After a long but action-packed break from blogging, I am returning with a lot of news of progress made since my last post. As a recap, a team at Sewanee, including Dr. Deborah McGrath, myself (Keri Bryan), and Jonathan Salazar, are working together with our long-term collaborators in Haiti, Zamni Agrikol (ZA, a sister organization of Partners in Health) on a project aims to overcome high opportunity costs to reforestation through a market mechanism call Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). In January we held a preliminary community forum introducing the ideas of carbon trade to farmers and gauging interests in re-establishing shade grown coffee. The resounding support and unexpectedly large turnout to this community forum (99 participants) encouraged us very much, and since then our project has sprung forward from an idea we were testing out, to a project we are confident is worth a try! Before I move on to recap our latest trip to Haiti, I’ll back step a bit and describe once more the goals of this project, as they have evolved and become solidified over the past months.
This project has three major goals:
First, we are going to establish sustainable agro-ecosystems to replace the annual crop based agricultural systems that result in environmental degradation and produce little cash income. We are going to register these smallholder agroforests to produce carbon sequestration offsets through the Plan Vivo Foundation that will be sold to Sewanee via the international voluntary carbon market. The money earned from the sale of carbon credits will be especially important in the first years of agroforest establishment, once annual crop production has been partially replaced but the fruit trees and coffee plants are not yet producing fruits and coffee that can be sold.
Second, we are going to establish a research protocol investigating the effectivness of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) in overcoming the opportunity costs involved in switching from annual to perennial based systems. These opportunity costs include decreased annual crop production, as well as forgone profits from cutting trees to sell as charcoal. PES has been touted as a poverty alleviation mechanism, but this has not been well tested. A key component of this project is not just establishing PES, but evaluating it in terms of its capacity to alleviate poverty and increase ecological function.
Third, we are going to incorporate this project into higher education, but for Sewanee students and Haitian students, who will work side by side with Haitian smallholder farmers in establishing, maintaining, and monitoring the PES program.
This spring break, we made huge strides towards each of these three goals. A portion of the spring break outreach trip from the Sewanee Outreach Program came to Cange and working with students from Zanmi Agrikol’s vocational school, the Centre de Formation Fritz LaFontant in conducting interviews with families that piloting research methods and gathered important information needed to register families to sell carbon credits. We also broke ground on out community coffee nursery!