Help Haitians Grow Food Themselves

 
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Nov 22, 2011

Flooding in the South Causes Difficulties

Flooded streets of Les Cayes
Flooded streets of Les Cayes

In October of 2011, the Lambi Fund of Haiti’s board and staff members planned to spend three days in Southern Haiti to visit grain mills, sheep farming and ox-plowing projects.  The plan was to stay in Les Cayes and travel daily to different project sites located in neighboring rural communities. 

Unrelenting rains offered visitors a unique opportunity to understand how accelerated deforestation affects the realities of partner communities and Lambi Fund staff.

The first site visit to The Organization of Good Samaritans (OBS) was a suspense-filled journey as board and staff traveled on flooded roads, apprehensively watching the water levels rise as they moved further inland.   The visit to this thriving grain mill (first funded by Lambi Fund eight years ago) had to be curtailed because of the risk posed by rapidly rising waters. 

Staying in Les Cayes, a town of about 100,000 citizens, did not prove more comforting. Following three days of steady rainfall, cresting rivers and swollen ravines flooded the city and its surrounding rural communities.

Waist high flood waters in both rural and urban areas drove home the point that deforestation impacts Haitians on a regular basis.

For Lambi Fund staff, especially the regional coordinators, visits to project sites have become increasingly risky propositions, particularly during the rainy season.  Roads become impassable at a moment’s notice, and journeys quickly turn life-threatening for staff traveling by car or motor bike.

So how does deforestation impact flooding?  While statistics vary, most agree that tree cutting has reduced Haiti’s tree coverage from 1-4%.  The resulting erosion of Haiti’s mountains has destroyed an estimated two-thirds of the country’s fertile farmland. This loss of trees has meant that arable soil, anchored to the land by their roots, is quickly washed away during the rainy season.

Consequently, without any soil and roots to hold water, a normal amount of water are not absorbed.  As such, rainy seasons have turned Haiti into a landscape of overflowing rivers - carrying with them valuable top soil and causing immeasurable damage.

While the world holds its breath when forecasted hurricanes approach Haiti, not much attention is paid to the impact of the rainy season on farming communities. 

For Lambi Fund’s partners, deforestation has transformed the rainy season from a much awaited source of irrigation to a season fraught with danger, one engendering unanticipated losses and devastation.

This was witnessed in the recent visit to the South, where some organizations lost 50% of their crops and about 80% of pastures for sheep were destroyed.  This means that farmers, who accessed credit from the community-run mutual credit funds, will experience great hardships.  Their repayment plans often hinge on the anticipated sale of crops.  Meanwhile, sheep growers’ profitability is jeopardized since they will be forced to reinvest in the purchase and preparation of animal feed.

As this vulnerability becomes more apparent, appreciation for Lambi Fund’s reforestation efforts has grown.   Partners have responded by participating enthusiastically in training workshops offered on reforestation and seedling cultivation.  Members of organizations work collectively to build nurseries, care for seedlings, and replant young trees on their lands and in vulnerable watershed areas.

 For the past ten years, Lambi Fund has been steadfast in its comprehensive, grassroots-driven reforestation efforts.

In addition to including a reforestation component in all   funded projects, Lambi Fund has incorporated environmentally safe practices in other programmatic activities, most notably animal husbandry. Free grazing has been identified as a significant cause of deforestation and environmental degradation, particularly when goats and sheep are allowed to feed on young trees and seedlings. As a result, all Lambi Fund supported animal husbandry projects build enclosures where animals are kept.  The offered workshops show farmers how to grow and preserve the forage needed to keep their animals well-fed and healthy even during the dry season.

Over the course of 10 years, Lambi Fund partners have prepared over 1.5 million seedlings and have planted 1.2 million tree saplings. It is estimated that 60% of these trees survive, meaning that about 720,000 trees have matured in communities throughout Haiti. 

Lambi Fund also has plans to hire an agronomist with expertise in agro-forestry who will oversee all reforestation projects.  In addition, staff members are exploring the use of grassroots-friendly GPS technology to better document the impact of Lambi Fund’s reforestation projects.  Mapping reforestation progress will better allow Lambi Fund to see the strengths and weakness regarding tree planting efforts – allowing staff to enforce and adapt strategies as needed.

In spite of the daunting challenges presented to farmers by deforestation, they are not losing hope.  Clermont Yogane Enold, a twenty-something farmer of the Association of Youth from Tet-Kole Bedo, summarized it most eloquently. When asked what they would do to address the losses sustained in the floods he replied: “We cannot give into despair, we will work the land, plant trees and grow our crops once again....” 

Links:

Aug 26, 2011

Workshops provide members with valuable skills

Women at a Lambi Fund workshop
Women at a Lambi Fund workshop

Lambi Fund has been working hard with partner organization ROJETAT to help improve livelihoods and food production after the earthquake.  An important part of these efforts include a series of training workshops that educate ROJETAT members on ox-plow management and operations.

