Trees provide services to human beings and protect the environment. This study investigates the causes of the failure of reforestation projects in the North and Northeast departments of Haiti. Two questionnaires with closed- and open-ended questions were used for face-to-face and semi-structured interviews with local and non-local authorities, respectively. The test of proportions was used for the statistical analysis, where a result was considered significant when the p-value was less than 0.05. The results showed that 86.8% of the non-local authorities were used to participating in projects of reforestation in their localities. The lack of follow-up and participation of residents in decisions about the type of trees planted were the main causes of the failure of these projects. The interviewees were accustomed to cutting trees to produce charcoal (95.8%) and enlarging their gardens (70.8%). However, 90.0% of each category would invest in purchasing cleaner cookstoves and stop using charcoal if the government agreed to finance up to 50.0% of such a project. The findings of this research could help both the decision-makers and the Haitian government to understand the causes of the failures of reforestation projects in Haiti and adopt an effective way to reduce deforestation in the country.
This paper investigated the causes of the failure of reforestation in Haiti.
The lack of follow-up and integration of locals were the main causes of reforestation failures in Haiti.
Ninety percent of the interviewees would stop using charcoal for cooking if they had cleaner cookstoves.
Forests play a crucial role in regulating the water cycle, controlling erosion, regulating floods, and cleaning water, among others. Mangrove ecosystems are important for coastal defense against natural tragedies (Kamil et al. 2021). However, today the world only has 31% of its forest cover (World Bank 2012). According to Krogh (2020), between 2010 and 2015, more than 33% of tropical forests were destroyed at a rate of 5.5 million ha every year. Building new infrastructure, agricultural practices (for instance, slashed trees), the use of firewood and charcoal fuel, animal husbandry, and pulp lumber industry purposes are among the major causes of deforestation. For example, a finding of recent research has highlighted that the cattle industry represents up to 80% of the deforestation areas in the Brazilian Amazon (Koch et al. 2019). The world is currently facing several natural disasters (e.g., floods and inundations) that cause loss of life and property. This might be more serious in arid and semi-arid areas because of the weakness of soil infiltration capacity. Large volumes of runoff and erosion occur when a large volume of rainfall exceeds the soil infiltration capacity (Krisnayanti et al. 2021). Besides, deforestation results in pollutant emissions and high temperatures, which cause human discomfort, illness, diseases, soil aridity, lack of water in the soil for plant growth, and poor air quality, among others (Sampson et al. 2021). Over 11 and 7 million people lost their lives because of drought and floods between 1900 and 2013, respectively, and half a million were exposed to emergency assistance needs and others (http://www.emdat.be).
In many developing countries (e.g., in the Caribbean), forest resources were depleted during colonization. For example, in the case of the Northern Caribbean Island (Hayti) (currently the Dominican Republic and Haiti), the disturbance and modification of the landscape began after the arrival of Christopher Columbus on this land (Castilla-Beltrán et al. 2020). The high deforestation rate lasted over centuries (Bellande 2016) during the colonization period in Haiti (Charles et al. 2020) by the European countries. The French colonizers had overexploited Haiti's natural resources between 1697 and the battle of Vertières (November 1803), which led to Haiti's independence from French domination. During such a period, the colonizers slashed and burned trees to clear the land for sugar plantations and logged almost the entire stock of mahogany, sending it back to Europe for furniture (Gibbons 2010). In addition, in the XIX century, France forced Haiti to pay high compensation (currently estimated at 115 billion USD, according to the estimation made by the New York Times in 20221) for the damage to colonial possessions after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte's army in the country. Under strong pressure from the French government, the Haitian government (Jean-Pierre Boyer, 1818–1843) sold and exported wood species (e.g., logwood, guaiac, and acajou) to European countries for use in naval construction, pharmacy, and furnishings (Bellande 2016).
In modern times, deforestation has been driven by the need for charcoal for cooking and reconstruction after natural disasters. For example, charcoal is the main fuel used in Haiti owing to a lack of alternative fuels for cooking foods (Monacé et al. 2020). Consequently, it was estimated that 3.4 × 107 kg of wood charcoal was produced in Haiti in 2014 (http://www.fao.org/). In Port-au-Prince, the consumption of charcoal was estimated at approximately 182 million USD per year (Tarter et al. 2018). Furthermore, after the earthquake in 2010, which left over 220,000 dead, 300,000 injured (PAHO/WHO 2011), and over 1.3 million homeless (GOH 2010), wood was extensively used as materials in the construction of shelters. Researchers pointed out that the national forest cover was estimated at approximately 30% in 2010–2011 (Churches et al. 2014). Deforestation can aggravate the effects of floods and cyclones, which occur frequently in Haiti. Besides, deforestation may also cause other consequences such as extinctions of species (animals and trees) and erosion.
