Dominican Republic to Haiti, Deforestation from the air.
The issue of deforestation has, in recent years, been tackled with investment in bamboo. The story of bamboo in Haiti started in the 1950s when Victor Wynne began a process of conserving land to the south of Port au Prince. At this time, the economic realities of the Duvalier regime, and the subsequent poverty which followed, saw a local population without income or source of fuel set about cutting down almost every tree in sight. In this situation, Victor Wynne saw the fast growing, flexible yet strong bamboo as the future ‘saviour of Haiti’. Since then, bamboo has spread to a number of plantations around Haiti. Still the Wynne Estate in Kenscoff, under the stewardship of Jane Wynne, is the Mecca for both the cuttings and the knowledge. Bamboo is a truly remarkable plant and there are many properties of bamboo for which Haiti is the latent territory for this plant and industry to flourish.
Speed of Growth
Classified as a grass and as fast growing, bamboo can grow up to one meter per day. The construction grade bamboo Guadua grows 80 percent of her volume in the first 3 months.
This can be a quick source of material for charcoal production to take the burden from the slow growing trees currently deforested at an unsustainable rate for that very fuel source. After this initial growth spurt over the next 4-5 years guadua can grow up to 30 metres tall. Haiti’s Topography 65% of this island nation is over a 7% gradient and bamboo grown on an incline drains faster and becomes stronger than bamboo grown on the flat. With the correct regulation, Haiti has the potential to produce some of the best construction grade bamboo in the world.
One hectare of Guadua Bamboo can absorb up to 30,000 litres of water during the hurricane season and deposit this slowly back into the soil. With landslides being the deadly result of deforestation during these seasons this can be an instant life saver to rural communities in Haiti.
Bamboo can sequester up to twice as much carbon as trees. Given the worldwide drive to curb carbon emissions through carbon offset schemes, if Haiti were to start growing bamboo for construction, then the bamboo could earn money for the grower. Not just paying for the bamboo cultivation but also providing livelihoods to those growing bamboo as well.
A New Economy
Bamboo is being used worldwide as a new hard wearing, carbon friendly material from buildings to products. Bamboo bikes and skateboards, to bamboo fashion and floorings. The work of the AA Haiti Visiting School brings a design methodology which has a wider application beyond the building. The software students learn, the design rigour, and the exposure to bamboo students go though gives all who take part the ability to test the limits of this new material and articulate their own vision into drawings, models and images. If the added value of bamboo products is to be realised in Haiti, it is these skills which will help boost the value of bamboo to the new Haitian economy.
2015 AA Haiti Visiting School students visiting Haiti’s first bamboo house.