This report was prepared in response to a Congressional directive that, “after consultation with appropriate international development organizations and Haitian officials, organizations and communities, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations setting forth a plan for the reforestation of areas in Haiti that are vulnerable to erosion which pose significant danger to human health and safety.”
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.
Few countries in the world face a more serious threat to their own survival from environmental catastrophe than Haiti. Ovcrpopulatcd, its resources are overexploited and trends towards further environmental deterioration are apparent everywhere. The chance for reversing these trends, thereby preventing human suffering, destabilization of the country, and the further loss of development potential is diminishing daily. Much needs to be done, and quickly.