Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Horticulture in Haiti: 5 Years Later

Tom Syverud and Terrill Christensen recently returned to Haiti for the first time in over four years, having first traveled to the country as Farmer to Farmer horticulture volunteers in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Upon returning to the same project in January and February 2012, both commented upon the tangible improvements in farming systems which they observed, as well as the growth and expansion of Makouti Agro Enterprise.

Tom Syverud, 2008, discussing with producers in Terrier Rouge
With a snapshot from years past in their minds, these volunteers help point out changes which often happen gradually over the years as agricultural seasons change, capacity is built, knowledge is shared, and positive results encourage others to adopt better practices.

Terrill traveled as a seedling management specialist, and Tom a small-scale organic horticulture specialist. Below are photos and comments from the volunteers' trip reports which demonstrate the improvements Haiti's farmers have made through the Partners' Farmer to Farmer Program.

Comparing his recent trip to his April 2007 trip, Terrill writes: "Makouti [in 2007] was an association of approximately 140 small growers and bee keepers that was working together as an organization to improve and reclaim the ability of Haiti farmers to provide food from Haiti’s own soils and habitat. . . . In summary,  the nursery plants had a terrible problem with blights and what appeared to be disease and viruses. The concern was transplanting infected and weak plants into fields that were unfertilized and unprotected from diseases and pests only guaranteed poor production and yields. Fertilizers and chemicals were both either not available and or very expensive. There was no composting happening or cultural practices such as rotation of crops incorporated into the program. Weed control was not consistent or effective. In other areas such as bee keeping there was great concern as the bee population was decreasing and honey production was poor at best."
Before: Diseased seedlings from Terrill's 2007 trip
After: Healthy seedlings, from Terrill's 2012 Trip

"Today, it is worth noting that Makouti is now numbered over 700 small farmers. They are currently selling and producing honey at a profit. The farms I visited this time has wonderful, healthy tomato, okra, egg plant, chili peppers, beans, corn and many vegetables. In field observations, the weed control appeared to be reasonable and consistent with growers in other countries. They have a wonderful composting program incorporating rabbit droppings together with other composting materials that they not only use in their nurseries but in field production also. From where they were five years ago to today, is like day and night difference and should be noted and commended."

Tom writes: "It has been four years since I have been in Haiti. The farms I visited [in 2012] had large fields that were planted and looked good. The farmers were knowledgeable and confident in their decision making. That said, they appreciated any information they could receive and they enjoyed having someone visit their fields. They asked good questions, particularly in the workshops. I appreciated as well the information I received from them."

"I found that small-scale agricultural production was improved in size and quality. There still exist a number of production issues common to all producers and some smaller issues for individual producers. I was impressed by the producers at each site I visited. I was impressed by their level of understanding of certain production practices and their experience in problem identification."

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