A great deal has happened in the past months in the area of Grand Boulage and in Haiti in general. In this update you will read about the post-earthquake situation in Grand Boulage and its environs, as well as an update on the nursery, gardens, and rabbit projects.
Farmer to Farmer volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak was in Haiti with her husband and children when the earthquake struck on January 12. Thankfully they were unharmed, and Myriam along with Partners’ field officer Anderson Pierre decided to visit Grand Boulage in the days following the quake. They found that, comparatively, Grand Boulage and the surrounding area was spared from the worst effects the earthquake caused since the community lacks large, multi-story buildings. Many homes sustained damaged, however, and partner organizations have arranged for construction materials to arrive in Grand Boulage so the families can improve or rebuild their homes as the rainy season begins.
An essential ingredient to a community’s recovery after a major natural disaster is the presence of hope, direction, and economic opportunities. With these ingredients, the pressure to leave rural communities for already over-populated Port-au-Prince is relieved. The funds from the “Feeding Families” project will continue to provide inputs necessary for the agriculture and environmental projects that you will read about below. These projects are building the confidence and entrepreneurial skills of the community members, and empowering them to feed themselves, their animals, and their neighbors.
Gardens and Nursery: Two horticulture volunteers from Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer Program visited Grand Boulage at the end of 2009. Both indicated that the nursery and gardens are doing quite well given the limited resources available. The gardens are growing vegetables such as arugula (for rabbit feed), purple top turnips, carrots, green onions, radishes, and beets (see photo: FTF Volunteer Emily Oakley with the garden trainers in Grand Boulage).
Also, one of the community members who has a passion for gardening and reforestation has been assigned the new manager for the nursery since the previous manager is away at school. Jean is a teacher at the school and has been a quick learner in composting. He has been able to maintain a successful garden even during the dry season. The nursery and garden stand to benefit from his knowledge in composting to improve the content of the clay-based soil. Jean is slated to begin a 60 x 40 foot garden next to the nursery to grow vegetables and to provide weekly trainings in gardening and composting to the school children. Having received a lot of seeds, the plot will serve as a model garden as well as a source of nutritious food for the children.
Rabbits: In each of the three rabbitries in Grand Boulage there are 40 cages. The bulk of the feed comes from the leaves of Luceana and Doliv trees, which not only feeds rabbits but also helps anchor the soil in this mountainous community and prevent erosion. In a message from Mary Van Den Heuvel of the Friends of Haiti in Green Bay, Wisconsin, she gives an update on the rabbit project at Grand Boulage:
"On a December visit to Grand Boulage, Friends of Haiti members observed a flurry of activity as rabbit cages were being built to increase the rabbit production in the rural mountain community. Excitement had been generated by the first major sale of rabbits to another community. Not only has the introduction of rabbits brought a food source to the hungry population, but it has opened a door to economic development. The care and feeding of rabbits in the mountain areas is no easy task. Walking miles for water, growing an adequate food supply, especially in the dry season, becoming knowledgeable about treating diseases, all require extra effort and dedication. Makouti Agro Enterprises working through Partners’ Farmer to Farmer Program identified three model rabbit producers and provided them with additional training in marketing and sales of rabbits. Through Friends of Haiti the three were given microloans to start larger rabbitries. Members of Makouti arrived from Cap Haitian to teach cage building and housing for larger numbers of rabbits. The owners will pay back the loans with rabbits shared with other members of their community and the surrounding mountain villages. The goal is to have a continuous supply of rabbits to market. People who had lost interest in the rabbit project have gotten renewed energy from seeing their neighbors’ success. Hats off to Global Giving for helping possibilities become a reality. The journey isn’t over. Hard work is ahead but on this particular visit you could feel the energy."
Thank you to all of our donors who make this project possible. Stay tuned for further updates from the “Feeding Families” Project as activities continue in 2010.
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