Once called the “Green Pearl of the Caribbean” for its vast natural wealth and lush tropical forests, today Haiti is devastated by hurricanes, earthquakes, poverty and famine. Due to intense deforestation and overgrazing, only 2% of the island’s original forest remains, making the country even more susceptible to natural disaster such as landslides and crop failures.
Working closely with the Dutch and Haitian Red Cross National Societies, Netherlands-based Commonland is co-creating landscape strategies and partnerships needed to regenerate the natural infrastructure on the island’s, starting in the south eastern region, in La Vallée de Jacmel. Regeneration that will help Haitians proactively adapt to future climate challenges and mitigate the risks from natural disasters.
“Ecosystem restoration in Haiti could completely transform the island and massively change the perception of the world. Haiti as a successful example of ecological restoration would be one of the most powerful statements possible, propelling humanity to restore all degraded lands on Earth,” said John D. Liu, Chinese-American filmmaker, ecologist and landscape restoration expert, and Ambassador of Commonland.
The Red Cross and Commonland together form a unique combination of expertise and strength where The Red Cross’s preventive approach is combined with the holistic 4 returns methodology from Commonland where landscape restoration is supported by the development of sustainable business models. Together they form the 4 Returns 4 Resilience approach.
The aspiration of this partnership is to see Haiti as a country where its people feel safe, valued, and interconnected, while reaping the benefits of managing their land profitably and sustainably. A place where local and international organizations work together towards one common goal: making Haiti autonomous and resilient to climate change and natural and human-made disasters.
To reverse the fortunes of the islanders and break the vicious cycle of poverty and disaster, the aim is to transform Haiti’s degraded hills into safe landscapes with thriving local communities and economies, each one of them becoming a “Green Pearl”. And in doing so, offer a brighter future for the next generation.
When complete, the joint project will restore not only the region’s natural infrastructure, but also support the livelihoods and economies – from food security and fresh water supplies to bio-energy, fishery and recreational benefits (read: tourism). No less important is the vital role healthy ecosystems play in mitigating disasters. If sustainably managed, healthy ecosystems act as buffers against the negative impacts of tropical storms, earthquakes and mudslides – or even prevent them from happening altogether.
To inspire long-term sustainable involvement and management, the project’s partners are actively engaging La Vallée de Jacmel’s local communities to co-design interventions specific to the region. For example, using traditional permaculture methods such as “jardin lakou” for the design of reforestation and ecological restoration activities.
The Dutch and Haitian Red Crosses continue to assess which areas and communities are most exposed to risks, while the project’s local business partner LEOS is working tirelessly to identify value chain opportunities for sustainable long-term profit.
In addition to creating the landscape strategy and the strategic partnerships, Commonland also supports the design of a (carbon) finance strategy to assure long-term implementation and project monitoring.
While the La Vallée de Jacmel project’s goal is to restore Haiti’s status as the “Green Pearl of the Caribbean”, the Red Cross is already exploring other regions like the Philippines and Ivory Coast to implement the 4 Returns framework. Which goes to show that Haiti has the potential to inspire far beyond its island’s borders.
Photo of La Vallée de Jacmel courtesy of Commonland.