Carl Lewis (C), nine-time US Olympic gold medalist and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), cheers with children in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, June 13, 2011. Lewis was in Haiti to spotlight a global campaign by FAO to end hunger through the "1 billion hungry project". [Photo/Agencies]
SANTIAGO - US sprinter Carl Lewis, winner of 18 gold medals in the Olympics and World Athletics Championships, on Tuesday finished a visit to Haiti in the context of the International Forest Year celebrations as good-will ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The FAO, through its Latin American headquarters in the Chilean capital, said Lewis had learnt firsthand about the reforestation efforts carried out in Haiti to help protect the country from flooding and landslides.
Lewis traveled to the Legoane region in Haiti, where he visited deforested mountains as well as a school which forms part of the "Fruit Trees for Haiti" program, the FAO said in a statement.
"To educate children is a very important first step to avoid the degradation of the environment, one of the most serious problems faced in Haiti," Lewis said in the statement.
"What the FAO is doing is tremendous and I feel optimistic again when seeing the Haitians are realizing that they must take care of the Earth. The trees are located in the center of the Haiti's rebirth," he said, referring to Legoane which was detected to be the epicenter of the January 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation.
Experts say that if each Haitian plants 22 trees the country will have a total of 222 million trees, a number which has become a goal of the current Haitian government as the impoverished Caribbean nation has a 2 percent rate of forest coverage, one of the lowest in the world.
Lewis also met with Haiti's newly inaugurated President Michel Martelly, with whom he talked about reforestation.