Your generous support, and the support of GlobalGiving, has done so much to mitigate the effects of Hurricane Matthew and subsequent setbacks by putting vegetable seeds, tools, and fertilizer in the hands of farmers who had lost everything. Now, our partners are considering what a post-recovery program should look like.
In the last report, we shared that we’re bringing this project to a close so we can collaborate on a broader project. Our partners have established, and continue to develop, resilient networks that can move their farmers toward collective self-sufficiency. Sharing the skills and resources already on the ground has gone a long way toward ensuring that farmers will be prepared for the next challenge.
The new project is still being designed based on feedback from our partners. As the physical infrastructure continues to be rebuilt, we’re finding ways to work with our partners and their farmers where they are. Most of all, the new project should be adaptable so it can respond to new challenges as they arise.
We all know Haiti has more than its share of challenges, but it also has incredible community innovators. Partners like FONDAMA exemplify this. You might remember their tire gardens from our last report — they trained communities to adapt the materials at hand, tires, and protect their vegetables from floods and wind. The photos in this report show one of the community trainings.
It’s been a privilege to work with partner organizations like Ayiti KonseVet (AKV), FONDAMA, Tree Angels for Haiti, Consider Haiti, Little Footprints Big Steps, and others. We know our work is not done, and we plan to follow the lead of these local community leaders as we deepen our partnerships. We hope you’ll continue to follow and support these leaders and their communities, and we’ll post an update here once the new project opens.
In the meantime, you might be interested in Seeds and Support for School Gardens Worldwide, a new project that supports school garden programs like AKV’s. AKV has trained teachers, established gardens, and provided support services to schools throughout the regions they serve. To quote, “AKV has a vision to establish school gardens everywhere.”
Visit Seeds and Support for School Gardens Worldwide →
Again, thank you. Thank you for your ongoing support of SPI and our partners. A special thank you to GlobalGiving for their generous support of $20,000 through the Hurricane Matthew Recovery Fund.
We’re grateful for your trust and hope we’ll see you in the new project!
Today’s update comes from Haitian partner Fabienne Jean and FONDAMA. Fabienne Jean coordinates FONDAMA’s grassroots network of farmer organizations throughout Haiti and liaisons with civil society to advocate for their communities.
We first learned about FONDAMA when Fabienne spoke to a local network here in Asheville, North Carolina (USA) as part of the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s stateside planning efforts — a rare and welcomed opportunity to meet a partner! Since then, SPI Program Manager Naima Dido has been identifying ways that FONDAMA and our partners in the SPI Haiti Partnership Network can work together.
And thanks to your support of this project, we were able to make an initial shipment of seed available to FONDAMA’s communities!
FONDAMA and their member organizations work toward food sovereignty by addressing the root causes of poverty in Haiti, including the promotion of cooperative agriculture, access to land and clean water, and education. They advocate at both the local and national level by supporting local farmer programs and building campaigns designed to impact national policy around issues like food imports and climate change. FONDAMA is also empowering women and improving child nutrition by prioritizing women who have children and the poorest farmers who lost everything in the hurricane. In the South alone, FONDAMA has served 3,200 families in 7 communities through five organizations.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Their vision is large and long-term, intended to build a strong foundation for future generations.
“We definitely work differently from other NGOs. Like SPI, we do not try to provide a ready-made solution to the people we work with, but to find the solution together and work to solve problems in sustainable ways.” — Fabienne Jean, FONDAMA Coordinator
Our Journey with FONDAMA
Our partnership with FONDAMA has mirrored the arc of this project. Though we had an initial vision, we quickly needed to adapt to the post-hurricane, on-the-ground challenges that emerged as we began working with partners. Damaged infrastructure, worsened by recurring storms, meant that partners couldn’t rely on traditional supply channels. Partners like FONDAMA had to think of different ways to accomplish some of the most basic agricultural tasks, like finding protected spaces to sow seeds and grow seedlings.
Fabienne says, “Right now, we have a lot of problems with the effects of climate change. We can have a lot of rain or a long drought season. Also, the reconstruction of roads and other infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Matthew has been slow and is ongoing.
