According to ancient wisdom from Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.”
Two organizations are proving that to be true in a unique partnership in Haiti. Clear Blue Global Water Project (clearblueproject.com) is driven by a desire to provide clean, safe water to desperately needy locations around the world. The Eden Reforestation Projects (edenprojects.org) is committed to planting trees to save lives. The connection between these two purposes is incredible.
Water is the lifeblood of our planet. In fact, from rainforest to desert or prairie to arctic, the amount of water available is the central determinant in classifying ecotypes. No living organisms escape the need for water as the basic chemical framework for all their internal processes. Rain and oceans supply much water, but, as most of us learned in science classes in grade school, a canopy of trees is needed to attract rain and humidity to keep the ground fertile and fresh for wells and other water sources. Without trees, a once lush land can become a parched desert. Even near oceans, trees are vitally important to re-humidification and rain. When European settlers removed the high forests from the island of Maui, for instance, the once heavily forested island immediately downwind (Kahoolawe) quickly became a desert island because its source of rain had been the trees on Maui — not the ocean surrounding both islands.
Many lands around the globe have been deforested because of wars, floods and lack of knowledge and stewardship. That leaves their communities unsustainable. If ever a well can be dug, it will dry up quickly. Haiti is one such place. Haiti is a very poor nation. For a long time, many of its poorest citizens have been providing heat and cooking fuel — plus some income — by cutting down trees to make, use and sell charcoal. This has deforested the land in such a severe way that Eden President Steve Fitch says that at the current rate, Haiti has only seven years left of trees on the island. So he came up with a plan to provide alternate work for the people and reforest the land at the same time. Then clean water would be plentiful, and wells could provide it.
Eden has been perfecting a process in other nations to do this. It hires many of the poorest in the villages where they work to plant trees that provide habitat restoration, food, fuel and protection from the ravages of floods and drought. Entire communities can be transformed through this simple process. Local people are paid a fair wage while being trained and equipped to restore their environment.
As forests are planted, protected and grow toward maturity, rivers run clean again, bird and animal life returns, and people’s lives are dramatically changed. Many of the employees are single mothers who are now able to send their children to school for the first time. Microenterprises begin to sprout along with the trees as people have disposable income for the first time and the hope of a job that lasts more than a day. Men, women and children commit their lives to Christ as they see practical answers to the huge problems they face and find a new hope for the future.
Eden grows trees from seed to seedling of planting size in community nurseries during the dry season, timing the seed sowing so that the seedlings are ready to plant at the beginning of the rainy season. In order to accomplish this, water sources are needed for the nurseries during the dry season. Canal Bois, Haiti — the first partnership site between Clear Blue (providing wells) and Eden (planting trees and employing people) — is now under way. A major side benefit in the case of Canal Bois is that the well will also provide drinking water for the schoolchildren at the nursery site and for villagers in the area.
Canal Bois is a key area for reforestation in Haiti. The hills surrounding the community are one of several sources of the devastating floods that have ravaged this part of the country, resulting in horrific death and destruction. The community is keenly aware of the need to reforest and protect their trees. Residents have committed to seeing their community restored to the beauty and productivity of the past.
Eden’s team at Canal Bois has been growing small numbers of trees for distribution in the community for two years. Eden has now been given a new larger nursery site, which is cleared and fenced. All that remained to ramp up production to hundreds of thousands of trees here was a dependable well. Clear Blue provided the funds, and well digging was completed in October with Eden enabled to provide food, fodder and fuel trees for every home in the Canal Bois community. In addition, Eden will begin growing thousands of true reforestation trees that Canal Bois community members are eager to plant.
This will begin to restore the surrounding hillsides and result in raising the water table, improving crops and providing protection from the severe flooding that this community and the major city of Gonaives have repeatedly experienced. People at every level in the community are committed — from farmers and single mothers to teachers, pastors, government officials and major landowners. Clear Blue will continue its focus on drilling wells, providing the wells for the communities targeted by Eden for this community-transforming work.
What a wonderful place for such a partnership to begin! Canal Bois means “wooden channel” and was given this name because it was once lush forestland where water flowed freely. As we work together, Canal Bois will once again fit its name.
BRENDA MASON YOUNG is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Akron, Ohio, and the founder and executive director of Clear Blue Global Water Project.