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#1929: The Makaya Project : Paryski explains it


The Macaya project:

Pic Macaya was mentioned in Moreau de St. Mery's Description de Saint 
Domingue  and was probably named after a bizango loa.  During the early part 
of the 19th century the area was explored by a few hardy botanists and 
ornithologists, notably Wetmore and Swales (1920's) and Eric Ekman (1920's & 
1930's).  The scientists testified to the incredible richness and uniqueness 
of the biodiversity they found and proposed that the area be made into a 
national reserve.

In the early 1980's I explored Macaya searching for a long believed extinct 
bird, the Black Capped Petrel which we later found at Macaya and Lavisite.  I 
met Charles Woods, a biologists from the University of Florida who had 
conducted extensive and very fruitful research on paleo-mammalogy and the 
birds in Haiti.  We agreed that it was essential to protect Macaya and the 
area around Pic Lavisite on the LaSelle ridge, since they contained 
priceless, internationally important biodiversity, since they were the 
watersheds for the Plane des Cayes and la Plaine de Cul de Sac and for their 
outstanding and spectacular beauty.

I put the case for a conservation project to USAID and they agreed to provide 
$250,000 for an initial project.  I went to the Haitian government and 
explained that USAID would provide this funding only if the two parks were 
legally established.  $250,000 being a rather large sum at that time, the 
government agreed and we wrote a decree which as promptly signed by Jean 
Claude Duvalier.  After 2 years of hard work planting trees in Lavisite, 
organising peasants and completing  complete biogeophysical inventories of 
Lavisite and Macaya with the superb team lead by Charles Woods, the project 
was unfortunately closed when Jean-Claude was dechoukayd

Again after some fervent pleading, USAID financed a larger project,of about 
$750,000 for the conservation and protection of Parc Macaya.  Since Lavisite 
was not included, I paid the two remaining Lavisite park guards out of my 
pocket.  The project ran until the 1991 coup d'etat.  We managed to fence 
parts of the park, replant hundreds of thousands fo trees including rare 
hardwoods such as the Bwa Tremble, and perhaps most importantly to help the 
peasants organize and improve their incomes while stoppiing most agricultural 
activities in the Park.  We established an experimental farm and constructed 
parks headquarters builidings. We re-introduced thousands of Franco-creole 
pigs, improved bean crops and started production of cabbage, beets and 
carrots which were unknown to these peasants.  A guide organisation was 
created as well.  Further research established the existence in the area of 
50 new plant species unknown to science.  although we did not accomplish all 
we had hoped to, the rampant destruction of Macaya was seriously slowed if 
not stopped and the peasants were motivated.

After the return of "constitutional" (sic) government, the World Bank funded 
a government Assistance Technique pour la Protection des Parcs et Forets to 
help manage and protect Lavisite, Macaya and Foret des Pins.  $22 million 
were allocated  and to date more than $15 million have been spent, but, alas, 
very little has been accomplished other than numerous studies.  There is 
practically no project or government presence in either park.  Rather tragic.

The following is a brief description of Parc Macaya I wrote a just before the 
close of the USAID project:

Macaya National Park

Area:   5500 ha.
Location:   180 kms west of Port-au-Prince at 18 21'N 74 01'W access via les 
Established:    April 1983 by Presidential Decree
Administration:     Ministère d'Agriculture with Ministère de l'Environnement
Vegetation: Montane cloud and mesic forest, pine forest, lower montane humid 
Flora:  500+ species of vascular plants, 141 species of orchids, 102 species 
of ferns, 99 species of mosses and 49 species of liverworts
Fauna:  11 species of butterflies, 37 species of snails, 28 species of 
amphibians, 34 species of reptiles, 63 species of birds, 19 species of bats, 
2 endemic land mammals
Geology:    Formed 70-80 million years ago of uplifted limestone and 
"demisseau formation" (basaltic volcanic rock, turbidites, cherts and 
siliceous sandstone)
Macaya National Park, located near the western tip of Haiti's southern 
peninsula, provides the water supply for the Plaine des Cayes, Haiti's most 
productive agricultural region.  The Massif de la Hotte, composed of two 
major east-west, extremely steep ridges, Crete Macaya topped by Pic Macaya 
2,347 m, and Morne Formond topped by Pic Formond 2,250 m., forms the heart of 
the Park.  Due to its remoteness and inaccessibility the site has remained 
relatively undisturbed until recently, and contains large tracts of 
impenetrable montane cloud forest.  Now the Park is threatened by 
inappropriate agricultural practices and deforestation by peasants seeking to 
merely survive.

The Park has served as a refugia for plants and animals throughout great 
global climatic changes and changes in the level of the sea.  Its isolation 
and insular position resulted in a high level of endemicism (species found 
only in a specific site) and extremely rich biodiversity.  The Park's 
mountains are blanketed by spectacular, beautiful relictual cloud forests, 
the last remaining in Haiti.  Pines 45 m high and nearly 2 m in diameter trap 
and precipitate moisture from the almost ever-present cloud cover.  One of 
every ten plants found there is endemic to the Park.  Among the most exotic 
animals are: the Hispaniolan Hutia or zagouti (Plagiodontia aedium- a large 
rabbit like creature), the strange Nez Longue (Solenodon paradoxus- an 
insectivore), the Hispaniolan Trogan (Temnotrogan rogeigaster- a beautiful 
red and green bird), the Grey-crowned Palm Tanager (Phaenicophilus 
poliocephalus- a bird found only in southern Haiti) and the Black-capped 
Petrel (Pteradoma hasitata-a large albatross like bird).  A number of 
northern songbirds winter and the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) winter 
and breed in the Park.  Seven major rivers, which irrigate the entire 
southwest, begin in these forested peaks on which more that 4000-mm of rain 
falls each year.

To preserve and protect this unique area the Haitian government declared the 
site a national park in 1983.  In cooperation with the government and with 
funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 
the University undertook the first steps to establish a function biosphere 
reserve, which will include the Park.  The goal of this project was to 
protect and conserve the ecosystems of the Park and buffer zones and 
simultaneously promote the sustainable development of the peasant communities 
around and in the Park by offering them income-generating alternatives to the 
destructive use of the forest.

There are minimal camping facilities available at the Park headquarters in 
Plaine Durand.  From the headquarters visitors can take paths into the 
surrounding wet forests or climb steep paths leading to Pic Macaya itself, a 
challenging trek that usually takes two or three days.  Guides are available 
locally.  The area is a paradise for birdwatchers, botanists and 
mountaineers.  The access road to the Park which begins in Dulcis is 
difficult, but offers magnificent views and passes by a huge fortress, the 
Citadelle des Platons built in 1806.  Visitors should come prepared for wet 
and chilly weather, although sunny, warm weather is the rule.  Drinking water 
is available from local springs but should be treated or boiled.

Paul Paryski