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Oct 25, 2017

Trash Matters- Dealing with garbage.

Maurice cleaning up his home garden
Maurice cleaning up his home garden

Haiti has almost no waste management: infrastructure for sanitation, garbage removal or recycling. Only 17% of the country has any type of improved sanitation systems, and that number is even lower in rural areas of Haiti.

That is the situation in Petit Trou de Nippes where St. Paul’s School is located. There is NO garbage collection. What do the people do? Most of the garbage is thrown on the ground or sometimes burned, neither of which is good for human or environmental health.

At St. Paul’s School this fall, there is a new agricultural educator, Raphael, who is passionate about the environment. He has designed a curriculum that interweaves environmental awareness and stewardship with agriculture. He has engaged students in trash cleanup both on the campus of the school and at the students’ homes. But with no garbage collection, where will this garbage go? Students will work with their new instructor and their families to decide what can be burned, what can be recycled and what must be buried. It is not a beautiful solution that speaks of a “Happy Ever After” and the elimination of the garbage problem. It is the reality of their world, where there is no infrastructure for their waste. But it is a start. Students are learning about the waste, what is dangerous for their health, what cannot be recycled and what has a long half-life. And their immediate environment is cleaner, safer and better for their gardens and families.  

 Please help us support this creative educator along with all the teachers and staff at St. Paul’s School. Help us support faculty and students working towards practical and appropriate solutions. By donating, you are supporting Raphael’s vision of interconnected curriculums supporting the environment. Trash matters and we want to help the students of St. Paul’s put it in its place!

St. Paul's students working together in the garden
St. Paul's students working together in the garden

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Sep 29, 2017

Hurricane Season and Your Local Farmer's Market

Local food from Haiti
Local food from Haiti

Every year, including this one, hurricanes threaten the Caribbean and the United States. It has been a year since Hurricane Matthew came through Haiti, and we have no reason to believe that the trend of powerful and devastating storms will be reversed. Knowing that these storms will continue to threaten the region, what can be done to protect those communities that have the most to lose and the least access to large scale investment, as they prepare for next year and beyond?

This year Haiti has been spared, comparatively speaking, though there was serious storm-related flooding in the North of the country. The 2016 Global Risk Index places Haiti as the 3rd most vulnerable nation in the world to extreme weather events. As we look for ways to minimize the risk associated with hurricanes, Haiti is a place of great need and great opportunity.

Last year, in response to Hurricane Matthew, CHP invested heavily in agriculture, planting trees, opening a seed bank, and strengthening agricultural education programs for students. By investing directly in local community agricultural structures, soil was conserved, local food systems were improved, and yields and profit margins increased for farmers, thus putting capital in the hands of local people as they recovered. 

Haiti is often portrayed as a troubled and distant land, a world away and rife with intractable problems; a daunting place to invest resources. As a person who has worked there for the past seven years, I can promise you that the short-term hopes and long-terms dreams of parents and children in Haiti are not so different than those you’d find here in Colorado. This leads me to the Boulder County Farmers Markets.

The Colorado Haiti Project recently held an event at Lone Hawk Farm in Longmont, wherein Brian Coppom, director of Boulder County Farmers Markets, along with a sizeable group of local Colorado farmers, came together to show their support for small farms in Haiti. Brian and his fellow farming friends and colleagues engaged in dialogues around food systems, production, and seed quality and all present saw clearly that while miles apart, there is a great commonality between the goals of BCFM and the Colorado Haiti Project.

The Boulder County Farmers Markets website reads: Our farmers and ranchers grow what they sell. Today, the markets serve as community gathering events, provide nourishment to neighbors, boost sustainable agriculture and support the local economy. These goals are shared by the Colorado Haiti Project and our local leadership in Haiti. The most significant and most troubling difference is that for most Boulder and Denver residents, the alternative to healthy food, is unhealthy food. In rural Haiti, oftentimes the alternative to healthy food, is no food. The hopeful reality is that there exists in Haiti a long history of community-based and community-driven structures, families lending each other labor and resources – a community gardening and co-op system. This type of organizing is what the local food movement we see flourishing in our American communities is all about. Community gardens, farm to table initiatives, the sharing of seeds, the Slow Food movement are all working to reinforce here our connection food, connection to the land, and connection to each other.   I find that the same people that are passionate about local food systems are also committed to the idea that we are not just a local community but a global one. 

We hope and pray that Haiti makes it through the last few weeks of this brutal hurricane season without widespread damage. In the meantime, investment in rural Haitian communities is producing outputs for the environment, strengthening local defenses against climate events, placing capital in the hands of local families, and putting healthy food on tables.

In the face of Mother Nature and her overwhelming power, it’s promising to realize that her beauty and bounty are part of the solution as well.  In sifting through the news of today, it can be daunting to consider where to invest limited resources. I suggest, quite simply, that we invest in the land and its farmers.   In doing so we find a chance to stand for some of our most important values, creating connection to our food, connection to the land, and connection to each other.

Farmers working to replant
Farmers working to replant
Seed bank opens after Hurricane Matthew
Seed bank opens after Hurricane Matthew
Patrick Desir speaks to Farm Dinner attendees
Patrick Desir speaks to Farm Dinner attendees
Jul 26, 2017

Agricultural Education Helps with Hurricane Matthew Recovery!

Collecting for the Harvest Festival
Collecting for the Harvest Festival

While watching the students at St. Paul's School in Petit Trou de Nippes, Haiti prepare their garden stands, gather the chickens and plant trees, I was struck by the similarities of gardening and farming worldwide.  I could have been at a county fair but in fact I was at the 1st annual Harvest Festival at St. Paul's. This area of Haiti was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew last October, and recovery is still underway.  The school garden has been an incredible asset to the community during these difficult months. Since January, the gardens have fed almost 5000 community members!

The agricultural education program as part of St. Paul's curriculum began two years ago, and the festival was the culmination of this pilot program. The program provides the students with in-depth, hands-on farming and horticultural training designed specifically for the southern peninsula where Petit Trou sits. It is an extremely popular program, due in part to its interactive nature, wherin students plant, weed, water, everthing from caring for the animals to creating compost!  The other key reason for its popularity with the children is that is creates a powerful opportunity for reinforcement of the family structure.  Petit Trou is a rural community where farming is the main ingredient of a secure food supply.  By supporting agricultural education, we are supporting the families of the community, as the students take home innovative agricultural lessons and best practices for home gardens and small farms.

As the new school year begins, our initial startup grant for agricultural education at St. Paul's is finished.  Help us continue this life-altering program for rural Haitian children and their families. Having a Haitian agronomist/agricultural educator brings the learning of best practices and a deeper understanding of growing the crops that are the staples of the Haitian diet. And to support the worldwide effort of reforestation and sustainable agriculture requires a trained agronomist.  Please stand with us on the frontline of conservation and education in supporting St. Paul's School in Petit Trou de Nippes, Haiti.

Preparing for the Harvest Festival
Preparing for the Harvest Festival
A bountiful harvest for the festival
A bountiful harvest for the festival
A satisfied customer!
A satisfied customer!

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