Neighbourwoods Winter Tree Talk: MCC: Reforesting for Hope and Change in Haiti
On January 21st, about 40 enthusiastic community members gathered to hear Fred Redekop give a fascinating overview of a long-running project by the Mennonite Central Committee to reforest the hardest-hit areas in Haiti, to provide local people with affordable food, cooking fuel, and building materials, as well as income from fruit and lumber sales. In addition, the reforestation project improves soil and reduces erosion from wind and water, reducing vulnerability to, and allowing quicker recovery from, natural disasters like hurricanes and droughts.
Fred’s talk included some background on some of the reasons that led to Haiti’s becoming so drastically deforested, including extreme weather but also political and economic pressures both internal and external to Haiti. This generated comments and questions among the listeners, and we were fortunate to have relevant insights shared by participants with first-hand experience in Haiti. A strong point of the presentation was that MCC works directly with local people and partners, to ensure the aid provided is appropriate to the people’s needs, and is sustainable by them over the long term. MCC has established local tree nurseries, and provides education, training, and support on sustainable farming practices. The trees are selected specifically for the climate and conditions, and are fast-growing. The project has been underway since 1983; in the past five years alone, over 2 million trees have been planted, of which approximately 400,000 are fruit trees.
The presentation gave us much food for thought, and provided a clear example of how forest conservation is critical to the well-being of people and environments.
Fred Redekop was a pastor in the Mennonite Church for 30 years. At present he is the Church and Community Associate for Mennonite Central Committee; he is also a councillor for the Township of Woolwich. We were delighted that he was able to join us for this special evening.
Neighbourwoods thanks our 2018-19 Tree Talk Sponsor, the Elora-Salem Horticultural Society, for their support.