KDocs Hosts Screening of Kombit: The Cooperative

Documentary follows Timberland’s tree-planting initiative in Haiti

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Panelists (left to right), Tasha Nathanson, Kent Mullinix and Larissa Petrillo with Margaret Morey-Reuner on-screen during the KDocs screening of “Kombit” on Nov. 2, 2016. Petrillo explains how beneficial it is for businesses like Timberland to provide agronomy education for communities of smallholder farmers. (Braden Klassen)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s resident documentary film organization, KDocs, screened Kombit: The Cooperative , a film which follows a tree-planting initiative in Haiti that was backed by the outdoor boot company Timberland, on Oct 27. The goal of the initiative was to plant five million trees in Haiti over the course of five years, utilizing the help of local farmers in order to ecologically and economically reinvigorate an area that had been affected by widespread deforestation.

The film was followed up by a Q&A panel that consisted of several local sustainability experts, as well as Margaret Morey-Reuner, the director of strategic partnerships and business development at Timberland. She introduced the film and delivered a keynote address from Boston via Skype, explaining some of the insights that she gained while taking part in this project.

“One of the things we’ve learned is that access should drive empowerment, not dependency,” says Morey-Reuner. “When we set out to envision a large scale tree planting project, we agreed that the project would have to be for the local beneficiaries and it would have to be executed by the local beneficiaries, meaning the farmers on the ground.”

She explained that, instead of bringing Timberland employees from around the world to Haiti to plant trees, they were more interested in working with agricultural experts already in the country.

“We know how to build boots, but we’re not experts in agriculture,” says Morey-Reuner. “In an effort to drive empowerment, we weren’t just about to go in there and act like we knew what we were talking about, because the reality was that we didn’t. So if the people on the ground were going to reap the rewards, then they would need to be the ones to put the equity in because it would mean more to them..”

Janice Morris, KDocs founder and festival director, was primarily responsible for hosting the screening and was supportive of Timberland’s efforts.

“I think this is a great film that shows how big business can be sustainable,” she says. “These free events are really perfect for films that wouldn’t really find an audience otherwise, and being that we have such a huge sustainable agriculture program at Kwantlen, it was a natural fit.”

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