Lewis recently travelled to Haiti as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to mark the UN observance of the International Year of Forests and follows a similar visit to neighboring Dominican Republic.
Haiti currently has just two per cent forest cover, one of the worst rates in the world, and experts say this is the main reason for the spate of deadly mudslides and floods that have killed thousands of people over the past eight years. At least 25 people were killed by flash floods and landslides just last week, the first week in this year’s hurricane season.
Lewis visited the lakeside city of Léogâne, near the epicenter of the deadly January 2010 earthquake that killed almost a quarter of a million people.
“What FAO is doing is tremendous and it makes me optimistic to see that Haitians are realizing they have to take care of their land. Trees are at the epicentre of Haiti’s renaissance,” he said.
FAO forestry experts estimate that if 22 samplings are planted for every Haitian – a total of 222 million trees. The newly-elected President Michel Martelly’s goal of reforesting eight per cent of the country’s land surface in five years could be met.