Friday, April 4, 2014

Celebrating Yard Gardens

Bruno Sene, one of six participants in Léogâne who receive a certificate of excellence for their achievements in their yard gardens. Each participant shared with the audience the significance of the yard garden for them. On the display table for the yard garden celebration of ODEPOL (Development Organization of Pâque-Orange, Léogâne). Behind, from left to right: squash ("joumou"), plantains, mangoes (in bowl), coconuts. Middle: vermicompost (compost from red worms, in bucket), papaya, moringa leaves (draped over plantains). Front: moringa seeds, green peppers, hot peppers.

Last year in November we finished out the year of yard garden work with celebrations. We also did evaluations of the work with the participants and planning for 2014. We held a set of meetings in Léogâne (30 mile west of Port au Prince) the third week of November and in Verettes (about two and a half hours north of Port au in the Artibonite Valley) the fourth.

With funding from the project that paid for the food and some of the extras--a generator for loudspeakers and a deejay, for example--the participants planned their programs to recognize the work that the participants had done and to present that work to a larger community. In Léogâne the participants decided to hold one large celebration near the urban center, with between 70 and 80 guests, including visitors from three major non-governmental organizations. In Verettes, the participants chose to hold three separate and generally smaller celebrations, with most participants coming from the surrounding communities.

The first celebration in Verettes was held for the participants and their invited guests from the low-lying communities of the municipality, mostly members of ODEVPRE (Organization for the Protection of the Environment and Development of Verettes). A second was held by the organization MRPST (Movement of Farmers without Land Calling for their Rights) in their base community of Dofine, about 600 m above sea level. The third celebration was organized by an ODEVPRE farmers' group high in the mountains in a community called Dekonb, about 1000 m above sea level. Getting to this particular celebration was interesting--the road was worse (!!!) than I had remembered. But once we were there, it was definitely the most fun.

Here are some photos and a conclusion at the bottom. Unless otherwise indicated, photos by Herve Delisma and Mark Hare.

Léogâne. Boston Jn Gilles (right), the coordinator for ODEPOL, introduces the program. Father Goursse (left, standing) from the Haitian Diocese of the Episcopal Church also helped lead the program

Father Goursse shared a Biblical reflection based on Genesis 2:15, "The LORD God put the man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and care for it." Cindy Correl, fellow PCUSA mission coworker provided the contact that made Goursse's participation possible and attended with him. Photo by Cindy Correl.

You know you are in Haiti when the impromptu dancing starts. This was the celebration in Dofine, organized by the leaders of MRPST. Katelyn Leader (far right) is a friend currently working in Port au Prince who asked to be part of this craziness. She bravely trouped along with the rest of us, sleeping in three different  beds in as many nights, as we moved from celebration to celebration in Verettes.

The display table in Dofine, Verettes, with the main organizers arranged behind.  The buckets on each side contain sugar cane and tayo. The table has hot peppers, green bell peppers, grapefruit, eggplant, papaya and a coconut. It should also have had rice, beans and water cress, three of the main crops produced in the intricate irrigation system the community of Dofine has developed.

The final celebration during a crazy two weeks was in Dekonb, a five hour, hair-raising drive up a unmaintained "road."The display table for Dekonb had, from left to right, green pepper, coffee beans, an orange, carrots, cooking bananas, squash (auyama), leeks, a small branch with coffee beans still attached, cabbage (behind), "militon" and eggplant. Eventually they added a humongous beet.

Dieulissaint Ermeus, one of the two original participants from Dekonb. No visitors from other organizations in Dekonb. Just the participants themselves giving testimony to what they see as the importance of their work, sharing their insights with their neighbors. We didn't get any good pictures of the dancing, but in this ceremony, it was out of control. And they did have their deejay with his generator, CD player and speakers, transported there on motorcycle.

Alexander Placide, B.S,  giving Elsenou Louicius, our host in Dekonb, pointers about his beets. Alexander is an agronomist for MPP and came to Verettes to provide the keynote presentation for each of the three celebrations there. Alexander always gives a good talk, but in Dekonb, he was inspired, encouraging the farmers to recognize the dignity of their work and their lives. Elsenou is a lay leader for two churches in the area and the main man leading the program for yard gardens in Dekonb and Remonsen, a neighboring community.

Women preparing one of the the feasts that were part of each celebration.


Dofine, Verettes

The yard garden program is not about making huge changes in peoples' lives. It is about making small, daily changes that are consistent, persistent and positive, without being intrusive. The program is about helping people recognize the power they have to learn to do something useful with what they already have at hand, and about sharing their knowledge with the people around them. It is also about learning to celebrate the small successes, while praying and struggling for the big ones.

