By: Devin Vanderpool, Director of Communications
“Two-fifths of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, which remains vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters. Poverty, corruption, vulnerability to natural disasters, and low levels of education for much of the population represent some of the most serious impediments to Haiti’s economic growth. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equivalent to more than one quarter of GDP, and nearly double the combined value of Haitian exports and foreign direct investment. [Haiti is] currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with close to 60% of the population living under the national poverty line...” – CIA World Factbook on Haiti
Agriculture is not the flashy, exciting part of development, but it just might be the most important, particularly when we consider that at least 40% of Haitians depend on subsistence farming for their food. My husband saw this when he was doing mission work with his parents in Africa and Honduras. His response was to go into International Agriculture Development and to serve as LiveBeyond’s Director of Agriculture.
Many Americans love the concept of farmer’s markets. And it’s a lot of fun to spend a weekend picking fruit and vegetables from a nearby vegetable stand, but most Americans still purchase the majority of their food from supermarkets. Gardening is a hobby, an enjoyable pastime. For most of us, it hasn’t been a serious source of family food security since World War II era victory gardens. We, as a civilization, are disconnected from agriculture because we can afford to be, myself included.
That’s why I love listening to David talk with his farm workers about the LiveBeyond farm during their weekly Skype conferences. It thrills me when team members start to share the vision after they have heard David give his speeches on how he developed the farm and how it will impact the community. So, for those of you who are interested in agriculture, this is what’s happening on the LiveBeyond farm.
· Hundreds of “trees” of bananas and plantains are planted on the farm to provide food for our teams, the Maternal Health program, Kè Pou Timoun, and staff lunches. We also have about one hundred papaya trees currently producing fruit.
· About 80 chickens are pumping out an average of 6 eggs per week per chicken to supply the women in the Maternal Health program with protein. If you know anything about chickens, you know this is far above average production rates. I like to joke that this is a miracle, but we all know who causes miracles to happen.
· We have about 12 goats and 9 sheep roaming one section of the farm. Our herd was unfortunately hit by a terrible disease earlier in the year, but many of the does are pregnant, so we are working on rebuilding what we lost.
· You would not believe the production we have had this year! We have gathered onions, cassava, melons, pigeon peas, eggplants, cabbage, okra, peppers, black beans, tomatoes, corn, and even peanuts from our vegetable garden. Our next plan is to intercrop beans with some of our others plants to restore nitrogen to the soil and provide a good source of protein.
· David and I were astounded by the growth of the moringa trees that we planted throughout the base while we lived there. Moringa leaves are highly nutritious, and the trees are fast growing, meaning they will be an excellent plant to use for reforesting our desert-like region. If we continue to plant these trees through Thomazeau as planned, we could prevent soil erosion, and eventually even change weather patterns! Learn more about that here.
· Plans are in the works to create a small production factory to dehydrate mangos for export. This would create even more jobs for locals and would improve the sustainability of LiveBeyond’s services.
· The crew is putting the finishing touches on a sprinkler irrigation system that supplies water to the banana/plantain grove and the garden. This will improve the efficiency of irrigation and significantly advance the methodologies used to water these areas.