Friday, June 12, 2009

Reforesting the Future

Sustain Lane Article
Posted on June 10, 2009
by Scott Sabin
Executive Director
Plant With Purpose
How reforestation efforts can help prevent disasters in areas prone to hurricanes.
June marks the beginning of a period of dread for many communities around the world. It’s the start of hurricane season, and for the rural poor living in countries such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic , this means storms and flash flooding, mudslides and destruction, lost crops and animals, and even death. Already this year, 11 people have died in Haiti from flooding and the season is just beginning.
During a recent trip to the Dominican Republic , I saw evidence of the destruction caused by hurricanes from years past. In May of 2004, the town of Jimani , which lies beneath a steep mountain range, was the victim of a 15 foot deep landslide of mud. Due to intense rainfall and a lack of trees, the wall of debris rapidly stormed down the mountain and wiped out one half of Jimani, killing hundreds of people. After seeing such devastation, it’s hard not to wonder how there can be hope in such a volatile environment.
In response to this question, Galatians 6:9 comes to mind: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
The organization I work for, Plant With Purpose, focuses on healing the root causes of poverty. One of the ways we teach communities how to restore the land is through reforestation efforts. Although we may not see results right away, reforestation is a necessary component in reversing the vicious cycle of poverty in rural areas. Planting trees, especially in places that have been severely deforested, helps tremendously in transforming a community’s quality of life. Trees hold the soil in place, restore the watershed, and provide food – which prevents landslides, provides clean water, and nourishes communities, providing hope in a place that once knew only despair.
Of course, Plant With Purpose also provides immediate relief when a disaster strikes. Last fall, when four deadly tropical storms hit Haiti in a three-week period, we were able to respond by distributing sheep and goats to over 300 families to replace their lost animals and providing bean seeds to replenish crops to nearly 2,000 families in 44 communities. This is already making a huge difference in the lives of people who had lost everything. The animals restore their economic safety net, and the beans give them hope for the future, as they will be able to plant their land and become self-sufficient again.
Additionally, it is equally important to have long-term goals to reestablish erosion control barriers and plant trees to make the next hurricane season less devastating. Since we began working in the Caribbean , farmers have constructed 238,833 linear meters of anti-erosion barriers. The hurricanes of 2008 demonstrated the value of these preventative measures as the farmers experienced fewer landslides than previous years.
Ultimately, the farmers are empowered to keep planting trees and crops not only for food, but to prevent the soil from eroding away. We have seen communities work together to build a better future for their families. As we head into hurricane season, despite the threat of devastating storms, we are encouraged by the small glimmers of hope and change we are blessed to witness and be a part of in this desperate region.

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