A Comparison of Soil and Site Conditions in Coffee-Based Agroforestry Systems in Three Regions of Central Haiti

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Davis, Peter
McGrath, Deborah (Capstone Co-Advisor)
Potter, Bran (Capstone Co-Advisor)
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University of the South , Sewanee, Tennessee , Capstone paper 2017 , Earth and Environmental Systems Department , calcium carbonate soils , carbon payments , coffee agroforestry , Haiti's Central Plateau , Partners in Agriculture , Zanmi Kafe
Zanmi Kafe (Haitian Kreyol for Partners in Coffee) is a collaboration between Sewanee the University of the South and the Hattian NGO Zanmi Agrikol (Partners in Agriculture) based in Haiti’s Central Plateau that works with rural farmers to implement agroforestry practices through a payment for ecosystem services (PES) structure. The structure of PES payments reward landholders for land stewardship practices in an effort to improve rural poverty not just economically, but also environmentally (Midler et al 2010). Farm productivity in Haiti’s Central Plateau region suffers from deforestation and resultant soil erosion as well as a lack of arable land on steep rocky slopes. Shade grown coffee, a crop requested by the Haitian farmers in Zanmi Kafe, offers an important agroforestry strategy because it incentivizes the planting of a variety of over-story shade trees with the potential to increase households livelihoods and environmental resilience in these remote mountain areas. Since the establishment of the shade coffee-based agroforests in 2013, comprehensive soil studies have been conducted to characterize the conditions in which the trees are growing, and provide information that will help farmers more effectively manage these systems. We have been working with our farmer-collaborators in three regions to analyze soil chemistry, organic horizon mass, nutrient content, soil depth and percent slope of home garden and open fields. We also assessed site factors such as elevation, and percent canopy openness, as well as coffee seedling survival. Our results demonstrate that the calcium-carbonate-derived soils in these highland areas are neutral to slightly alkaline, low in organic matter, with highly variable amounts of phosphorus. In Baptiste, the oldest, most elevated, mesic and productive coffee growing region, the soils are slightly acidic but higher in organic matter. A better understanding of the region’s soil characteristics aims to help farmers increase their crop yield by adopting plants and strategies more conducive to the Central Plateau. Contour alley cropping and grass terracing may help reduce soil erosion and increase productivity on farms where shallow dry soils inhibit coffee production.