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...
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.
There is an interesting analogy between the reaction of the outside world to the popular language of Haiti on the one hand and, on the other to the popular religion. The language spoken by the Haitian people, Creole, used to be dismissed as merely a form of broken French. Scientific analysis of the structure of Creole, however, reveals that it is not a dialect of French (Hall, 1953: Valdman, 1980). Though possessing a French-derived vocabulary, Creole has an internal syntactic structure that in several crucial ways is quite unlike that of French and some scholars have posited West Africa elements in Creole clause structure.
Expatriate tree lovers, whether tourists or developmental planners, often leave Haiti with an upset stomach. Though during precolonial times the island Arawaks had reached a compromise with the forest, their market-oriented colonial successors saw trees as something to be removed. The Spaniards specialized in exporting wood from the eastern side of the island, whereas the French on the western third found it more profitable to clear the wood and produce sugar cane, coffee, and indigo for European markets.
The Catholicism of more than one postcolonial group in the New World has been described as a surface veneer masking a much deeper commitment to non-European cultural forms and value? A number of careful studies have been done of Haitian voodoo and the authors generally allude in passing to the superficial nature of Catholic elements in the cult. My own research among Haitian peasants has turned a number of important non-Christian elements.
Though differing in emphasis from each other, several attempts to explain rural Haitian poverty, including the field studies of Moral (1961) and the more recent literature searches by Zuvekas (1978) and Lundahl (1979), have concurred in their identification of deforestation and soil erosion as major impediments to economic well-being in rural Haiti. Largely in response to Zuvekas' findings, several planners in the late 70's, aware that large sums of money had been wasted on unsuccessful reforestation and erosion control projects in Haiti, asked whether the root of the failure might not lie in Haitian peasant land tenure insecurity, in an unwillingness on the part of the Haitian peasants to make long-term investments in land in which they felt they had little long-term security.
In the following pages, I will present both descriptive and quantitative information, gathered in a Haitian village during 21 months of fieldwork. information reveals the somewhat unexpected but empirically convincing and critical role which Haitian-peasant Voodoo plays in the contemporary land tenure system; specifically, this cult was found to function as a partially camouflaged resource-circulating mechanism, a role that seems to have arisen in the context of recent population growth.
In the context of almost total national isolation after 1804, the Haitian peasantry has had to call on its own resources for the development of folk institutions and theories to handle the gamut of problems that confront all human societies.' The economic and social isolation which has characterized, and to a degree still characterizes, Haiti as a national unit has meant, among other things, that the rural populace has remained outside of the currents of modern medicine.
We have devised the following descriptive definition: a rural Third World survey is the careful collection, tabulation, and analysis of wild guesses, half-truths, and outright lies meticulously recorded by gullible outsiders during interviews with suspicious, intimidated, but outwardly compliant villagers. The definition is meant to be a caricature not of the villager, but of the researcher; not of all village surveys, but certainly of many.
For several decades anthropologists working in the Caribbean have been explicitly aware of the need to look beyond the confines of the communities which they study, to take into consideration major national and supranational forces which have shaped and influenced local life (e.g. Smith 1956: chap. 8; Steward 1956:6-7; Padilla 1960:22; Manners 1960:80-82). But at first glance, the situation of the people of rural Haiti appears to be somewhat exceptional in this regard.