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: the adaptation of the project to pre-existing Haitian land tenure, tree tenure, and market systems; the elevation of micro-economic over macro-ecological themes; the decision to bypass the Haitian government and operate the project through local NGOs (non-government organizations); the use of a joint-venture mode in which smallhold- ers supplied land and labor and the project supplied capital in the form of seedlings; the use of professionally managed small-container seedling technology rather than backyard nurseries; and a project management policy that encouraged farmer-induced deviations from project assumptions in matters of tree deployment and harvesting schedules. Issues of secure tree tenure were central to farmer planting decisions. The article discusses how secure tree tenure was possible under the heterogeneous informal arrangements that characterize Haitian peasant land tenure. The approach generated the birth of several creative Haitian peasant agroforestry configurations described in the chapter. In discussing lessons learned, the authors argue that long-term environmental payoffs should be viewed, not as the principal project goal, but as secondary side effects of smallholder tree planting decisions made for short-term micro-economic reasons.
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, and how it employed nongovernmental channels to implement the project, bypassing Duvalierist ministries to assure that donor funds would reach intended beneficiaries in the form of income-generating seedlings.
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.
Having done anthropological fieldwork on the evolution of Haitian peasant land tenure, I was invited by USAID/Haiti in the late 1970s to carry out research exploring possible linkages between land tenure variables and the failure of most tree planting projects to motivate Haitian peasants to plant trees. I was specifically asked to assess the degree to which land tenure insecurity served as the principal disincentive to peasant tree planting.
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.