“Since Matthew, FONDAMA has put a tremendous amount of effort into training communities to change their old farming practices so they can be more resilient at the time of floods and other natural disasters. The seeds from SPI were very helpful. They grew in some areas where people were already familiar with growing vegetables, but not in all places that we gave them because of poor soil health, lack of water access, and other challenges.
“A partnership like SPI is very important to us because the lack of access to good seed is the biggest reason people do not grow vegetables here. When the seed is not good, people work so hard in the gardens and farms and get nothing but failure for their hard work. This kills the morale.
“As a response to the garden failures and effects of climate change, we started a yard garden program that is designed to withstand flooding and wind. Flooding is one of the biggest problems now for the Haitian farmers. We trained the communities to turn tires inside out, put soil and compost in it, and grow their vegetable garden in the tires, which contain the soil securely against erosion. Tires are one solution, but we are also working on raised bed systems to plant seedlings that will not be washed away by flooding. We will use future seeds received from SPI to grow the seedlings.”
By working collectively, FONDAMA’s programs adapt to address people’s needs from the ground up. Not only do they identify what is needed for success, but they also assess what hasn’t worked and create solutions that are appropriate to a community’s specific context. These solutions aren’t top-down, either. Once something works, FONDAMA trains folks to ensure that the practice is adopted and passed on throughout the community by the community.
We hope FONDAMA will be a long-term partner. They have the expertise and capacity to facilitate seed distribution and training, and the ingenuity and perseverance to establish resilience and preparedness in communities whose livelihoods are battered year after year — they are working to give people more control over their own lives and the environment in which they live. FONDAMA is a Haitian Creole acronym fashioned from Fondasyon Men Lan Men Ayiti, which is translated to Hand in Hand Haiti Foundation. This is appropriate since they are on the ground, hand-in-hand with the farmers and families in their communities.
This is a longer report than we usually share, but we felt it was important to show how much goes into accomplishing even basic tasks two years after Hurricane Matthew. The persistence and brilliance of partners like FONDAMA, Tree Angels for Haiti, Ayiti KonseVet (AKV), Little Footprints, Big Steps (LFBS), Consider Haiti — just a few of the partners in our own network — is inspiring, and we’re humbled to be working with them.
Haitians are still recovering, and a quick search online will show that setbacks from natural disasters amplified by climate change are common in Haiti. In support of our partners, we’ll be bringing this project to a close to collaborate on a broader project that can better serve the network our partners have developed. We’ll let you know when the new project opens so you can continue to follow our Haitian partners and their communities. If you are interested in more projects that empower women throughout the world, you’re invited to visit our Seeds and Skills for Women to Grow Vegetables project.
For now, please accept our gratitude and thanks for your support of this project. Because of your support, partners have access to good seed and expert training where they might not otherwise.
The SPI Team
As we approach the one-year mark for the major work of this project, we’re working with our partners through the SPI Haiti Partnership Network to assess what has been accomplished in the past year and understand where our partners would like to grow in the coming year. After we’ve heard from our partners, we’ll publish a longer report that describes the last year’s work. In the meantime, we’d like to share smaller updates from three SPI partners who are strengthening communities and families in Haiti.
Ayiti KonseVet (via June Levinsohn)
June Levinsohn is a US-based coordinating partner for one of our long-term Haitian partners, Ayiti KonseVet (AKV). We opened this project with an on-the-ground description from June, so it’s fitting to share her latest update describing the report from AKV’s agronomist, Wedly Deceus, one year later.
“Wedly sends his report on our annual May 1st school garden celebration which this year was held in Po Mago / Port Margot, where we have the 2 newest school gardens. The usual format was followed with participants from all 10 schools bringing vegetables from their respective gardens. This year's theme was the importance of produce transformation into marketable products.
There were also the usual games: musical chairs, egg-balance, apple jig. Lunch was local chicken and green beans (!!!) from the Po Mago market...no USAID rice 'n beans, hooray!!! And it was served, as Wedly writes, on 'STAINLESS' (i.e. not paper or styrofoam)! This is definite progress!
