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. Whether forest is transformed to pasture in the service of the “McDonald connection,” or to mono-cropped eucalyptus or pine stands (or international lumber markets, the application of a private-property orientation to land formerly controlled under “tribal” communal patterns is lamented as a major cause or environmental destruction.