When faced with multiple crises at the same time, how do you choose which ones to tackle first? While the first priority has to be the emergencies that are immediately life threatening, it is a mistake to downgrade climate change in the process. If efforts are not made now to mitigate the progress of climate change, it has the potential to become the crisis to end all crises. And not in a good way.
For the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) in Haiti, balancing responses to crises while still maintaining our commitment to planting trees to combat climate change has become our hallmark.
We began in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. We continued during the cholera pandemic that followed. We expanded our operation even as climatic patterns began changing and periodic droughts became the norm in ensuing years. We expanded again in the period following hurricane Matthew in 2016. We maintained our work throughout the national lockdown of peyi lòk in 2018-19. And even as Covid-19 made its appearance in Haiti, we expanded once again by launching our seventh branch location.
With each successive crisis the SFA took steps to ensure that our member farmers and the communities in which they live had the training, supplies and resources necessary to design and implement their own responses. And while each of those responses has been unique, the outcomes have been the same: farmers were able to ensure the wellbeing of their families and neighbors and to continue cultivating their land. But over the course of 11 years of operation, through all these travails, never once did we stop planting trees … close to 8 million so far.
Even though Haiti has escaped the full impact of Covid-19, we know with absolute certainty that 2021 is going to be another very difficult year. Kidnappings have reached an all-time high, and for the first time children are being targeted. The political situation is extremely volatile, the economy is under ongoing threat, and severe food shortages are widely predicted.
We are taking steps now to help our farmers prepare as best they can for what is coming. At the same time we aim to plant a record 800,000 trees in 2021*.
Crisis response and tree planting can, when necessary, go hand in hand. And if it can be accomplished in Haiti, there is nowhere this model can’t be replicated.
* It is not just the number of trees that is important. We will be sending a follow-up newsletter to explain how the SFA agroforestry model results in tree planting that optimizes carbon sequestration, biodiversity recovery and livelihood benefits.