With an estimated 1.5 percent tree cover remaining, Haiti is one of the most severely deforested countries in the world. In January 2010, an earthquake devastated the people of Haiti and illuminated the ongoing degradation of the country’s natural environment. While short-term relief efforts were essential, sustainable changes to restore tree cover and agricultural production remain critical for the future of Haiti. The Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) is the culmination of a $1 million, five-year, innovative public/private partnership led by Timberland, delivering a long-term solution that empowers Haitians to play an active role in spurring economic development, improving agricultural practices, and supporting reforestation and environmental restoration.
Small-scale, or “smallholder” farming is the main source of income for two-thirds of Haiti’s working population. Timberland partnered with Timote Georges and Hugh Locke, co-founders of the SFA, to develop an agroforestry business model where local smallholder farmers take ownership of increasing local food production and help combat deforestation. The farmers voluntarily tend to a network of tree nurseries that produce one million trees annually. In return, they receive training, crop seeds, trees and tools that collectively help restore tree cover and increase crop yields.
When developing a private/public partnership like the SFA, there are many challenges to navigate. For instance:
- Consider what happens when the funding stops, and implement an “exit strategy”
- Ensure you have strong partners on the ground that can guide through cultural nuances, government and political leaders, etc.
- Think about opportunities to create scale and how the program could someday support your business directly
Timberland took these challenges head-on, and within five years, SFA has become a self-sustaining, replicable agroforestry business model that demonstrates the best of social entrepreneurism at work. The model has helped 3,200 farmers increase the productivity on their farmlands up to 50 percent, resulting in the increase in household income of SFA farmers between 30 and 50 percent. Other outcomes include increased access to education and healthcare for farmers’ families, and recently the early development of an export model for lime and “superfood” moringa.
Timberland hopes to replicate this model in other areas of its footwear and apparel supply chains and is investigating opportunities to scale cotton and rubber plantation farming in other developing countries. Timberland and SFA, in partnership with award-winning filmmakers Gabriel London and Charlie Sadoff of Found Object, have been documenting the project since 2010. Scheduled for release in October 2015, KOMBIT: The Cooperative, chronicles Timberland’s and SFA’s journey to rebuild Haiti.
Check out the trailer below: