The Dr. Louis G. Lamothe Foundation and Partners Take a Decisive Step to Save Haiti’s Coffee by Planting 3 500 Trees to Celebrate Earth Day

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The 2016 theme for Earth Day was “Trees for the Earth” and on this day the Nan Panyol Reforestation Campaign was launched to save Haitian coffee.

The Louis G Lamothe Foundation, in collaboration with several other organisations: Haiti Café Selecto, the Seguin Foundation, SISALCO, Wynne Farm and the CASEC of Souiçailles took a decisive step to save Haiti’s coffee on Earth Day, 22 April 2016.

About 500 residents: school teachers, principals, students, farmers and planters gathered at the entrance of Nan Panyol on the Furcy Road early in the morning for the half-day event. Participants in rural Souiçailles committed to planting 3 500 trees to celebrate Earth Day. While coffee was the priority, 1 000 loquat trees and an equal number of sisal plants were planted.

Established by US Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970, International Earth Day is celebrated every year in about 184 countries. The 2016 theme for Earth Day was “Trees for the Earth” and on this day the Nan Panyol Reforestation Campaign was launched to save Haitian coffee.

The link between trees and coffee is that Haitian coffee, grown naturally in the shade of forests is handpicked and creates income for many Haitian men and women. Haiti’s Caribbean climate, the coffee- growing region’s mountain elevation, and the shade provided by the indigenous trees all provide the perfect growing environment for this precious bean. The renowned Haitian Blue coffee is classically Caribbean—chocolatey sweet with mellow citrus highlights.

Haiti was once responsible for half the world’s coffee production. However, today, Haitian coffee barely registers in global surveys. The decline in coffee production due to politics, trade embargoes, deforestation and the rise of global coffee powerhouses such as Brazil and Indonesia, disease, the lack of modern farming methods, and climate change are a few of the reasons for this. For now, Haitian growers are trying to use new varietals from Colombia that are more heat-resistant. But they won’t know if those efforts are working for a few more years, when the trees start to bear fruit. Irrigation, crop rotation and shade management techniques in heavily deforested Haiti could also help stave off further changes.

These days, Haiti and Rwanda produce about the same volume of beans each year. But Rwanda has exported nearly 20% of its coffee in recent years as washed beans for gourmet markets—up from just 1% in 2002. Haiti sells 90% of its production as cheap, dry-processed beans that never leave the island of Hispaniola. The upshot is that in 2010, Rwanda made $55 million from coffee exports. Haiti made $1.5 million.

Realising that Haitian coffee needs a helping hand—“a hug in a mug” and faced with the threat of losing Haitian coffee, the Dr Louis G Lamothe Foundation organised the “Save Haiti’s Coffee” campaign to create awareness and encourage the Haitian people to take action to save their coffee. The threat of losing locally grown coffee concerns the whole Haitian nation, its government, parliamentarians, local communities, coffee growers, subsistence farmers,and all coffee lovers! The “Save Haiti’s Coffee” campaign is also well aligned with the Foundation’s mission and raison d’être.

The coffee plantations need to be strengthened and so the planting of a number of species of trees including loquat and sisal plants was undertaken on Earth Day to revitalise the earth and eventually provide shade for the precious coffee plants.

At the Haiti Coffee Academy, farmers attend training sessions in basic coffee agronomy, harvesting practices and processing techniques. The goal is to help them increase their coffee yields, production volumes, and quality levels—and ultimately their incomes.

There is still economic and environmental potential for coffee production in Haiti—for both local and export markets. What better way to invest in future coffee production than to plant trees on International Earth Day!

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Rose Anne Auguste
Dr. Louis G. Lamothe Foundation
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Louis G. Lamothe Foundation
since: 12/2015
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