Timberland Empowers Local Farmers and Communities By Planting Millions of Trees in Haiti

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We’ve always been impressed with Timberland’s commitment to do well and do good. (We happen to dig their footwear, too.) So we weren’t exactly surprised to learn of their most recent feat: The company planted 2.2 million trees in the rural area surrounding Gonaives and continues to support an agroforestry program to train Haitian farmers to improve crop yields.

In 2010, Timberland partnered with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, a non-governmental organization, to help them meet their commitment of planting 5 million trees in a five-year period. (At that time, Haiti was 98 percent deforested.) An additional 1 million trees will be planted this year as well as in 2014 and 2015.

We know that trees are vital to our health. They help clean the air of pollutants, lower temperatures and generally make people feel better and reduce stress. These planted trees also serve as physical borders around farms to prevent flooding and erosion, as food sources, sustainable fuel and as shade from the harsh sun.

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Timberland sought to create a self-sustaining agroforestry model with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance that would deliver agricultural improvement, environmental restoration and economic growth for participating farmers through the development of eight community tree nurseries and agricultural training centers.

This model broke away from the traditional development model — that usually only lasts as the external funding and aid is provided — and empowers local farmers so as to not require additional foreign aid after all training and programming is complete.

The farmers involved with the cooperative volunteer their time to manage the tree nurseries and plant trees in return for agricultural services that result in increased crop yields of between 40 and 50 percent.

The social impact and scale of this project is extraordinarily impressive. It will help improve the environmental, economic and social conditions in the Gonaives region; welcomed support since the 7.0 earthquake devastated the country back in 2010.

While the world’s attention has mostly focused on Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the U.S., the suffering and consequences for Haiti – the poorest country in the western hemisphere – have been profound. Haiti lost between 40 and 70 percent of their crops as a result of hurricanes Isaac and Sandy last year.

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Thanks to the program, income from tree sales enabled cooperative members to purchase extra seeds to replant their storm-damaged fields. What’s so impressive is that the cooperative took care of each other without turning to government or donor sources for assistance.

Timberland has also collaborated with NGO’s including the Clinton Global Initiative to identify a customer base and sustainable market-based solutions for the members of the farmer cooperative.

Watch this short video on the project here.

Related: Lucky Magazine’s FABB Conference

Photos provided by Timberland

About Lindsay E. Brown

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