Soil erosion and deforestation are endemic in Haiti due to centuries of agricultural exploitation, first under the colonial plantation system—intensive monocropping of export commodities such as cotton, indigo, tobacco, sugarcane, and coffee—and later by the widespread harvest of timber for export markets and the expansion of peasant subsistence agriculture on marginal sloping land. A growing urban population and an increasing demand for charcoal and fuel wood have further stressed the environment.
There are many reasons for planting AOP trees beyond the original intent of cash-cropping, including improving fallow, providing shade, producing forage, and reducing soil erosion. All of these benefits of planting trees increase .the wealth of the farmer or prevent it from falling, even if they do not increase the farmer's cash flow.
The USAID Agroforestry Outreach Project (AOP) began In late 1981. One of its goals was to provide the Haitian farmer with an additional cash crop by encouraging him to grow troes in an agroforestry system. This would simultaneously reduce Haiti's soil losses and other environmental problems. One of the original concepts of AOP was to have a research component to support project needs.