Having realized the consequences of deforestation, many reforestation projects have been initiated in developing countries. For example, the Haitian government and the United States acted to plant more than five million trees in the North and Northeast departments of Haiti in 2018 (https://ht.usembassy.gov/pr-1112018/). Several other reforestation projects are implemented over the national territory, yet the changes are unclear. For example, Forests des Pins Reserve, a state-owned natural forest in Haiti, is a vivid illustration clearly explaining the problem of deforestation in the country. The causes for the failures of these projects are still unclear in Haiti. Farmers in the various rural areas of the country are not homogenous in terms of the type of trees they want to have in their lands. Thus, understanding the factors influencing the causes of the failure of reforestation may be critical for forest managers and decision-makers. The elimination of the charcoal trade is one of the main keys to the success of the projects of reforestation (Tarter et al. 2016). Likewise, understanding how locals use forest resources, local attitudes, and knowledge about forests and how locals perceive and participate in the previous projects is critical for the success of future reforestation projects in Haiti. To the best of our knowledge, no previous research has been conducted on the causes of the failure of these projects. It is also unclear what the suggested alternative ways to reduce deforestation in Haiti are. Therefore, this present study aims to investigate the causes of the failure of reforestation in the North and Northeast departments of Haiti. We hypothesize that (i) the lack of follow-up is a cause for the failure of reforestation projects in Haiti and (ii) the lack of participation of the local population is a major component in causing the failure of reforestation projects in the areas under study. We expect that the lack of willingness of the local population is not a failure cause of the reforestation projects in the rural North and Northeast departments of Haiti. Our study is shaped as follows: The first section covers the introduction. The second section presents the methodology, which includes the description of the areas of study, along with survey design, and inclusion and exclusion criteria. In the third section, we present the statistical analysis. The fourth section includes the results and discussion of the data. In the final section, we present the conclusions, strengths, and limitations of our analysis, and we make a few recommendations.
Haiti is a Caribbean country with a population estimated to be 10,911,819 people (5,244,133 in rural areas and 5,667,686 in urban areas) in 2015 (MEF/ IHSI 2015). Haiti's climate is tropical. More than 75.0% of the area of Haiti is rough and mountainous (MDE 2001). The annual rainfall of the country varies from 400 to 2,000 mm, from low to high altitudes (MDE 1999). Haiti often faces floods and inundations due to its geographic localization and deforestation of the environment. Wood fuels and charcoal are the main energy sources and represent around 80% of the primary energy supply of Haiti (IEA 2015). According to Ménard (2013), the country's net education rate is estimated to be at around 60%. Haitian farmers, including those living in the North and Northeast departments of the country, practice rainfed agriculture. The livelihoods of most of the dwellers in the North and Northeast rural departments mainly depend on the agroforestry system. Trees are one of the Haitian farmer's sources of annual income, providing timber, firewood, and fruit (Montagnini 2017). Farmers practice vegetal farming and planting fruit trees.
Survey design and inclusion criteria
Distribution of the questionnaires and statistical analysis
Based on the methodology adopted by François et al. (2021), the data were registered in Microsoft Office Excel and then exported to R software (Version 4.0.2) to perform the statistical analysis. The analysis was performed in two parts. For the closed-ended questions, a dichotomous variable referred to as ‘0’ and ‘1’ was used for negative and positive answers, respectively. Other numbers were used to encode the open-ended questions. The test of proportion was performed to compare two proportions. Each result was considered statistically significant when the p-value was less than 0.05.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Most of the interviewees involved in this research were males (76.3%), 36.8% were at least 46 years old, 50.0% were illiterate, 65.8 % were farmers, and 39.5% had a monthly salary that varied from 100 to 150 USD (Table 1).
|Numbers .||Proportion (%) .||Description .|
|Gender (n = 38)||Male||29||76.3||1|
|Age range (years)||18–25||4||10.5||1|
|46 or more||14||36.8||4|
|IB or more||4||10.5||3|
|Monthly salary (USD)||Up to 100||16||42.1||1|
|Numbers .||Proportion (%) .||Description .|
|Gender (n = 38)||Male||29||76.3||1|
|Age range (years)||18–25||4||10.5||1|
|46 or more||14||36.8||4|
|IB or more||4||10.5||3|
|Monthly salary (USD)||Up to 100||16||42.1||1|
Note: IF–CF: incomplete elementary–completed elementary; IS–CS: incomplete high school−completed high school; IB or more: incomplete bachelor's degree or more.
