A team at Sewanee, including Dr. D. McGrath, Keri Bryan, and Johnathan Salazar, are currently assessing the possibility of entering into a partnership with our long term collaborators in Haiti, Zamni Agrikol (a sister organization of Partners in Health). We hope that this partnership will allow Sewanee to begin offsetting its carbon footprint and at the same time allow for Haitian farmers to overcome very high opportunity costs to reforesting their land through a market mechanism call Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES).
Haiti currently suffers from of a long history of deforestation and the resulting environmental degradation, which has left Haitian farmers depending on extremely poor soils and eroded hillsides for sustenance. Deforested hillsides result decreased water and food security as soils loose their ability to hold both water and nutrients. This environmental degradation is the root cause of malnutrition at an epidemic scale. It is clear that these trends of environmental degradation must be reversed in order for food security to improve, however there are significant obstacles to reforestation. In short, the reforesting is expensive, and the payoffs for felling trees are very high.
Charcoal is the main source of fuel in Haiti, and charcoal sale is extremely profitable to rural landholders. In order for reforestation to be financially feasible for these poor rural landholders there must be financial incentives to keep trees standing. One possibility for overcoming the high opportunity costs of reforesting may be a Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme, whereby Haitian farmers are able to gain income for planting trees through the sale of carbon credits. PES is fundamentally different from donor or subsidy based programs in that the cost of reforesting will be paid for by profits earned through reforesting itself, rather than from some outside pool of money, hopefully making the project financially self sustaining in the long term.
Look forward to future posts for more information on the projects history, a fundamental explanation of PES, and our plans for the future.
(all photo’s credits to William Watson unless otherwise noted)