"I saw what he was doing and I said, 'You've given me an idea. I'm going back to the United States to get this started,' " Joseph said. "We don't want to see, after every little rain, the soil washing down the land."

Other supporters contend that Joseph's stature and reputation could help his effort succeed where others aimed at lifting Haiti out of poverty have failed.

"When he told me about this organization, I told him I wanted to be there for him," said the Rev. Jonathan Weaver, the pastor at Greater Mount Nebo A.M.E. Church. Weaver said he got to know Joseph 20 years ago when he was with the A.M.E. Service and Development Agency, which works to improve the quality of life for African and Caribbean countries.

"This is a man that epitomizes integrity," Weaver said of Joseph. "He can galvanize all sorts of people, in this country and in Haiti."

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Dr. Judy Ann Fisher, executive director of the Maryland-based Mercy Outreach Ministry, which is focused on providing technology and sustainable development to countries like Haiti, agreed that Joseph could be the right person to make the reforestation of Haiti a success. Fisher said she worked with Joseph when he was ambassador, to help bring solar cookers to Haiti.

"Haiti gets a bad rap, but there are people like the ambassador who are good, honest people," Fisher said. "He can get this done."

Bob Anantua, director of the Columbia-based Build Haiti Foundation, said he was familiar with Joseph, whom he said was "very much respected in Haiti," and his new campaign.

"I think it's a very good idea," he said. "I go to Haiti on a regular basis, and you look at the mountains and they're very, very bare. Anything that can be done to help Haiti reforest, it's a welcome proposition."

Rebuilding Haiti, he added, "is a long, arduous road" that requires a multifaceted solution.

"Haiti is not a short-term project," Anantua said. "It's a really long-term project."

Information on the Haiti reforestation campaign can be found at http://www.replanthaiti.org.