With this year's group of university interns we will eventually incorporate them into our school garden program and will bring in next semester another group of these 5th year agronomy students.
As always, thanks for your continued support of AKV / Ayiti KonseVet. — June
Little Footprints, Big Steps
Little Footprints, Big Steps (LFBS) was featured in our last report, and they continue to share their approach and progress:
“The amazing agricultural recovery and revitalization for our families throughout Haiti's southern peninsula continues to increase under the enthusiastic expertise of LFBS' full-time Agronomist. We have included the introduction of new vegetables; new processes, tools and training, including seed harvesting and reuse; materials/tools and training for sound storage practices; materials and support for taking/setting up at market; livestock as possible. This all contributes toward healthy food security - for the families involved and their communities; families being able to stay together; and steps toward self-sufficiency and empowerment.”
To understand what is most needed, their agronomist has been making a detailed inventory for the families in the area. They’re using this inventory to recommend tools, seeds (dry and wet season), livestock, and water access for each family. As families gain access to the training and resources they need, livelihoods return. LFBS describes a little of what that looks like:
“New crops, new market business! Our Agronomist has been working to make parents of children in our programs more self-sufficient. This...child is now able to help his mother sell cabbage produced in their own garden. We are thrilled to see the parents in our business startup program having such success! This is definitely a program we would like to continue to grow – most children are abandoned into orphanages or end up on the streets simply because their parents don’t have the economic stability to care for them. So empowering that these parents can help protect their children, and that the children are able to grow with their families and communities – thank you for helping us provide the tools for them to do so.”
Tree Angels for Haiti
Tree Angels for Haiti is another partner we featured one year ago. Tree Angels has planted 70,000 trees since 2010 as part of their program to reforest the island. They’ve lately started growing vegetables as part of a program inspired by SPI seeds.
Their first season was rough. A lot fof crops failed because farmers lacked tools, knowledge, and experience with these vegetables. Many farmers were even using makeshift tools like spoons and sticks to try and get the job done. After learning what the farmers needed to be successful, SPI helped fund a local purchase of tools and connected Tree Angels’ grassroots Haitian staff with SPI’s contracted Haitian agronomist, Renel Bruno.
Tree Angels’ Lynette Crocker recently shared, “Renel traveled more than eight hours on a raggedy bus overnight to get there! He had good insight and recommended some solutions to try. And the donation of tools helped tremendously. Now, things are going very well with our community garden project! The people are now selling their excess produce!”
In total, more than 500 households around the port town of Leyogàn are now enrolled growing fresh, nutritious food as part of a strong, locally led effort. The farmers are invested, too — they’re reinvesting 20% of their vegetable income into the project.
Haitians are innovative and brilliant people of thought and action. SPI’s role, and your role in supporting SPI, is to provide a few key resources and connections to support and strengthen them further. From all of us at SPI, and for our partners, thank you!
P.S. You may have heard about the unrest in Haiti that began as a response to a proposed increase in gas prices. As of earlier this month, partners have reported they are safe from the demonstrations.
The road to reviving gardens after Hurricane Matthew has been a long road, and we’re working with partners who are in it for the long haul. Little Footprints, Big Steps (LFBS) is one of those partners. They’ve recently shared an update about how they’re working to support communities affected by Hurricane Matthew, providing a snapshot of where gardens fit into the larger picture of recovery and rebuilding. We’re sharing this with you because we’re proud of their work, and we think it’s a great example of how many different pieces need to come together for folks to rebuild their livelihoods.
“Since Hurricane Matthew we have been able to build Maxima prefabricated homes for over 21 families! Homes built or repaired, crops planted, medical outreach clinics regularly underway, children attending schools, parents starting businesses, and the addition of livestock – the recovery and rebuilding of the families in rural communities, whose lives were shattered by the October 2016 Category 5 hurricane, continues in great strides through the dedicated LFBS staff, collaborative partnerships… and your support.
