Sewanee Haiti Institute
Carbon Offsetting in Action
The Haiti Institute in Sewanee is a center for collaborative education. Its goal is to promote, foster and envision scholarship and research across a broad spectrum of interests pertaining to Haiti and Haitian studies. In recent years, our emphasis has shifted toward environmental concerns. In partnership with Haitian farmers and NGO's (such as Partners in Agriculture), we have developed a robust Applied Environmental Ecology initiative that benefits local farmers, students researchers, and the ecosystems of Haitian Central Plateau.
Haiti has long suffered from deforestation. This deforestation has left Haitian farmers with extremely poor soil conditions, and has also led to eroded hillsides. The sediments have clogged streams and lakes, causing both shortages of drinking water and electricity production.
Research has shown that deforestation is the root cause of malnutrition in Haiti at an epidemic scale. It became clear that this environmental degradation needed to be addressed in order for food, water, and energy security to improve. Deforestation needed to be stopped, and new trees needed to be planted. However there were many obstacles in the way of this vision. In short, planting trees is expensive, and cutting down trees can earn you a lot of money in Haiti.
In cooperation with farmers from the Haitian Central Plateau, we developed a solution that not only helped the land, but provided alternative livelihoods for Haitian landowners.
We developed a Carbon Offsetting program, where Haitian farmers would be paid directly for planting and preserving trees. Not only would farmers be earning passive income from the trees, in Partnership with Zamni Agrikol and Singing Rooster Coffee, we facilitated educational resources to farmers interested in raising coffee crops in the shade of their newly planted trees. By developing this agroforestry system, we helped facilitate economic growth for farmers, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and help restore the local ecosystems of Haiti.
Students in my lab visit these farms yearly, conducting hands-on research alongside Haitian students. We build relationships with local farmers, as we collect data in the field. We take measurements of these trees to calculate how much carbon has been sequestered. This calculation determines how much money is paid to each farmer. All Sewanee students pay a small "Green Fee", that pays for these Carbon Payments. It is but a small part of the many ways Sewanee s working to be a truly sustainable university. My lab continues to innovate, collaborate, and expand the scope of this project every year. We are currently working on ways to scale up this program, getting more farmers involved, and planting even more trees!
Visit our website and check out the video below
In this video, we hear from Keri Watson C'12. She now is on faculty at Sewanee: The University of the South - where she specializes in Ecosystem Services.