Plaisance Verte (Green Plaisance) is one of the Guillaume Foundation’s first and most important program. The idea of it was already there, in 1991, six years after our President first immigrated to the USA in 1985. He came back to a valley that was no longer as green and beautiful as it used to be. After the Duvalier regime, people had felt free to go against everything he stood for, including laws regarding environmental protection and specifically tree cutting as per the country’s rural code. This led to Plaisance losing, in just six years, over 50% of its green, and having to abandon what was the community’s biggest crop and the basis of its economy thus far: coffee beans. It was obvious that something needed to be done.
Two questions needed to be addressed at that time: who and how should that “something” be done. In 2001, when the Guillaume Foundation first started these two questions were put on the agenda and Plaisance Verte was the answer. Built with the local government’s support, it is a comprehensive program that takes a holistic approach to environmental protection by combining awareness, law enforcement and direct actions.
First, we got the local government to edict bylaws to stop anarchical and unlawful tree cuttings in the community. At first, we experienced some resistance as charcoal production had become a significant part of the community’s economy – with buyers coming from major cities and particularly, from Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to get cheap charcoal from one of the country’s last “greeen”community. However, when crops started to be better, thanks to new measures and their effect on Plaisance’s ecosystem, thanks started pouring in.
The fight is still ongoing however as, for the last 4 years, this has become a political issue, with candidates campaigning on repealing all restrictions to tree cuttings as a way to improve jobs prospects and the community’s economy as a whole. It has also become increasingly harder for the peasants to refrain from selling their trees to the Port-au-Princians who come with readily available money when crops take months to grow and bring money about. However, our trust in the community remains strong as we are working towards finding economic alternatives to tree cuttings as a business while we keep insisting on protecting the environment.
We have, thus far, helped train environmental agents, organized and paid for seminars and conferences, started campaigns and shows on Radio Oxygène devoted to the environment and held meetings and town hall debates about ecology, biodiversity and responsible development. We have regularly prepared and distributed over a hundred thousand trees to be planted and launched, since 2007, the Green Goals initiative at the Doktè Lik Cup where 50 trees provided by the foundation are planted for each goal in the championship the local farmer’s association ATAP with whom we’ve been partnered for a while.