Improving Family Life in a Rural Haitian Community

“Before this project started Tilori was brown and barren. Now there is green everywhere.”

-Ana Carrasco,
Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources

Haitian villager Mr. Acne THILONORD needs wood for his family to cook. That’s a problem.

There are no trees near his rural Haitian community of Tilori. But just across the border in the Dominican Republic is a thick, lush forest. 

Tilori sits on the Haiti and Dominican Republic border, almost isolated from the rest of Haiti. There is no official border crossing, just a visible transformation in the landscape

In the Dominican Republic, the hillsides are covered with trees. Turn to face Haiti and stark, bare hillsides meet your eyes. 

This is a serious problem for Tilori families. On a typical day, a family uses on average 35 pounds of wood and/or charcoal each day for cooking. 

With their forests gone, the most logical place to get wood is a stone’s throw away in the Dominican Republic’s Sabana Clara Forest Reserve, which happens to safeguard the headwaters of the Artibonite River, a primary water source for many Haitian communities. 

Trees for Tilori: An Investment in the Future 

In 2009, to protect the Sabana Clara forest and help their Haitian neighbors, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic, Fondo ProNaturaleza (PRONATURA), Servicio Social de Iglesias and The Nature Conservancy launched a family forestry garden project to provide Tilori residents with free, fast growing fuel and fruit trees. 

Today, 136 families are nurturing nearly 135,000 trees in private gardens.  

“Before this project started Tilori was brown and barren. Now there is green everywhere,” observed Ana Carrasco, project coordinator from the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. 

“When the trees mature five years after planting, they will have an important impact on the community. Families will have a free, reliable source of wood for cooking and the fruit trees will provide nutritious food.

They will sell extra fruit and increase the family income. From the environmental perspective, deforestation of our Sabana Clara forest — where trees stabilize the soil, filter contaminants and help provide clean water for the people of Haiti — will be significantly reduced.” 

Mr. Acne THILONORD agrees, “Our lives will change because of these trees.” 

Solar Cookers: Making Life Easier for Women 

Other changes are coming to Tilori as well. Twenty-five families are learning to cook Haitian meals like soup, beans, potatoes, yucca, plantains and rice with energy-efficient stoves and solar ovens — little or no wood or charcoal is needed. 

Solar Household Energy (SHE), a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that introduces solar and alternative cooking to communities, recently distributed the stoves that were purchased with Conservancy funding. 

A set of two stoves — a solar oven for sunny days and a fuel efficient stove for evenings, overcast or rainy days — were delivered along with a week of intensive, hands-on training.  

The training focused on cooking traditional Haitian meals, not American fare, such as macaroni and cheese, which didn’t prove popular in previous pilot cooking projects. Louise Meyer, trainer from SHE, will continue to provide on-going technical assistance and encourage the women to support each other as they learn this new way of cooking — key steps to the successful long-term adoption of the new cooking technologies.  

Elementary school teacher, Supreme ELDAMAN, is happy with the changes her solar cooker has had on her daily life. “I save so much time. Now I spend much less time gathering wood, making charcoal and cooking.” 

A Blueprint for a Healthier Future 

The family forestry and alternative cooking projects are proving to be successful in linking forest conservation with an improved quality of life in rural Haiti.   

Sabana Clara Forest Reserve staff report a reduction in illegal wood collection. Tilori families are carefully tending their precious trees in anticipation of the positive impact they will have on their lives. 

Inspired by their neighbors, 20 additional women have signed up to participate in the alternative cooking project. 

Conservancy staffer Francisco Nuñez says he hopes interest in the projects will increase to meet the needs of Tilori residents — for the benefit of forests and people.

You can help! Join us as we work to bring new cooking techniques to rural Haiti for the benefit of trees and families.