Seeing the Forest while Planting the Trees: An Anthropological Approach to Agroforestry in Rural Haiti

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This chapter describes an anthropological approach to environmental restoration that is currently being implemented in rural Haiti, and that has stimulated an historically unprecedented level of voluntary tree planting by Haitian peasants. The overall design of the Agroforestry Project has been described elsewhere (Murray 1984). In keeping with the theme of this volume, the discussion focuses upon the underlying design principles and institutional dimensions of the Project.

To begin, the characterization of this approach as “anthropological” deserves a word. A growing number of international development projects around the world are being designed, managed, and/or evaluated with the assistance and guidance of anthropologists. The project described here has gone somewhat further. The basic design concepts of the Project were derived directly from anthropological research on the land tenure and domestic economy of the Haitian peasant. A fairly large corpus of ethnographic literature on the socioeconomic dimensions of village life was already available (for example, Bastien 1951; Comhaire-Sylvain 1952; DeYoung 1958; Erasmus 1952; Herskovits 1937; Metraux et al. 1951; Schaedel 1962; Simpson 1940; Underwood 1964. Compare also Courlander 1960; Moral 1961; Renaud 1934; and Wood 1963). My own fieldwork, carried out in the Cul-de-Sac Plain in the 1970s (Murray 1977), documented a smallholding land tenure system and cash-cropping orientation that was a variant of the same basic themes that the earlier research had uncovered.



Peasants, agroforesters, and anthropologists: A 20-year venture in income-generating trees and hedgerows in Haiti

This chapter examines the evolving trajectory and emerging lessons from twenty years of agroforestry project activities in Haiti that made it possible for more than 300 000 Haitian peasant households – over a third of the entire rural population of Haiti – to plant wood trees as a domesticated, income-generating crop on their holdings. Unusual popular enthusiasm for the project derived from several anthropological and technical design factors…

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Haitian Peasant Tree Chronicle: Adaptive Evolution and Institutional Intrusion

During ten years of operation, between 1981 and 1991, the Agroforestry Outreach Project (AOP) made it possible for some 200,000 peasant households throughout the ecologically and politically ravaged country of Haiti to plant over sixty million fast-growing wood tree seedlings on their land. The unexpected participation of as much as 20 percent of the entire rural population in this tree-planting effort vastly exceeded what anyone had anticipated. Several articles and reports (for example, Conway 1986; Murray 1984, 1987; Lowenthal 1989) have discussed the project’s conceptual and methodological underpinnings; how it used anthropological theory and ethnographic methods to reformulate the relationship between trees and people in a manner acceptable to Haitian villagers…

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The Tree Gardens of Haiti: From Extraction to Domestication

In this paper I will be discussing the Agroforestry Outreach Project (AOP), a tree-planting project in rural Haiti in whose design and management there was an unusually high level of participation by several anthropologists. Though the details of this particular case are interesting in themselves, here they will be used principally as a vehicle for examining the relative advantages of “privatized” versus “collectivized” approaches to planned natural-resource interventions. Conservation advocates are often opposed to privatization. They correctly point out that the intrusion of an extractive, privatized income-generating approach to land where tropical forests currently stand leads more often than not to the destruction of natural biodiversity.

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