Haiti's World Environment Day Sun, Jun 8, 2014

Haitian President Michel Joseph Martelly and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner visited Macaya National Park, one of the last remaining reserves of primary forest in Haiti, when Haiti celebrated the World Environment Day on 7 June.

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H.E Michel Joseph Martelly (L) president of Haiti and the Minister of Environment Haiti (R)offer the Haiti White Book of Environment to Achim Steiner (C), UNEP Executive Director

Formond, Haiti, 7 June 2014 - A transformative UNEP field project in Haiti - aimed at establishing sustainable economic opportunities in agroforestry and reducing threats to Haiti's last remaining primary forests, the Macaya National Park - will be an additional priority for UNEP in Haiti, announced UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner as he toured the country with President Michel Joseph Martelly today.

Macaya National Park, a lush forest in Haiti's Département du Sud (South Department), is one of the few remaining bastions of primary forest and biodiversity in the largely deforested Caribbean nation. It is a main site of the Côte Sud Initiative, a UN coalition aimed at supporting the Government of Haiti in the sustainable development of the South Department of Haiti.

Speaking at Macaya National Park today on the heels of World Environment Day, President Martelly reiterated his commitment to including the environment as a pillar of his political agenda, with a focus on sustainable socio-economic development in the Département du Sud and in the Grand'Anse.

Mr. Steiner said: "A new phase of collaboration is beginning between UNEP and the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture, with the aim of reducing threats to the ecosystems of the Département du Sud - including from inappropriate agriculture, forest fires, the production of wood charcoal and firewood and the wood plank industry. The work by UNEP in Haiti has been made possible thanks to generous financial support provided by the Government of Norway, for which I am deeply grateful."

"It is crucial to protect both the livelihoods of those that currently rely on resources from the Macaya Forest, as well as the stunning array of biodiversity and ecosystem services that exist within it. This can only be done by creating green jobs and promoting sustainable agriculture practices," he added.

In particular, he said, the field project will work to strengthen the management capacities for Macaya Park; establish a network of marine and coastal protected areas connected to the Park by biological corridors; and develop sustainable economic opportunities in agroforestry that will enable a green economy in the Département du Sud.

The effort directly supports the government's 2013 decrees on a set of protected areas for the Grand Sud region - the Park Macaya and nine marine and coastal protected areas, the first of the country.

Macaya feeds the two principal irrigation systems of the Département du Sud and is the source of many rivers.

"In practical terms, it is both the regulator and the water tower for Haiti's southern peninsula," said Jean Georges Ernest, the Ministry of Environment's Director for the Département du Sud. He also emphasized that the initiatives linked to Macaya will decrease the vulnerability of the residents of the park's buffer zones.

The project in Macaya Park is aimed at improving the living conditions of the population around the park, as well as assuring the protection and regeneration of Macaya's natural resources.

"It is fundamental to promote economic development to break the harmful dependency of the population towards the park's resources, while reinforcing supervision to avoid these resources feeding the demand for wood charcoal and the wood for large urban centers," said Paul Denis Caton of the Management Group for Macaya Park.

Elsewhere in Haiti, other activities were organized by the Ministry of the Environment to mark World Environment Day. In the coastal town of Port Salut, for example, UNEP, the Ministry of Environment and the local municipality organized awareness-raising activities and a drawing competition for children on the role of marine and coastal ecosystems in human well-being.

For more information, please contact: Peleg Charles, Communication Officer for the United Nations Coalition in the South - Côte Sud Initiative, +509 4891-6327

Note to editors

The Macaya National Natural Park is one of the last reserves of biodiversity in the country and the last primary forest of Haiti. Its biodiversity has a global importance, principally because of the presence of endemic amphibians. It has been proven that the density of endemic amphibian species units per surface in the Park is the largest on earth.

Among many other components of the Park's exceptional biological diversity are: 141 orchid species, of which 38 are endemic, and 367 flower varieties of which 55 are endemic. Most of these plants have medicinal properties known by the local population as well as scientists.

Also found in the Park are two endemic terrestrial mammals - the Zagouti (Plagiodontia eadium) and the nocturnal insectivore the Nez Long (Solenodon paradox) - as well as 65 bird species of a total of 230 for Haiti, including the Kanson Wouj, (Tenmotrogon roseigaster), and the Kat Je Sid (Pterodoma hasitata).

Today the Macaya forest is threatened by subsistence farming and forest fires linked to inappropriate agriculture practices, the production of wood charcoal and firewood as well as the wood plank industry. Thousands of people use the park's natural resources as a source of economic survival.

Each week an average of 200 trees are cut by a population that is threatened with starvation and often unconscious of the danger that their activity represents to the ecosystem. The need to develop sustainable economic alternatives, as well as a strong surveillance corps and management system, are priorities for the management of the Macaya National Park.

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