Author: Gabriela Vaz Rodrigues
Deforestation in particular is recognized as a critical impediment for Haiti’s development. It degrades the environment on which its population depends, the subsistence of its farmers, increases their vulnerability to the weather, and may contribute to climate change. Tree cover is widely assumed to represent between 1 and 4% of Haiti’s total land area. Remarkably however, no empirical data on tree cover actually exists for the whole country. Also, quantitative studies on factors of tree cover change in Haiti are scarce and have focused primarily on afforestation in specific areas and on a limited number of drivers. To fill these gaps my research includes an unprecedented estimation of tree cover change at the national scale between 2002 and 2010, and seeks to identify both geographic and socio-economic drivers of tree cover change. It takes advantage of a unique, exhaustive collection of aerial photography to estimate tree cover change and to visually collect data on area-specific factors of deforestation. It will also rely on a large survey to be conducted among households in selected municipalities to collect information on plot and household-level factors of tree cover change.
Drawing from my experience working in Haiti and from my knowledge of the Haitian context and development challenges, in addition to revealing contemporary tree cover change and some of its factors, my research intends to discuss what the implications are for policy and land use planning in Haiti, where many projects and policies have more or less unsuccessfully tried to tackle deforestation or to encourage reforestation over the years.