Three years later…(Part 1)

Written by Plant With Purpose on May 18, 2011 in General

By Doug Satre, Director of Outreach and Development

Three years ago this month I had the privilege of visiting Plant With Purpose’s work on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I had just started working in our San Diego office, and the trip gave me the opportunity to see first hand the problems of deforestation and poverty, and what Plant With Purpose was doing to help bring healing and hope to impoverished communities. It was a personally meaningful trip for me, as I was meeting our staff the farmers for the first time. These were the people whose stories I was telling back in the US; stories of struggles and triumphs. Meeting them made Plant With Purpose’s work real to me, and has – I hope – made me a more effective advocate for our work alongside of them.

I also learned a lot about agricultural development on that trip, and took some pictures like the one below to illustrate how soil conservation and agroforestry (on the left) differ from traditional slash and burn farming (on the right)

On our most recent trip, I was anxious to try to gauge the change from my previous trip. How would the area be different? Would previously barren landscapes be covered with trees? I was especially anxious to visit the field pictured above, to see how it looked three years later. But I confess that, as we toured the area, things initially looked pretty much the same to me. This was despite the fact that over 700,000 trees had been planted and miles of soil conservation barriers had been planted since I had been there. Where was the change I had been expecting?

It was only later when I compared the two pictures, one from 2008 and one from 2011, that the difference became clear. This field now has three times as many soil conservation barriers as before, and hundreds more trees. The trees that were tiny have grown and are beginning to bear fruit. The landscape is changing.

In retrospect I realized how impatient I had been, and also how much transformation had happened that I had failed to recognize. As I began to pay closer attention, the change became apparent. There were changes in people, too. Their incomes are rising and malnutrition is decreasing. They expressed their confidence that in 5 to 10 years their mountains would be a totally different place for them and for their children. I’ll write more about that in part 2 of this post.

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