Agroforestry in Haiti, "pwoje pyebwa"

Pwoje Pyebwa (creole for tree project) is an on-going Agroforestry Outreach Project (AOP) in Haiti, implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and funded by USAID. The project began in 1981 and incorporates the participation of local PVOs in technical training, and the production and distribution of tree seedlings. As extension strategies have been refined over the course of the project, tree survival and the number of participating farmers has increased.

In Haiti erosion is severe. Most farmland is on slopes of over 20%, and 90% of the farms are less than 3 ha. Studies in the late 1970s showed conventional soil conservation practices were failing in Haiti. When soil conservation did work, usually there was a short-term economic interest on the part of the farmer involved. Primary motivating factors for farmer participation in Pwoje Pyebwa were income and savings, and erosion control and household use.

The project has two main objectives: to motivate Haitians to plant and maintain trees, and to achieve the planting and maintenance of a substantial number of trees for soil conservation, fuelwood, and income generation in rural areas.

The project encourages farmers to plant trees along the borders of their land, and to alleycrop trees with traditional crops. Farmers are encouraged to perpetuate tree cropping by harvesting their own trees, not natural stands.

The project operates in all five regions of Haiti. PADF functions through participating PVOs in four regions, and through CARE in the northwest. PADF provides support to PVOs in several forms, such as:

  • training, and development of training materials.
  • procurement of nursery supplies, provision of technical support and credit for nursery projects.
  • technical assistance and applied research on agroforestry systems.
  • assistance in the institutional development of participating PVOs.

    PADF established an agroforestry resource center in Port-au-Prince in 1982. Seedling distribution began in three regions that spring, and later expanded to all five regions. PVOs develop extension teams to distribute seedlings, and to instruct in their establishment and maintenance. While some PVOs produce their own stock, others receive seedlings from the PADF nursery. Extensionists are chosen to work in their own communities.

    Hedgerow intercropping with nitrogen-fixing trees was introduced as a low-cost soil conservation technology in 1984, and expanded rapidly in 1987-88.

    During the initial four-year phase of the project 40 regional nurseries were established, and 115 extension contracts with local PVOs were initiated. Regional teams began data collection of species performance. Training materials were developed and published. A system was implemented to monitor seedling survival during the first year . The first phase of the project exceeded expectations and was extended twice. The second extension was based on a Cooperative Agreement (CA).

    Project objectives were revised under the CA and focused on two themes: the significant enhancement of tree survival and growth rates, and consolidation of the program with growth focused on the quality of support services rather than the increase of planting. At this time the staff of the resource center and regional teams was increased.

    The CA set production and extension goals for the project. The goals were: to produce 15 million seedlings from 35 nurseries; to incorporate 120,000 participants; to have 9,000 farmers adopt alleycropping; to increase extension personnel to about 600 animators and 60 coordinators; to produce a comprehensive training and nursery package for use by other agroforestry programs. Under the CA, PVO participation increased to 54.

    The CA called for a training officer for each region and a training coordinator, to include women and the poor to a greater extent, and to increase emphasis on follow-up.

    The extensionists, under the supervision of coordinators, have a strategy that consists of five tasks:

  • an initial visit to advise on how trees might be planted in the farmers' fields. They are given a copy of the PADF tree planting manual, "gid pepenieres," and then invited to a meeting. Those who attend are enrolled in the project.
  • the extensionist organizes the distribution of the trees.
  • a visit is conducted to monitor the plantation, with the farmers present.
  • a second visit is conducted to monitor survival of the seedlings, about 7 to 9 months after planting.

    Under the CA, three changes were made to the extension program. Extensionists were required to have educational meetings with farmers before enrolling them in the program, an intermediate farm visit was added, and a demonstration site and demonstration garden were to be established and maintained by the extensionists. In four of the regions, extensionists are paid per task and per farmer. In another region, they are paid per seedling distribution, and per tree survival after 6 and 9 months with a bonus for high survival rates.

    Because hedgerow technology is complex and potential problems are many, it was found to require separate training. However, farmers have been adapting this technology without supervision, a trend that is expected to continue. Project focus shifted from tree planting to tree survival. A new emphasis was placed on upgrading extensionist skills, including communication through publications and schools. A training guide was produced in 1986 with an accompanying tree planters manual. A series of extensionist training filmstrips were developed. In 1989 more than 100 training seminars were held. Coordinator involvement increased, and greater attention was paid to their training. Team members upgraded their skills by visiting other project sites and senior staff participated in technical retreats and seminars. Four regions introduced an environmental education component to their school curricula. Some major lessons were learned during 1987-89:

  • Project planters are not as constrained by the need for short-term cash returns as had been anticipated. They are interested in postponing the harvest to increase value.
  • Planters are more interested than anticipated in planting trees for soil conservation and other agronomic purposes.
  • Hedgerow technology has a greater degree of farmer acceptance, but is more technically complicated than expected, and requires a separate extension package.
  • Agroforestry demonstration sites and gardens are invaluable training tools for extensionists and farmers.
  • Extension performance was improved when animators were provided with incentives.
  • Farmers are unwilling to pay for seedlings, but will contribute labor. Farmer-managed nurseries are viable complements to centralized nurseries and enhance the sustainability of agroforestry.
  • An effective balance between centralized project management and regional autonomy is essential for the evolution and refinement of agroforestry services.

    Despite the advances made, there is still much room for improvement in the follow-up project. There is a need for greater emphasis on training farmers to manage trees and to establish hedgerows, without overloading the extensionists. The extensionists are responsible for the success of the project to date. Further improvements are expected in the training program at all levels.

    Conway, Dr. J. Jickling, J. Haiti Agroforestry Outreach Project Extension, 1987-90. Pan American Development Foundation.

    Bannister, M., P. -Nair. 1990. Alley Cropping as a sustainable agricultural technology for the hillsides in Haiti: Experience of an agroforestry outreach project, American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol 5(2).