New Congressional Bill Proposes Debt-for-Nature Swap for Armenia and Haiti

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Yesterday, it was announced that Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts’ 5th District and Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois are introducing an act that would authorize USAID and the U.S. Forest Service to provide financial assistance and technical resources support to support reforestation in both Haiti and Armenia.  Within ten years, the bill would aim to increase Armenia’s forest cover to at least 12 percent of its total land mass and for Haiti, the goal is set at seven percent.

Read the text of the parallel measures, as introduced by Senator Durbin and Representative Clark here.

Huge portions of forest areas in Haiti and Armenia have been destroyed or degraded in the last several decades. According to a fact sheet on the bill created by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), archeological data indicates that approximately 35 percent of the territory of present-day Armenia was originally forested. By 1990, less than 12 percent of Armenia’s territory was covered in forest. In 2016, that  number was halved. Similarly, in Haiti, over 60 percent of the country consisted of forests in 1923, whereas today, forests comprise approximately 10 percent of land. The motivation for the bill stems from the understanding that forests play a crucial role in supporting human and animal ecosystems. The decrease in forest cover in both countries is anthropogenic, or related directly to human activity.

Dilijan National Park in the Tavush region of Armenia (Photo: H-dayan/Wikimedia)

“Forests play a crucial role in a country’s fiscal and environment health by providing shelter, food, water, and jobs,” said Representative Clark. “This legislation will help rejuvenate Haiti and Armenia’s natural resources and in turn, support their long-term economic vitality.”The bill outlines three different funding mechanisms to support the efforts introduced by the bill.

Perhaps most notable about the bill, is its three tier projected model for funding, which—direct financial and technical aid from USAID and the U.S. Forest Service and grants—involves the possibility of debt-for-nature swaps for both nations. “Under this mechanism, a nongovernmental conservation group would work with the Haitian and Armenian governments and international creditors to trade debt for commitments and plans to reforest and protect key tracts of land,” read a press release from the ANCA. According to the 2017 Annual Foreign Credit Exposure Report, the total debt owed by the Government of Armenia to the United States government is $16.1 million.

“We would like to thank Rep. Clark for her leadership in introducing forward-leaning legislation to promote a constructive U.S.-Armenia partnership for healthy, sustainable forest growth in Armenia,” said ANC Eastern Massachusetts Chairman, Dr. Aram Kaligian. “We look forward to working closely with the Massachusetts Delegation and our community allies and coalition partners to secure the adoption of this common-sense measure.”

“We thank Senator Durbin, who was the first U.S. legislator to support sustainable Armenian and Haitian reforestation, including through the use of debt-forgiveness incentives to promote the growth of forest cover in both of these nations,” said ANC Illinois Chair Maral Vartanian Abrahamian. “The Haiti and Armenia Reforestation Act of 2018 – now introduced in both the Senate and House – sets clear timetables and establishes key benchmarks for progress toward vital reforestation initiatives in Armenia.”

Deforestation has greatly reduced Armenia and Haiti’s ability to respond to and recover from natural disasters. In Haiti, hurricanes have killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more, partly because of the clearing of large hillsides that enable rainwater to run off into residential settlements. The effects of Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake also reduced hillside stability and caused significant mudslides throughout the country. In Armenia, deforestation has caused tens of millions of dollars in damage due to flooding and wildfires, including the recent devastation caused to the Khosrov Forest Reserve, which is among the oldest protected areas in the world. This bill aims to prevent these devastating consequences of deforestation.

“Continued deforestation will result in disastrous long-term environmental, health, and economic impacts in Haiti and Armenia,” said Durbin. “This bill supports the market-based sustainable restoration and rebuild of critical ecosystems to improve the overall vitality and quality of life in these countries. I have seen first-hand the impacts of deforestation in Haiti. We need to take action now to ensure people can make a livelihood while preventing future harm to the environment and global climate.”



  1. I am suspiciously positive and skeptical at the same time for Haiti. The deforestation in Haiti is linked to the day to day drudgery of that Nations source of cooking fuel, charcoal.
    At any one time one may drive the south highway from Port-au-Prince to Cayes and then over to Port Salut and north along the coast to Tiburon and Cap Dame Marie. I’ll wager that one would count over thirty massive trucks upon any afternoon loaded beyond capacity with thousands of pounds of charcoal in sacks destined for markets along their routes to P-a-P. This is an endless never ceasing activity. The three million plus in the greater P-a-P area and the attached sprawling settlements want to cook and produce heat for a plethora of other needs.
    Replanting trees often meets with disaster.
    The Bill for Haiti should be well thought forward in view of the culture and consequences of just what charcoal does for the growing population.
    When I first entered Haiti over half a century ago there were perhaps 3 million as the nation’s population versus by my calculations of over 13 million today in 2018.
    Since the 1960’s there has been endless changes and shifting of views without any real on-the-ground measures to curtail and replace the use of charcoal. A 1950’s effort to distribute kerosene cooking stoves met with failure when the price of that fuel surpassed Charcoal.
    Haiti’s Leaders have been without their own conviction to alter the falling into the abyss syndrome that Haitians have been living with for decades upon decades.
    Haiti is in no particular way better off today than it was in the 1950’s save for some superficial entities and the pretend to be democracy that is marginally better than living under the threat of the 1957-86 regime.
    The money merchants who dwell along Rue des Miracles have little empathy not understanding of the trials and tribulations of the millions who sweat for their not-so-daily bread battling the odds to eek out a living in the agricultural arena.
    The Haitians themselves must be provided with an alternate cooking fuel and jobs that take them out of the charcoal industry before such an ambitious and rewarding project may be undertaken.
    Just try doing so without some real choices being cemented into the economy! I can guarantee failure before it is started.
    The top may not lead-down-to-the-bottom. Life in Haiti is far too desperate to go about this project in a white-collar application. It will take political guts and devotion, with enormous conviction, education, and fill-in rewards to bridge the change-out from the charcoal industry that has decimated Haiti’s once lush and beautiful forests.
    So many others of Haitian birth and want who have devoted their lives to the ambitions of re-forestation have been foiled by the run-away population growth that exceeds the country’s ability to feed itself since 1983 when food imports surpassed petroleum needs.
    And we all have been reminded of just what a few cents rise in the cost of petrol did achieve in recent Haitian time.
    The project is valid and needed, but must be worked forward and dove-tailed into the existing circumstance at hand.
    CARE lost millions of trees back in the dechoukaj of 1986. Many hundreds of tree farmers have planted only to loose their fledgling forests to the in-opportunities of social unrest in Haiti.
    Pa fe menm bagay sa ke yo te fe nan pase nou……Ayiti pa genyen tan pou jwe nan pwolemn sa…..twop moun paka fe vi you kounye-a….korido sa manke limye!
    This honorable intention must be carefully previewed and worked into the Haitian economy. It will require years to bring about the stage upon which reforestation may succeed. I want this to happen, and so do millions of others!

  2. Dilijan National Park is one of the most beautiful natures that tourist and natives alike can enjoy.
    It’s petty if no one in this world act on-time to preserve this natural beauty.

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