Interviewees' knowledge of forest benefits and deforestation consequences
Few respondents (10.0%) stated that they would not invest in such an alternative because they did not believe that the Haitian government would follow through on such a promise. However, all the respondents affirmed that the use of cleaner cookstoves would be a changing paradigm that would allow them to cook more quickly and cleanly as compared to charcoal fuel. They also argued that this technology is clean, avoids cutting trees, and would let them actively participate in environmental protection. Surprisingly, all the respondents that had a monthly salary up to 100 USD affirmed they would pay their 50% if the authorities accepted to finance a cleaner cookstove. However, the participants that had a monthly salary between 100 and 150 USD and between 150 and 210 USD represented 73.33 and 85.7% of them that would invest in their cleaner cookstoves, respectively. This variation was because there were charcoal producers and charcoal traders among the respondents, although all the respondents were charcoal users. Questioning them about the importance of agroforestry, 97.4, 73.7, and 65.8% of them answered that agroforestry protects the earth against erosion, that it can be served as forage for animals, and that it allows them to plant cacao and coffee trees, respectively.
Local authorities’ opinions about the causes of the failure of deforestation in the areas under study
Of all the local authorities (two females and eight males), 70.0% had monthly salaries that were between 100 and 150 USD. The remaining respondents had a monthly salary equivalent to up to 100 USD. Each authority affirmed that reforestation projects were previously conducted in their localities. Astonishingly, each one used charcoal fuel. Furthermore, 9 out of 10 participants were used to felling trees to enlarge their gardens and use them as furniture, respectively. This result may explain that the phenomenon of deforestation is more serious than people could think since the local authorities themselves participate in the destruction of their environment. Questioning these local authorities about the failure of projects of reforestation in their localities, 6 out of 10 answered that projects were interrupted and did not finish. The local authorities were not satisfied with the reforestation projects because they did not bring any change and were not successful. They affirmed that the trees planted died. Only one of the local respondents was satisfied with the results of the projects, and this satisfaction was based on the training received from the reforestation project managers. According to these authorities, these projects failed because of a lack of follow-up. Additionally, the lack of involvement of local actors and a lack of understanding of the needs of the population were also among the causes of the failure of reforestation projects in the area studies. In Haiti, reforestation projects are often conducted on small scales and funded by foreign groups (e.g., non-government organizations). Their approaches seem to conflict with the aspirations of the locals about the tree species to be planted on their lands. Therefore, the lack of integration of farmers seems to be strongly linked to the failure of reforestation projects in their communities. Local people desired the fastest-growing trees and the other preferred seedlings that produced useful fruit (Gibbons 2010). This finding is inconsistent with the results of research implemented in Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, Columbia, where the main reasons for reforestation failures were correlated with unfavorable ecological factors, such as increased sedimentation rates and lowering of the water level (Elster 2000). Twenty percent of the respondents pointed out that the trees they planted did not survive. Moreover, they highlighted that a lack of integration of residents might explain the failure of the project of reforestation. For three decades, various groups in Haiti attempted to plant trees. However, most efforts were unsuccessful because the main actors often tried to plant forests rather than wood plants for local people and failed to follow up with the farmers who received seedlings (Gibbons 2010). A lack of knowledge and consideration of the type of trees suitable for a specific location was considered to be one of the contributing factors to the causes of failure of afforestation in Switzerland (Fragnière et al. 2021). Along the same line, the lack of commitment, poor maintenance, deficient management, and lack of understanding between the agencies and the community were responsible for the failure of afforestation projects in Ecuador (Morris 1997).
