The protection of the environment hinges on education: this is the clear message that President Michel Martelly wished to convey during the visit of the country’s first biosphere reserve with UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, accompanied by the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti, and the Minister of the Environment, on 17 September 2013.
Located at more than 1,800 metres above sea level, accessible only by steep rocky slopes, La Visite National Park, at the heart of the biosphere reserve of the south-east of the country, is home to rich biodiversity, many endemic species and highly diverse ecosystems. The challenges of preservation are immense – including to fight against deforestation and erosion, protect the cultures and habitats in protected areas and ensure the harmonious development of human activities and the environment.
The delegation was greeted by the Seguin Foundation, which has been working for almost 10 years for sustainable management of the Park through activities to protect natural resources and improve knowledge and appreciation of the environment with the participation of local communities. The President, the Director-General and the Special Envoy visited a nursery growing thousands of seedlings that will be planted for the reforestation of parcels of land with endemic species and fruit trees adapted to the conditions at high altitude. They engaged with forest rangers and local stakeholders before going on a short hike through the pine forest.
The Director-General commended the President’s commitment, affirming UNESCO’s readiness to accompany the authorities in their ambitions to reconcile biodiversity conservation with improving the life of inhabitants, through training, education, and increased international cooperation.
The National Park in the Massif de La Selle was officially declared a Biosphere Reserve in Haiti on 20 February 2013 at Port-au-Prince. It is the country’s first UNESCO biosphere reserve, inscribed on the list after eight years of advocacy and showcasing by the Haitian authorities, and for which the Ministry of Environment is the administrative authority.