Healthy Farms, Healthy Children - Growing in Haiti

by Colorado Haiti Project Vetted since 2013
Clydens and friends at their booth during the fair
Clydens and friends at their booth during the fair

Petit Trou de Nippes is on the southern peninsula of Haiti and agriculture is the main income driver for the region.  Most families have at least a small family garden and many make their livilihood from the gardens and animals.

 After Hurricane Matthew, farms and gardens in the region were devastated and much rebuilding and deliberation occurred with thoughts  and actions towards stable and sustainable family farms. St. Paul's School had already begun an agriculture program for middle school students. Since the hurricane, an even more concerted effort has been made to engage students.

Growth and new ideas often come through students and young adults. Exciting students about this essential industry can be key in updating the community on agricultural opportunities for their country and climate.

An agriculture festival has become the culmination for the St. Paul's agriculture curriculum each year.  The festival started last year and was instantly a success.  Immediately following the day, it was called the First Annual Agriculture Fair and planning for the second began.

In June, the second annual fair took place. Since this was year two, there was a greater level of excitement and participation from the students. From last year to this, the students understood the fair better and were actively participating in the sales. The fair itself was an exciting, chaotic blend of county fair and 4H exhibition.  The students had booths by class where they sold produce; onions, okra, tomatoes, peppers, maniyok root which is the source of a yummy Haitian dish called Akra and cracker-like product called Cassava.  They also sold chickens and goats.  A new feature of the fair was a booth where students could sell their own produce they had grown at home.

One young student, 13 year old Clydens, dove in to the festival activities with all his classmates.  Clydens, the oldest of three, is an indispensable help to his mother because his father is a truck driver and often away working.  Clydens has started a family garden and this year grew tomatoes, a variety of peppers and eggplants. His attitude towards growing family food and perhaps even a little to sell has gone from unfamiliarity with agriculture to a desire to become a farmer or even an agronomist.  It has become a cool and rewarding activity!

 Agronomist Raphael has just finished his first year at St. Paul’s as the agriculture educator.  He is a big reason the students are so enthralled with growing vegetables.  Along with Agronom Kenel, the first ag educator at the school, they have pulled the students out into the gardens and helped them learn the basics.  Saturday Garden Club has become a social activity for the middle schoolers. Getting together to plant and weed with friends is a great introduction to this fundamental life skill.  For a teacher, there is no bigger compliment than having younger students beg for your class.  And that is exactly what has happened with the 4th and 5th graders.  So next fall, there will be an introductory class for them, with a bit of classwork and lots of time getting their hands dirty in the garden.

Help the Colorado Haiti Project continue engaging the youth of rural Haiti with support of the agriculture programs at St. Paul’s School. As we prepare for the new school year, we are looking for funding for salaries for the agriculture staff, tools and snacks for the garden club and workshops for local farmers that will keep them abreast with what the students are learning in school  And an important component for the future of the program is the training of two agriculture technicians, Schneider and Jameson, local young men who are in a three year post-secondary agriculture program.  They have finished year one and we pursuing support for year two!  This summer, they are home and will lead a summer camp program on sustainable agriculture for the students.

Nourishing whole family involvement including students in the daily life of an agrarian community is essential towards stable food supplies. Please assist us in nurturing this critical life skill.

Adm. Guilot with Agronom Raphael on Fair Day
Adm. Guilot with Agronom Raphael on Fair Day
The Girls Empowerment Club enjoying the fair
The Girls Empowerment Club enjoying the fair
Saturday Morning Garden Club
Saturday Morning Garden Club


Schneider and Jameson, Earth Day 2018
Schneider and Jameson, Earth Day 2018

Schneider and Jameson, two young men from Petit Trou de Nippes graduated from high school in May, 2016 six months before Hurricane Matthew.  Because there was no funds to help them with further education, they chose to spend a year as interns working at St. Paul's School helping the agronomist run the agriculture education program and working in the garden.  

They lived through the hurricane which devastated all the crops in the community and they help rebuild the gardens. Starting in the fall of 2017, they entered the agriculture technical school of Zanmi Agricole.  Currently they are ranked second and fourth in their class.

But one of the greatest opportunity for Jameson and Schneider this year has been the connection with Wynne Farm, an organic farm and ecological reserve in the mountains of Haiti. They are working to bring a sustainable agriculture project back to their home community of Petit Trou this summer for a camp for the students of St. Paul's. Jane Wynne, the head of Wynne Farm and an incredible teacher is helping them build their project.  They spent their spring break at the farm learning and helping.

Madam Jane, as she is called, invited Schneider and Jameson to come back for Earth Day, April 22 and be part of the team leading the celebration.  It was another learning experience and wonderful day.  In Petit Trou, there has never been an Earth Day Celebration.  They will be able to take back the spirit, experiences and learnings of Earth Day for their community.  

