Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of Yunus Social Business, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Unite, and U.S. President Bill Clinton, founder of the Clinton Foundation, announced last Sunday the launch of a new social initiative called Haiti Forest. The partnership aims to solve social and environmental problems in Haiti by bringing sustainable, productive and socially responsible forests to the country.
Ten thousand hectares of land are being promised by the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment to develop the new, bold Haiti Forest Initiative in the Artibonite and northern part of the country. Haiti Forest has full support of the Government of Haiti and is in line with the priorities of the Government to support long-term reconstruction efforts, especially those that create jobs and promoting economic opportunities. The multi-year project will provide affordable food, timber, and employment in Haiti, and will be organized as a Social Business – a company set-up for maximizing social benefit rather than private profit.
“I am pleased that my Foundation is working with Yunus Social Business and Virgin Unite,” said President Bill Clinton . “Through this partnership, we hope to create a replicable model for programs that demonstrate long-term, positive social and environmental impact as well as economic benefits across Haiti.”
“Haiti Forest is an example how social business represents a unique opportunity to drive economic growth in Haiti,” said Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus , founder of Yunus Social Business. “Social Businesses like Haiti Forest that are aimed at an environmental or social need represent not only the solutions to these pressing issues, but the financially sustainable means for continued development in Haiti.”
“Virgin Unite is very pleased to partner with the Yunus Social Business Initiative and the Clinton Foundation to invest in supporting entrepreneurial solutions to generate reforestation and sustainable livelihoods in Haiti,” said Richard Branson , founder of Virgin Unite. “This project will create much-needed economic opportunities for many and is wonderful way to do something good for our planet and the people of Haiti.”
The new initiative’s four main objectives are: to re-forest Haiti; provide sustainable livelihoods to farmers; and over the long term help mitigate Haiti’s dependency on food imports; and help identify alternative fuel sources to reduce usage of charcoal. To ensure that the benefits of re-forestation are lasting and durable, Haiti Forest will empower micro-entrepreneurs and local communities to preserve and maintain their country’s forests.
The announcement marks the beginning of a six-month planning and preparation study that will form the basis of the Haiti Forest pilot program. The study will work closely with Haitian rural communities and small holder farmers to determine what trees and crops should be planted, engage community leaders on the reforestation aspects of the project, and work with government to identify applicable land areas.
The Haiti Forest partnership was created out of a recognized need to address environmental degradation and deforestation in a sustainable way. Haiti has lost virtually all of its forests over the last half-century, resulting in massive soil erosion and a consequent decline in the amount of arable land. By enabling sustainable forest management, Haiti Forest works toward providing a model to help reverse this trend.