Green Schools for a Green Haiti

As a group of students, teachers, government officials and environmental activists gathered at the beautiful ecological park of Le Jardin Botanique des Cayes on a pleasant December morning, 19-year old poet François Miermond encouraged the audience through the power of his words to appreciate the fact that Trees are Life.

Tropical forests, like those found in Haiti, hold most of the world’s biodiversity but deforestation and environmental degradation has caused losses of species in flora and fauna, while negatively impacting nearby communities that rely on agriculture and fishing to survive.

Recognizing that the students of today need to actively participate in protecting the precious strands of primary forest cover that remain as well as promote the planting and preservation of trees throughout the country, the Reforestation Grant Fund ( a part of the USAID-funded Small Grants Facility implemented by the OAS and PADF), launched the Green Schools Initiative. By encouraging schools to adopt nature-based learning and organizing visits to ecological parks, the program hopes to empower youth ambassadors such as Francois.

“My father cuts down trees to make charcoal, and that’s how he is able to send me to school. I recognize that I owe my life to trees. Now I want to protect trees and preserve them, and change the attitudes of my community towards trees,” he said.

Going on a nature walk through the ecological park, Francois and other students learned about the immense ecological diversity that Haiti enjoys but also the reality that unless they acted today, this rich landscape would be lost to the next generation due to deforestation. Trees protect watersheds, allow for topsoil to be conserved, and support the livelihoods of communities from the mountains of Haiti to its coastline.

I learned today that trees are life; without trees there is no life. I believe linking education with reforestation will lead to lasting change. Me and others like me, we can transform Haiti into a green paradise by our actions.

François Miermond’s spontaneous poetry drew applause from his peers. It is his passion and those of hundreds of school children that the Reforestation Grant Fund hopes to harness to help achieve its objectives to preserve and protect Haiti’s fragile forest cover. As students learn about trees, they learn about science: physics, chemistry, geology, biology. All of their textbooks come to life during activities like planting trees or going on nature walks. They are then able to share what they learn with their family, friends, and neighbors.

As more schools participate in the program, we believe François’s simple but powerful message “Trees are Life” will resonate throughout Haiti.

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