In the three years since a massive 7.0-magnatude earthquake struck the island nation of Haiti, Timberland has helped plant 2.2 million trees in the rural area surrounding Gonaives. Timberland partnered with Smallholder Farmers Alliance, a local non-governmental organization (NGO), to meet its commitment of helping plant 5 million trees in a five-year period. An additional 1 million trees will be planted this year as well as in 2014 and 2015.
The project will help improve the environmental, economic and social conditions in the Gonaives region. Timberland and Smallholder Farmers Alliance are helping local farmers learn how to improve crop yields, develop eight community tree nurseries and support agricultural training centers in the region.
"When this program began, our vision was to create a model that could be self-financing within a reasonable amount of time and would generate positive social, environmental and economic impact," says Margaret Morey-Reuner, Timberland's senior manager of values marketing. "The great results so far are a testament to the camaraderie, hard work and independence of these farmers as well as to this private sector, NGO and community stakeholder collaboration."
Launching a program with the eventual goal of self-financing is what is setting this partnership apart from many other programs that sprung up in post-quake Haiti. One charity that faced public scrutiny was Yele, founded by hip-hop superstar Wyclef Jean.
Yele was founded years before the devastating earthquake but in the weeks following the earthquake, Yele raised $16 million in funding. Considering the Haitian economy, $16 million could certainly go a long way, right? Wrong – subsequent reports reveal that $9 million went to salaries and other expenses.
Comparing Yele, which has since closed its doors, to the Timberland and Smallholder Farmers Alliance partnership is like comparing apples to oranges. Sure, both programs started with altruistic intentions, but the built-in goal of self-financing helped the Timberland alliance stay on track, and that will help ensure the long-term success of the project.