[Response] Haiti’s biodiversity threatened by nearly complete loss of primary forest

Discussion of forest definitions and tree cover estimates for Haiti

Discussion of forest definitions and tree cover estimates for Haiti, in Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.

Below is a link and an excerpt from our published letter addressing the misguided assumptions in the article by Hedges et al. 2018, entitled “Haiti’s biodiversity threatened by nearly complete loss of primary forest”. Both the article and our response (and their counter-response) are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS):

“In PNAS, Hedges et al. estimate that only 0.32% of “primary forest” cover of Haiti remains. They argue the situation is dire and predict that Haiti will have no remaining primary forest by 2035. We highlight several assumptions in their forest definition parameters and subsequent national extrapolation that result in subjective and potentially biased results—a phenomenon that the authors paradoxically note is common in forest cover estimates.”

We conclude that:

“We share the concerns of Hedges et al. for protecting the remaining forests in Haiti; however, the bar that their article sets may prevent Haitian policymakers, donors, technical experts, and others from recognizing historically documented forests and seeking innovative solutions to restore degraded secondary forests and promote reforestation.”

Read the letter, article, and responses here:
-Peter J. Wampler, Andrew Tarter, Rob Bailis, Klas Sander, and Wanxiao Sun. Discussion of forest definitions and tree cover estimates for Haiti. Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. March 15, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1901163116

Here’s a link to new national research on charcoal production and consumption in Haiti.

Key Words: Haiti tree-cover tree cover forest primary forest FAO Haiti deforestation biodiversity 2018 2019

The Anthropologist in the March For Science: An Interview with Valorie Aquino

In this blog post for the American Anthropological Association, I interviewed Valorie V. Aquino—one of three original co-chairs of the first national March for Science (MFS). And while all three original co-chairs hesitate to claim credit—instead opting to share the limelight by noting each-others’ and others’ contributions—Aquino is the only one still directly and formally involved with MFS through her role as a member of the Board of Directors.  

Aquino is not only an anthropologist; she is also a social scientist. Last year I wrote an article advocating for social scientists to participate in MFS, despite reservations based on legitimate concerns. I ask Aquino about her start in science, what organizing the inaugural March felt like, being on the receiving end of criticisms, and the unique contributions of social scientists.

Read the full post here:

The Anthropologist in the March For Science: An Interview with Valorie Aquino


AAA 2017, CFP: Anthropology Matters in Extension


Call for papers/discussants for the American Anthropological Association 2017 Annual Meeting in Washington D.C.

Anthropology Matters in Agricultural and Forestry Extension

Throughout the world, agricultural, forestry and fishery Extension efforts constitute some of the major methods by which diverse social actors, such as educational and research institutes, NGOs, governments, development agencies, and bi- and multi-lateral entities interface with local farmers, those communities living in forests, fishing communities, residents, and private as well as collective landowners. What Extension means varies. Nowadays, “Extension” is a poliphonic term that materializes a wide variety of activities and goals (i.e., ideas, practices and experiences), often reflecting different societal contexts. Extension efforts frequently involve exchanges of diverse types of knowledges (i.e., traditional and innovative); the promotion of new technologies, and efforts to modify ideas and practices related to improving agricultural production, fishery practices, and management and protection of land, forest and fishery resources.

Agricultural, forestry, and fishery extension interactions occur at a variety of scales. In some contexts, farmers, fishers, and landowners organize into associations and networks that may represent or advocate for their respective constituencies at local, regional, or national levels. Public and private extension agents frequently play a pivotal role in many of these exchanges, serving as a bridge between different groups of producers, public and private institutions, and/or associations, and networks. Extension activities also frequently engender a high level of interdisciplinary interaction and collaboration between social and natural sciences in the production of new knowledge and policy making.

This panel explores anthropological contributions to the study of interactions between farmers, fishers, private and collective landowners, NGOs, extension agents, natural and social scientists, and public and private institutions researching or engaging in agricultural, forestry and fishery extension efforts. We suggest that similar dilemmas and opportunities that confront anthropologists working within or at the periphery of development paradigms, political economy, and agroecology perspectives, exist within the frame of agricultural, forestry and fishery extension.

This panel highlights that anthropology matters in Extension. Anthropologists have much to contribute when it comes to understanding and advocating for important perspectives in extension efforts. Recent anthropological contributions include bridging understanding between natural and social scientists, as well as between these actors and policy making agents; the promotion of human rights perspectives and the rescuing of traditional forms of knowledge and practice; the promotion of participatory methods that can better understand and therefore better advocate for the needs and concerns of farmers, fishers, residents and private and/or collective landowners; contributions to policy formation related to extension; emerging models connecting fieldwork, educational experiences, research activities, and policy-making; and others.


If you are interested in serving as a discussant or presenting a paper for this AAA panel, please contact Andrew Tarter at: andrew.tarter@ufl.edu by April 2nd.

A 200-Year Historical Timeline (1816-2016) of 22 Hurricanes and Cyclones in Haiti – by Andrew Tarter

(excludes tropical storms, floods, and heavy rains).