One such training in the works will cover ox-plow service management for 25 members that will cover animal selection, caring for the animals (veterinary agent and pharmacy), and animal feed.

The second workshop will provide training on managing a micro-credit fund for 25 members, which will cover setting up a management committee, the principles of micro-credit lending, record keeping and the documentation of loans.

The completion of each of these workshops will provide ROJETAT members with valuable tools to manage and operate their ox-plow service effectively and sustainably. 

Links:

Apr 25, 2011

Gearing up for a new planting season

Oxen ready to plow fields
Oxen ready to plow fields

It is an important time of year in Haiti – its planting season.  Members of ROJETAT are gearing up to plant crops and maximize the use of their land.  Thanks to invaluable support by donors like you, ROJETAT is ready to utilize the use of ox-plows to cultivate and prepare their land.  Newly purchase oxen and a plow will help Haitian farmers plow their fields in a timely and efficient manner.  Previous years’ planting seasons have been a stressful and back-breaking time for Haitians who were left to plow their fields by hand using hoes.  The introduction of an ox-plow service is quickly making this tough reality a thing of the past!

Help continue to support Haitian peasants like members of ROJETAT as they strive for improved methods to cultivate their fields and increase crop outputs.  Empowering entire communities towards greater self-sufficiency and food security is an investment well made. 

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Jan 21, 2011

Growing Food: One Year Later

One year later
One year later

Its been one year since the earthquake and Lambi Fund has been working with rural communities throughout Haiti to increase crops and food security.  Please read the following report from Lambi Fund's Executive Director has for updates on what Lambi Fund has been doing to provide relief and to rebuild in Haiti.

One year later. Three hundred and sixty-five days since the ground shook and forever changed Haiti. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say about the earthquake and my Ayiti Cheri as we take this day to remember and honor the loved ones lost.

Undoubtedly, countless news stories will air this week looking at Haiti’s journey this past year and how the rebuilding effort is progressing. To be certain, Haiti has had more than a tough go at things. The earthquake left Port-au-Prince and many cities in ruin, hurricanes flooded and damaged the south, cholera has mercilessly swept through the country leaving Haiti brimming with hardships, anxiety, and uncertainty, and Presidential elections held in November had chaotic outcomes. The entire election swirled with rumors of rampant fraud and ballot-stuffing and most viewed the entire process as illegitimate. When results for the run-off election were announced in December, riots and violence broke out in the streets of Port-au-Prince.

By most accounts, the rebuilding effort in Haiti seems stagnant. Tons and tons of rubble still litter Port-au-Prince’s streets, millions struggle to survive in tent cities, a comprehensive reconstruction plan still has not been agreed upon, and millions of dollars in aid money sits in banks. Despite these tough realities and the difficult road that Haiti must journey down, I would like for a moment to stop and offer a glimmer of hope. It seems that despite all this, life in Haiti goes on.

In 2010, the Lambi Fund of Haiti witnessed countless stories of heroism, peasant solidarity, recovery, and movements to envision, plan, and work to rebuild Haiti. While much of the media may paint Haitians as helpless victims, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, it is in the people where Haiti’s strength lies.

Immediately following the earthquake, Lambi Fund staff and its local partners were very much in the midst of the disaster. It took an agonizing six days to finally make contact with Lambi Fund staff in Haiti. Fearing the worst, Lambi Fund’s country director, Josette Perard, reported that the office just blocks from the presidential palace was damaged, yet miraculously all staff members were alive and healthy. Everyone though, had lost close friends and family.

Lambi Fund quickly sprang to action and thanks to years of working with local grassroots organizations throughout Haiti, it seemed Lambi Fund was uniquely positioned to provide immediate and effective relief. Partnerships with local organizations that Lambi Fund had been developing for over 16 years served as an essential network during this time.

Lambi Fund convened regional committees of local grassroots leaders throughout the country to determine immediate and long-term needs. Over a half million earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to stay with friends and family in rural Haiti. Household sizes doubled overnight and for Lambi Fund partners already struggling to survive on less than $2 a day, they did not have the means to provide relief.

Based on these discussions, Lambi Fund was able to swiftly distributeemergency grants to 44 grassroots organizations to purchase life essentials like food, water, shelter and medical supplies. In all, 8,000-9,000 people received emergency relief (1,080 families received grants and each family had an average of 8 people).

Mr. Josephat, a member of a community organization in the Artibonite, recalled tearfully:

"I had 21 people, strangers staying with me and my family. We did not think twice about welcoming them, but we had not yet figured out how they would be cared for or how they would be fed.

When we heard about Lambi Fund's program to help impacted families, I was so happy that I cried. I cried because I was touched and shocked that people who had been at the center of this disaster had the time to think about us.

I was so proud to be a member of a strong organization, and I really deeply understood why being organized is the path to a better life. We would have been left to our own devices without Lambi Fund's support.

The government never came and the NGOs which did drop by brought free food supplies and their methods of distribution stripped us of our dignity."