As the community continues to rebuild their agarian economy in the time since Hurricane Matthew, the knowledge and opportunity of organic farming will help create sustainable gardens and farms for the future and Schneider and Jameson will be a part of it.

Continued support of the work of the Colorado Haiti Project with their partners in Petit Trou de Nippes, Haiti will help further this growth towards sustainable agriculture, healthy farms and as a result, healthy families!

Beautiful Wynne Farm in Kenscoff, Haiti
Beautiful Wynne Farm in Kenscoff, Haiti
Schneider and Jameson working as part of the team
Schneider and Jameson working as part of the team
Organic produce from Wynne Farm
Organic produce from Wynne Farm


Wilda and her children in the garden
Wilda and her children in the garden

Last year, around this time, I sat with a group of Haitian detainees at the ICE facility in Aurora.  Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents took a large number of Haitian immigrants into custody near the Tijuana border and sent several hundred to Colorado to await hearings.  Having lived in Haiti for several years, I speak Haitian Kreyol, and volunteered to translate for the legal team processing their cases.

I first translated for Jean, a man of slight stature and commanding presence.  He described his path to Aurora with passion and composure, speaking clearly and firmly, willing me to understand his story.  Jean grew up in an isolated mountain town off the southern coast of the island.  After excelling in primary school, he went to live with an aunt in Port-au-Prince to attend high school and seek a college he could afford. After his first year of university he could no longer pay tuition, but stayed in Port-au-Prince fighting for odd jobs and opportunities. In 2015, he heard of a program in Brazil, a special visa for low-paying but reliable jobs.  He went, worked for some time, and when the opportunities dried up, he traveled through Central America, up the length of Mexico, and to the Tijuana border crossing. On arrival in the U.S. he was taken into custody and sent to Aurora.

“Why did you go to Brazil?” his lawyer asked.

“Mwen tap chache lavi.”

This literally means, “I was searching for life.”   He continued, “You don’t make a trip like that for vacation. It was no vacation. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t speak the languages. I can’t describe the things I saw. I didn’t do it for fun – I had no choice.”

It has been eight years this month since an earthquake devastated Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people, displacing hundreds of thousands more. People often ask me, “Has there been progress in Haiti?”  The question has taken on particular weight now, in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s November decision to revoke the temporary protected status of nearly 60,000 Haitian men and women living in the U.S. The administration deemed that “Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.” They have until July 2019 to leave the U.S. or face deportation.

I lived in Haiti for more than two years after the earthquake, I’ve been there more than 30 times in the past five years, my sons are Haitian-American, and I am the director of a non-profit that supports local leaders in Haiti. It is my job to answer the question regarding progress. I’ve answered it hundreds of times and will answer it hundreds more, and yet each time I’m asked, my chest tightens as I wait to see what will come out of my mouth.

Unemployment and a lack of opportunity are stifling for the youth of Haiti. There is rampant and extreme poverty, inadequate access to healthcare, widespread homelessness, lack of clean water, lack of energy, and minimal infrastructure. A recent New York Times piece, which featured close friends of mine, shows how even burying the dead is a daunting challenge for many. Another Times piece after Hurricane Matthew showed people living in caves for lack of a better option.

My chest tightens, I think, because while all I reference above is true, there is an important, more complex reality that hides beneath the darkness and pain: Haiti is the most beautiful place I know. Beauty in its people, beauty in its countryside, beauty in its courage and grace. It is a place of unique history and singular resistance. I’ve heard it called the birthplace of the human rights movement, due to its triumph over Napoleon’s army and its subsequent status as the first independent black republic in the New World. It is a place with long tradition of homegrown community development, of neighbors looking out for one another, and of grassroots movements organizing to great effect.

These truths are not widely known or published, and while they do not negate the poverty and need referenced above, they are an essential counterpoint to them.  People who seek to invest in Haiti should be investing in local people and local structures, in communities like the one Jean comes from.

Progress is more than possible in Haiti: it is inevitable.

When Jean spoke of his hometown his eyes grew misty and his voice cracked. It was important for him to express that he did not want to leave Haiti, that his heart remained there the whole time. The people of Haiti love their country, are fiercely proud of their history and will fight for their communities if given a chance. They have the talent, capacity, and creativity to move forward, what is required is opportunity; a way to stay and fight; tools in their hands, and a chance to use them in their own communities. Given that, they will do the rest.

Community leader, Darline, leader of GEM
Community leader, Darline, leader of GEM
Students at St. Paul
Students at St. Paul's


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
St. Paul's students working together in the garden


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

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Organization Information

Colorado Haiti Project

Location: Louisville, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​
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Project Leader:
Wynn Walent
Louisville, CO United States
$4,426 raised of $85,000 goal
8 donations
$80,574 to go
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