Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reforestation and Biochar in Haiti

As Haiti continues to rebuild in the aftermath of its devastating 2010 earthquake, multiple carbon management projects are now being implemented on the ground in an effort to promote long-term sustainability.  The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is actively supporting two reforestation projects in Haiti.  The first project has entailed the planting of 1.5 million seedlings to reforest 1,000 ha of previously deforested land in the Aquin and Saint-Louis watershed areas.  This project is being carried out as part of UNDP's broader Reducing the Vulnerability of People and Infrastructure in the South program. The second reforestation effort forms one component of the joint Haiti-Dominican Republic Green Border project, and has resulted in 514 ha of land being reforested.  Biochar is also gaining increased prominence in Haiti, as exemplified by the agricultural outreach activities conducted by Carbon Roots International.

Proponents point to a wide variety of benefits resulting from these projects: job creation, ecosystem recovery, enhanced resilience, improved agriculture, sustainable economic development.  But carbon sequestration is almost never among them.  The likely explanation is that project supporters are anxious to be seen helping locals meet real, immediate needs, rather than being portrayed as taking advantage of a desperate situation to cheaply "offset" historic misdeeds.  One way to resolve this is to give all carbon credits resulting from these types of projects to local stakeholders.  Unfortunately, the global carbon market is in such dire straits at the moment that such gestures are virtually meaningless.

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