Most of Latoti’s trees have disappeared over the last 50 years, due to a recent upswing in charcoal production and export from the island. Essentially, people looking for a relatively quick buck head to the forest, and dismantle a tree–stripping it of most of it’s branches, usually using a rope and one’s own body weight. This wood is then gathered into a pile, covered with dirt and stones, and set afire. It is allowed to smoulder for several days, until the moisture and sap is burned from the wood, leaving charcoal. This is loaded on a boat and taken across the water to mainland Haiti, and sold at market. Charcoal is in turn brought back to Latoti, and sold in the marketplace. The charcoal trade not only robs the forest of trees, it robs the community from making even that money from its forest.
An island that was once so lush it was considered an ideal sanctuary for the Caribbean’s most famous pirates is now mostly barren of trees, making it hot, and dry. Much of the mangrove forests have disappeared, and now the land’s precious topsoil is blown away and carried to the sea during heavy rains.
Our Island Reforestation Project currently focuses on supporting individuals and organizations residing on the island, by providing them with supplies and training materials. Reclaiming an eroded landscape is a long, painstaking process, and cannot be done from afar, with a few visits per year. We are currently working very closely with Aurelier Aurelier, and his brother Pirerre Aurelier, who have formed a small organization which focuses on planting vetiver and other vegetation on the slopes on southwest Latoti. They are also investigating sustainable, low-cost farming techniques, including hillside agriculture.