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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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Jul 3, 2017

Seed for over 6,000 families in rural Haiti

Women of the Petit Trou, Haiti Seed Bank
Women of the Petit Trou, Haiti Seed Bank

A seed bank in rural Haiti provides seed for over 6,000 families post Hurricane Matthew.

Five months ago, the Colorado Haiti Project launched a seed bank in the rural community of Petit Trou de Nippes, Haiti in response to the devastation of Hurricane Matthew. There were damaged homes, lost livestock and destruction of crops and food supply. The seed bank provided seeds at one-third the normal price affording access to the local staples of corn and beans.

 The first planting season post-hurricane is in the ground and the corn is high. The seed bank, through the efforts of the community and with the support of our donors, provided over 6,000 families rations of grain seed. Over 66,000 pounds of seed was sold and a mobile seed bank was launched to serve the remote mountain communities that were having difficulty reaching the centrally located seed bank.

 As we thankfully watch the results of this first planting, we begin to plan for future steps of agricultural preparedness with the community. One frequent request from the farmers and families of the region at the seed bank has been for other varieties of seed. Corn and beans are essential to the diet of this area but more is needed to complete the nutritional profile necessary for healthy families. This summer, the seed bank is offering kits for the next planting with corn and beans and the addition of chard, okra, watermelon and leeks. When the planting time is right, tomatoes, cabbage and onions will be added.

 Please continue to support this community-led project providing Haitian families with the life-giving tools essential to planting and growing their own food.

  • A kit to provide a family of 7 with corn, beans, chard, melon, okra and leeks- $10.00
  • A resource trip to purchase seed for the community’s seed bank- $75
  • Support the seed bank’s functioning in one of the remote mountain communities for a day- $150
The corn is high!
The corn is high!
Serving over 6,000 families since Hurricane Matth.
Serving over 6,000 families since Hurricane Matth.

Links:

 
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