Local authorities’ willingness to invest in other alternatives to charcoal fuel
A total of 90.0% of the local authorities affirmed they would invest 50.0% in purchasing their cleaner cookstoves and stop using charcoal if the central authorities accepted to finance the other 50.0%. This high acceptance might explain that the central authorities can adopt such an alternative to reduce the deforestation rate and illnesses associated with indoor pollution from using firewood stoves for cooking. Research conducted in the rural areas of Ethiopia has revealed that the interviewees were aware of the side effects of using traditional firewood energy on their health, the environment, and the economy (Bersisa et al. 2021). The locals were interested in adopting and using the improved cookstove but worried about the quality and inconvenience of limited existing products (Bersisa et al. 2021). The findings of our research are consistent with those of another research conducted in districts in southern Haiti, where the interviewees were interested in stoves and briquettes (Sagbo 2014). The authors underscored that willingness to pay for the improved cookstoves depended on the socio-demographic characteristics of their users (for instance, location and income) (Sagbo 2014). However, our findings are inconsistent with the findings of research carried out in the rural area of the Dedza district, Malawi, where the willingness of the residents to pay for cleaner cookstoves was positively correlated with dietary diversity and negatively correlated with fuel expenditure (McNulty et al. 2017). In the present study, only 10% of these authorities (1 out of 10) said they would not accept participating in such an alternative. However, all the local authorities understood the need for the adoption of cleaner alternatives to traditional firewood stoves for cooking. In contrast to the findings of a study conducted in Kenya, where sociocultural factors were identified as a barrier to adopting improved cooking stoves (Nzengya et al. 2021), only 10% of respondents in the present study negatively responded because they did not believe that the Haitian government would be interested in financing such a project.
CONCLUSIONS, STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This study investigated the causes of the failure of reforestation projects in Haiti's North and Northeast departments. Approximately 87.0% of the respondents, excluding local authorities (farmers), had been previously paid to participate in reforestation projects where they planted trees. However, only 26.3% of non-local authorities were satisfied with the outcome of these projects. Their satisfaction was associated with the seedlings they received from the agent managers of the projects. For others, the projects failed because their aims were unclear, they lacked follow-up, and they miss integrating the dwellers who were land owners of the reforestation sites. In addition, the projects failed because the decision-makers stopped remunerating the participants or other people to manage the trees. Sixty percent of the local authorities confirmed that the projects of reforestation had never ended. However, the non-local authorities recognized the benefits of trees, such as protecting the earth (78.4%), providing fruits (84.2%), and providing shadow (71.1%). Most of the interviewees knew the consequences of deforestation, including drought (97.4%), erosion (97.4%), and increased hunger (50.0%). A total of 95.8% of all the interviewees (local authorities and non-local authorities) were used to cutting trees to produce charcoal, enlarge their gardens (70.8%), and use wood in furniture and house construction (27.1%). The local and non-local authorities were strongly willing to invest in cleaner cookstoves. In total, 89.3 and 90.0% of non-local and local authorities, respectively, affirmed that they would invest in cleaner cookstoves if the central government of Haiti accepted to finance such a project at 50.0% or more. Furthermore, 90.0% of both groups of interviewees affirmed that they would stop using charcoal for cooking if they had cleaner cookstoves. However, they were all skeptical about the willingness of the central Haitian government to invest in such a project. Therefore, reforestation projects can be successful in Haiti if the farmers participate in decisions made about the type of trees they want to plant on their landholdings. Moreover, reforestation projects could be successful in Haiti if the locals had alternative fuels to charcoal fuel, cleaner cookstoves, and other alternatives to charcoal sales. As such, our hypotheses were verified. The strengths of this study include the causes of reforestation failures in Haiti and what the Haitian government should do to reduce the deforestation rate. However, the limitations of the present study include small numbers of interviewees compared to other studies, and the type of cleaner cookstoves the dwellers would like. The strengths of this study include the causes of reforestation failures in Haiti and what the Haitian government needs to do to reduce the deforestation rate. However, the limitations of this study include the small number of interviewees compared to other studies and the type of cleaner cookstoves the dwellers prefer. Further research with a larger participant number and interviewing more locals is needed to help the decision-makers to discover other causes for the failure of reforestation projects in other localities in Haiti. Using biogas produced via several wastes (for instance, animal manure, and human excreta) is one of the cheapest fuels that can be used in cleaner cookstoves. However, no studies have yet addressed Haitians' perceptions on this issue. Information about such an issue is also an important point that is encouraged to help the decision-makers know the type of fuel the locals want to use in their cleaner cookstoves.
The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and recommendations.
DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
All relevant data are included in the paper or its Supplementary Information.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The authors declare there is no conflict.