Kilti
 Pyebwa,
 the
 Culture
 of
 Trees:
 The
Value
 of 
Local
 Knowledge
 in
 Coupled
Social‐Ecological
 Systems
 of
 Rural
 Haiti


Haiti’s area of forest cover has dropped from 80% to less than 2%
since
the arrival of foreign influence in 1492. Yet, Haitians remain closely intertwined with the environment, depending on trees for food, shade, building materials, medicine, and protection against hurricanes. Organizations have attempted to reforest Haiti, but 50 years of planting has provided only temporary tree cover. From lack of sustainable outcomes, conservation professionals now acknowledge the
need for cultural knowledge and Haitian input. My research addresses these lacking cultural aspects and focuses on the Pwoblem Pyebwa (Tree
Problem) in rural Haiti. I have conducted qualitative, literature research with Haitian research partners and combined this with knowledge from outsiders. Viewing Haiti as a Coupled Social-Ecological System (as local peoples seem to do) has also allowed me to tease out complex processes that foster a cycle of poverty and environmental degradation, which I have named the Pwoblem Pyebwa Cycle. I have also used knowledge from locals and outsiders to situate this cycle in the historical context through the original Pwoblem Pyebwa Model. Doing so has revealed systemic causes of deforestation in Haiti in the form of Initiating Factors (factors that initiated and continue to impact the Cycle) and Catalyzing Factors (factors that perpetuate and increase the magnitude of this Cycle). Lastly, I studied different types of trees in rural Haiti and the local uses of such trees. I conducted this research with the mindset that local peoples hold the most knowledge about their uses of trees and should be treated as teachers and me a student of Haiti. In order to better understand what information is locally specific and what information pertains to the larger Social‐Ecological
 Systems of Haiti, I conducted interviews, participant observation, and focus groups in three rural regions: Deschapelles, Ti Bwa, and Anse Rouge.

Each region and each village in these regions had its own set of environmental and social characteristics. Despite these differences, certain commonalities remained constant, and I have set up the Pwoblem Pyebwa Model as a tool to understand the culture of trees across regions of Haiti.

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