2015.org/project/1139/

Other comments:- [1] Churches, Christopher E., et al., « Evaluation of forest cover estimates for Haiti using supervised classification of Landsat data », International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, vol. 30, août 2014, p. 203-216.
- [2] Jérôme, Jean Farès, « Qui protège le Parc La Visite ? », Le Nouvelliste, 14 Novembre 2008, https://lenouvelliste.com/article/64014/qui-protege-le-parc-la-visite
- [3] Michel, Georges, « La fabrication du charbon de bois par distillation du bois (pyrolyse), peut-être la clef du déboisement d’Haïti », The Journal of Haitian Studies, Santa Barbara, Center for Black Studies, University of California, vol. 17, no 1, 2011, p. 274-276
- [4] Dolisca, Frito, et al., « Land tenure, population pressure, and deforestation in Haiti : The case of Forêt des Pins Reserve », Journal of Forest Economics, vol. 13, no 4, novembre 2017, p. 277-289.
-[5] Ferdinand, Malcom, Penser l’écologie depuis le monde caribéen - Enjeux politiques et philosophiques de conflits écologiques (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haïti, Porto Rico), thèse de doctorat en science politique, Université Paris Diderot, soutenue le 30 septembre 2016, http://theses.md.univ-paris-diderot.fr/FERDINAND_Malcom_1_va_20160930.pdf
- [6] Fleurant, Maismy-Mary, « Mettre le paysan au cœur de la reforestation d’Haïti », Le Nouvelliste, 23 août 2011, https://lenouvelliste.com/article/96189/mettre-le-paysan-au-coeur-de-la-reforestation-dhaiti
- [7] Ferdinand, Malcom, Une écologie décoloniale, penser l’écologie depuis le monde caribéen, 2019, édition Seuil collection Anthropocène
- [8] Bellande, Alex, Haïti déforestée, paysages remodelés, Montréal, Les Éditions du CIDIHCA, 2015
- [9] Védrine, Emmanuel W. , « Le reboisement d’Haïti, un défi politique et environnemental »
- [10] Maertens, Lucile et Stork, Adrienne, « Qui déforeste en Haïti ? : pour un nouveau regard sur le charbon de bois et la déforestation », trad. C. Richard, La Vie des idées, 27 mars 2018, https://laviedesidees.fr/Qui-deforeste-en-Haiti.html
- [11] Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH), « Rapport d’enquête sur l’éviction des occupants du parc de la Visite », 8 août 2012, p. 2
- [12] entretien avec Malcom Ferdinand, juin 2020

Meta information

Contributor:Noam Marseille, [email protected]
Last update17/08/2020

Images

 

Proximity between agriculture, dwellings and the forest, october 2012

Photo 11. Proximité entre agriculture, habitations et forêt, octobre 2012, Malcom Ferdinand [5].

Remainings of one of the houses destroyed by the delegation from the government of Haiti, october 2012

Photo 12. Restes de maisons cassées par la délégation du gouvernement haïtien, octobre 2012, Malcom Ferdinand [5].

Grave for the peasants who were killed, 2012

Tombe des paysans tués, 2012, Malcom Ferdinand [5].