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Partnering with Rotary to Plant Trees in Haiti


It would be hard to find a more diverse group than the 25,000 Rotarians from some 175 countries who gathered for their annual international convention last week in Toronto. I noted this in my opening remarks to a breakout session last Tuesday, and then went on to announce a partnership between Rotary and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) to plant trees in Haiti.

The partnership will begin operation later this month with the building of a new tree nursery near the Haitian city of Gonaives that will be partly sponsored by donations from two US Rotary Clubs in Bentonville, Arkansas and Exeter, New Hampshire. Following the SFA model, smallholder farmers will work in the nursery to grow, transplant and look after trees as a way to earn the seed, tools and agricultural training they need to improve crop yields an average of 40% and increase their household income between 50 to 100%. As I said in my talk to Rotary delegates, the SFA calls this approach “tree currency” because it gives the farmers the ability to work their way out of extreme poverty. No handouts. Everything earned.

Last week’s announcement represents the first phase of a Rotary/SFA partnership and lays the groundwork for a global grant being worked on now for later this year. We anticipate it will include the Rotary Club in Gonaives as well as various US and other clubs along with the Rotary Foundation, Rotary International and global outdoor brand Timberland. The focus of this planned global grant will link cotton and trees, in that the trees grown by farmers will earn them cotton seed and the tools and training they need to grow this crop and export it to Timberland.

Like most people, I knew the name Rotary before travelling to Toronto. But I did not know the organization is present in over 200 countries and territories, which is more than the 193 member states that make up the United Nations. I was not aware of the scale of Rotary’s work in tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. And did you know that their name came from the group’s early practice, following their founding in Chicago in 1905, of rotating meetings among the offices of its members?

I will keep you posted as the Rotary partnership progresses.


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