22 Cyclones and Hurricanes in Haiti, by the numbers: July (1); August (4); September (7); October (6); November (4):

1816 - Unnamed cyclone  (18–19 November)

1909 - Unnamed cyclone (12 November)

1915 - Unnamed cyclone (12 August)

1935 - Unnamed hurricane (21 October)

1954 - Hurricane Hazel (11-12 October)

1963 - Hurricane Flora (3 October)

1964 - Hurricane Cleo (24 August)

1966 - Hurricane Inez (29 September)

1980 - Hurricane Allen, (5 August)

1988 - Hurricane Gilbert (11 September)

1994 - Hurricane Gordon (12-13 November)

1998 - Hurricane Georges (23 September)

2004 - Hurricane Ivan (10 September)

2004 - Hurricane Jeanne (18–19 September)

2005 - Hurricane Dennis (6-7 July)

2005 - Hurricane Wilma (17–18 October)

2008 - Hurricane Gustav (26 August)

2008 - Hurricane Hanna (1 September)

2008 - Hurricane Ike (6 September)

2010 - Hurricane Tomas (5 November)

2012 - Hurricane Sandy (25 October)

2016 - Hurricane Matthew (3-4 October)

Charting Charcoal in Haiti: Estimating and Understanding Annual Charcoal Production and Consumption at the National Level in Haiti – by Andrew Tarter

Charting Charcoal in Haiti: Estimating and Understanding Annual Charcoal Production and Consumption at the National Level in Haiti

This article originally appeared in Anthropology News (the official news source of the American Anthropological Association). It is now available here. I explain my primary method for estimating charcoal consumption and production in Haiti at the national level, and subsequent methods for contextualizing my findings.

Anthropologists engage subjects at various scales through a plethora of methods. We may solicit narratives from individuals through ethnographic interviews; we may study sub-populations through focus groups; or we may learn about village or regional-level trends by analyzing geospatial data, to name a few. Less frequently, anthropologists conduct research at higher scales. As a result, it can be difficult to properly contextualize data. I find myself facing this challenge as the principal investigator on a research protocol I designed, to estimate and examine charcoal production and consumption in Haiti at the national level—a project supported by the United Nation’s World Bank. The short length of the protocol—approximately one month!—makes the issue of contextualizing data even more challenging. In this brief post I explain how my primary method for estimating charcoal consumption and production in Haiti, and subsequent methods for contextualizing my findings, produce important knowledge for both developing tree-planting initiatives and correcting misinformed narratives of deforestation in Haiti.

Charcoal is the principal energy source in Haiti, used primarily in cooking. Urban Haitians mostly use charcoal, while, in rural areas, Haitians typically cook with wood. Charcoal enters Haiti’s largest urban center—the capital of Port-au-Prince—at the end of a long value-chain, transported by both vehicles (trucks) and vessels (boats). My primary method of estimating national charcoal consumption in Haiti, at first, seems parsimonious: some 30 research assistants will help count and tally charcoal vehicles and vessels entering the capital of Port-au-Prince, 24-hours a day, over two different one-week periods: one week of sampling in charcoal production high season and one week in charcoal production low season. Extrapolating these two sampling periods to the entire year will generate a ratio of tons-of-charcoal-consumed to population-of-the-capital. Using this ratio, I can estimate the tonnage of charcoal consumed in other secondary and tertiary urban areas in Haiti, based on their populations. Voila! The numbers show an estimate of the annual tonnage of charcoal consumed in an entire country.

However, numbers devoid of context are fairly meaningless. This is where anthropology comes in: it enriches these numbers. Giving meaning to these national estimates involves understanding the environmental, labor economic, and transportation dimensions of the entire charcoal value-chain—some of the subjects I explored in my doctoral dissertation on sustained charcoal production in rural Haiti. I will supplement the ethnographic data I developed in my dissertation with new data on the national features of charcoal consumption, which my current research team and I are collecting through interviews conducted at urban charcoal-receiving depots and wharfs with charcoal truck drivers, boat captains, and wholesalers and retailers.

Anthropologists create typologies based on what people think and do. I’m applying this concept to create typologies of charcoal vehicles and vessels, and of charcoal grades, which I am accomplishing by weighing every single bag of charcoal on a series of large, medium, and small trucks and boats. This will create weight averages for different grades of charcoal and weight averages for different types of vessels and vehicles entering the capital. We will apply these averages to the tallies of multiple enumerators stationed on major roads and wharfs controlling the entrance of charcoal into Port-au-Prince during the subsequent sampling periods.

The combination of these methods reveals much more than country-wide charcoal consumption estimates: it also tells us the locations of charcoal production in Haiti. For example, we may learn that 30 % of charcoal consumed in Port-au-Prince originates from Haiti’s southern peninsula, or that 10 % of charcoal originates over the border in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Even better, this research can show diachronic changes in the geospatial distribution of charcoal production, and how overall and relative urban charcoal consumption trends have changed by comparing these data to a similar study conducted 30 years ago in Port-au-Prince. These combined of methods with yield some of the most detailed, diachronic, national-level data on energy use, in one the most energy-independent countries in the world—Haiti.

This knowledge is not only crucial for informing several newly launched nation-wide landscape-level land management projects, including tree-planting initiatives; it may also help correct misinformed narratives of environmental destruction in Haiti, which mistakenly place the blame for the country’s deforestation squarely on the shoulders of rural charcoal producers.

Responding to Student Concerns with Responses from the Field – by Andrew Tarter (with Jean J. Schensul, Cathleen Crain, Barbara Rylko-Bauer)

Responding to Student Concerns with Responses from the Field

(With Jean J. Schensul, Cathleen Crain, Barbara Rylko-Bauer)

In this Anthropology News post for the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) Committee on Practicing, Applied and Public Interest Anthropology (CoPAPIA), we highlight outcomes concerning anthropology students, which emerged from a series of panels organized at the 2016 annual AAA meetings.