Mr. Josephat's sentiments were echoed throughout discussions with other partner organizations in Haiti.

"My name is Ostazia. My husband and I have 10 children and we live in the North West. After the January 12, 2010 earthquake which destroyed Port-au-Prince, our household increased by 10 more people. This was extremely problematic as we did not have the means to care for them. It is thanks to my organization and the Lambi Fund that we got the relief we so desperately needed. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, THANK YOU!"

The Next Phase

Knowing that food security and restoring livelihoods for the thousands of survivors now living in rural communities would be essential, Lambi Fund’s second phase of relief focused on expanding crop production and the availability of locally produced food. An emergency credit was provided to 1,254 farmers in 41 partner organizations to allow them to purchase more seeds, tools and supplies to increase crop outputs and feed more families.

Based on reports from farmers, it is projected that about 10,000 persons benefited from this program. By all accounts, communities generated bountiful harvests of peas, corn and vegetables for consumption and sale at local markets.

In addition, Lambi Fund replenished community microcredit funds to help small business owners purchase more goods and restart their enterprises. Two women’s groups in Port-au-Prince who fight violence against women and provide support for women’s small businesses lost everything in the earthquake. Women and their families have been forced to live in squalid conditions in tent cities. Lambi Fund worked with these women to provide small grants to start small businesses and to send their children back to school.

Looking Towards the Future

Never before has Lambi Fund faced a disaster of such a daunting magnitude and it is thanks to you and your amazing support in this past year that Lambi Fund was able to mobilize and provide such urgent relief. For an extensive breakdown of Lambi Fund’s earthquake relief, I ask you to read the Earthquake Activities Update on our website www.lambifund.org.

Haitian peasants are determined to be part of their country's reconstruction and thanks to previous Lambi Fund organizational development and capacity building — they are organizationally strong and ready to serve as a collected front to implement change.

In addition to continuing our support of sustainable economic and environmental activities, Lambi Fund has pledged to amplify the voices of the Haitian people and their determination to be included in this historic moment for nation building in Haiti.

In 2011, the Lambi Fund of Haiti is ready to implement the next phases of the Earthquake Recovery Plan:

  • Increase micro-enterprises with additional community microcredit funds.
  • Increase organic, locally-grown food and clean water with expanded sustainable agriculture, reforestation and water access projects.
  • Increase livelihoods with expanded sustainable development projects, such as pig and goat breeding, grain mills and sugar cane mills.
  • Build latrines to prevent spread of disease and increase sanitation in rural areas, as a result of rapidly growing population.
  • Expand women’s program to address the special needs of women (more vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual assault in tent cities but several organized women’s groups are standing up for the rights of women and children).
  • Support Policy Advocacy program to express voice of the Haitian people in rebuilding Haiti. As foreign corporations and governments jockey for rebuilding contracts, the Haitian voice has been neglected. Haitians must be involved in all facets of rebuilding.

People from rural communities are working together to increase sustainability in their communities and ongoing training in sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, and increasing organizational capacity will be key to long- term success. The Lambi Fund Earthquake Recovery Plan will continue in 2011 and beyond. Rebuilding Haiti is a long-term commitment for the Lambi Fund and we hope that you choose to take this journey with us. With your continued support, Lambi Fund and the people of Haiti can work to achieve sustainable communities and a vibrant Haiti.

Looking to the future,

Karen Ashmore
Executive Director
Lambi Fund of Haiti

Links:

Oct 21, 2010

Emergency Relief Yields Bountiful Harvests

Woman selling her harvest in the local market
Woman selling her harvest in the local market

Lambi Fund staff recently returned from a field visit with partner organizations in Northwest Haiti to assess how communities are doing post-quake.  This was a wonderful opportunity to talk with local organizations about the earthquake’s impact on their communities and how local organizations responded.

By all accounts, Lambi Fund’s emergency assistance program focusing on food production and food security was a total success.  In early Spring, at the start of the planting season, Lambi Fund provided the thousands of farmers, including members of ROJETAT, with grants to expand crop production.  Since ROJETAT’s community population nearly doubled overnight as earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince for the rural provinces, expanded food production in this region was essential.  These grants allowed farmers to purchase more seeds, new tools, and inputs to increase crop productivity. 

Farmers shared with Lambi Fund their success stories of fast growing cultivation within two months and how they generated bountiful harvests of peas, vegetables, and corn for consumption and sale at local markets.  Increasing food security is an important part of ensuring rapid recovery in Haiti.  Continue to support farming organizations like ROJETAT in rural Haiti and allow farmers to work to provide local and affordable food for Haiti.   Mesi for all of your support- Lambi Fund couldn’t do this without you!

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Organization

Lambi Fund of Haiti

Washington, DC, United States
http://www.lambifund.org

Project Leader

Marie Marthe Saint Cyr

Executive Director
Washington, DC Haiti

Where is this project located?