Our staff have also been able to deliver goats to families in the Grande Anse! The families lost their livestock during hurricane Matthew, and now that our agronomist has helped them revive vegetation in their area, they are ready to regain this important aspect of their livelihoods! The vehicles that deliver the agriculture supplies, livestock, building supplies, food supplies, medical team, support workers, transport the sick children – YOU have made possible!”
A Household Snapshot: Estelle
Joseph, an agronomist with LFBS, recently visited Estelle, a farmer and mother for a household of six. Estelle and her family accessed vegetable seed through our partnership with LFBS and participated in formal training with Joseph on how to prepare a vegetable nursery and eventually transplant the seedlings into her garden. Joseph will follow up by phone to ask about progress with the nursery, and he will visit the family next month to help them transplant the seedlings.
In the meantime, Estelle has planted tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, beans, beets, lettuce, and carrots in her nursery. Morgan from LFBS says, “Unfortunately there has been a dry spell in the Grande Anse lately, so their gardens are going through a dry patch right now. But otherwise, the gardens are thriving. Thank you so much for making this possible!”
In addition to distributing seed and coordinating trainings, LFBS is facilitating community discussions about the importance of agriculture and trees (arboriculture) as part of a long-term recovery plan. As part of these discussions, communities promise to support families and households who have made the commitment to growing vegetables for their families and community.
“We continue focusing on what can be done and celebrating what has been accomplished; on empowering and building the capacity of a dedicated staff; on including affected individuals, families and communities in solutions; on collaborating deeply with local organizations; on persistently moving forward – one step at a time – and having the courage of conviction. Everything in the world that is accomplished starts with the decision to try. Your interest and support for Little Footprints Big Steps Child Protection Organization is in evidence daily as brave beginnings unfold.” — LFBS
For your support of Little Footprints, Big Steps, and for your support of this project, thank you.
For many families in Montrouis, Haiti, access to clean water, health care, and adequate food supply are challenges that were worsened by the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Through locally organized efforts, our Asheville-based partner and neighbor, Consider Haiti has assisted families in restoring some of the gardens destroyed by the hurricane. The result: farmers are slowly reestablishing themselves and their crop production.
In 2017, Consider Haiti helped over over 2,000 children and their families gain access to medicine, dental care, and fresh produce. Consider Haiti programs involve the distribution of medicine, livestock like goats and rabbits, SPI seeds and other agricultural products to the communities they serve. One of the key elements shared by both SPI and Consider Haiti programs is that they actively support and work with local Haitian teams for project development and implementation. Consider Haiti’s agriculture team in Montrouis is led by Eddy P., a lifelong farmer who has been working with families in this region for over 15 years. Shortly after the storm, Eddy heard reports of hungry children in the local farming community and decided to step up and help. Being an illiterate self-taught farmer, he soon realized he was not equipped to provide the level of help that was needed.
On a recent call with SPI Program Director, Naima Dido, Eddy shared some program challenges facing his community:
“In the area where we live, which is Montrouis, we used to plant hot peppers, watermelon, and black beans, and they always grew. But they are not growing well now. Now, I wanted to know why that happens. I don’t know what causes them not to grow. That’s where we will need an expert to help us. We have a lot of starving children. That is the reason we created the agriculture project to help them, but as I stated before, nothing grew as we expected.”
We were able to match Eddy with a mentor who is a trained agronomist and a long time SPI friend in Haiti. Eddy and three members of his team recently completed phase one of Consider Haiti’s “Train the Trainer” training and they are scheduled to complete the phase five training in February.
Matthew’s toll has been slow and drawn out, placing a choke-hold on the livelihoods of countless communities. Despite all of the barriers and challenges facing this community of farmers in Montrouis, they are moving forward to ensure that skills and knowledge will be available to their communities for generations to come. With the generous support of our GlobalGiving community, Eddy and his team gained access to training that will help bring some of the storm-ravaged kitchen gardens and small family farms in their community back to life.
On the behalf of our partners and the people of Montrouis, Mèsi!
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