Mireille Domingue, in her garden, next to her moringa leaves. Gros Morne, Léogâne.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Happy New Year! And happy Vegetable Sacks!

Hey Friends,

I got home from Haiti about a week ago with my brother, Keith. Went with Keith to the airport yesterday, and spent some time in Santo Domingo buying prescription medicines for Keila and Annika and a little bit of time in the main office of the IED (Evangelical Dominican Church) planning a curriculum workshop with our Methodist mission worker friend, Adele Graner.

I am so far behind in the stories I want to share. Celebrations of the work in November. An exchange in December between yard garden folks in the Hinche area with folks just starting in "Ti Rivye Bayone" outside of Gonaives. And in January, two workshops, one with the folks of Bayone and another that Rhoda Beutler (of Christian Veterinary Mission in Haiti, Christian Veterinary Mission ) helped me organize. The second workshop was on "Moringa Production in the Yard Garden Context."

For now, here is an excellent YouTube video on sack gardens. Got the link from Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, NC. They are helping develop a World Garden in the Global Village at Camp Grier.

Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church has a super community garden. Here is more information:Grace Covenant Community Garden

Here is some information about the Global Village at Camp Grier: Camp Grier Programs

And here is the YouTube Vegetable Sacks link: Vegetable Sacks

I just watched this video and I will be taking it back to Haiti at the end of this month to try it out. I think the trick would be the same as for tires--getting the soil mix right so that roots can penetrate and take advantage of every cubic inch of soil.

Blessings to all and please don't give up on the blog. There WILL be new pictures soon.

In Christ,


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

FONDAMA Yard Garden progam going to the Mouvman Peyizan Bayone--Farmer Movement of Bayonnais

The third week of October, Tiga (Herve Delisma) and Marimaude St Amour, from Papay, and I put together a darn good presentation about yard gardens for a farmer's organization outside of Gonaïves, in a municipal sector called Bayonnais (19° 25' 0" North, 72° 29' 0" West), in Haiti's Artibonite Province. The organization is Mouvman Peyizan Bayonnais (Peasant Movement of Bayonnais--MPB).
We started by discussing the knowledge and resources that farmers have already in each of their zones, and the fact that what we have to offer is very small compared to all the knowledge and resources the already have. We followed this up with a  Biblical reflection comparing God's abundance as encapsulated in texts taken from Genesis 2:15 ("The Lord GOD took the man and put him in the till it and to care for it.") and Revelation 22: 1-3 (see caption below).
After this, Tiga presented our garden story using a PowerPoint presentation and then Marimaude witnessed to her own yard's transformation at home in Papaye. We started with our first presentation Monday afternoon, October 21st to MPB's executive committee. We did two each on Tuesday and Wednesday, going into the mountains, sometimes by vehicle and sometimes on foot.
For each presentation, our host Viljean Louis, the coordinator of the organization, weighed in  with his own take on the power that the farmers have to change their own lives.

On Thursday morning, October 24th, fifteen people chosen by the participants in each community we visited to represent them in FONDAMA's Yard Garden program, came together with the members of MPB's executive committee to receive their first workshop. We used Matthew 10:5-10 as our Biblical text: "These twelve Jesus sent out...." 
We also explored the difference between addition and multiplication. "Addition" is the result of projects that purchases things for people. "Multiplication" can result when you provide people skills that they can share with others. Our goal in this program is to provide skills and resources to people that they can then share with others, within their grassroots organization and within their communities. See core values of CHE (Community Health Evangelism): Multiplication as a core CHE value
By Thursday afternoon we were on our way. An intense, productive, Spirit-filled four days.

Our colleague, Cindy Corell, the PC(USA) mission co-worker serving with FONDAMA (Haitian Foundation of Hands Together) came with us to Bayonais as part of her work to understand the work that the farmer organizations of Haiti are doing on the ground. Cindy is the companionship facilitator for the Presbyterian Hunger Program's Joining Hands: These are her photos.
Photos by Cindy Corell, all rights reserved.
— in Gonaïves, Artibonite, Haiti. (8 photos)
 Talking with our first group about the importance of what they already know and the resources they already have.

One of the participants sharing the reading from Revelation 22:1-3. "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, brights as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb....On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore...."

Tiga (Herve Herve Delisma), doing the PowerPoint presentation for our first group of farmers, Tuesday the 22nd, AM. I got to be the IT person who advanced the slides.
 Tiga explaining as participants listen.
Marimaude St. Amour giving testimony to how she has made the yard garden techniques work for her in her yard in Papay.
Viljean Louis, our host and coordinator for MPB,  sharing his vision of the power that the farmers have to change their own situation, and the responsibility they have to reject outside help that fails to respect their dignity.

Two women listening as Viljean preaches the Good News of their own power and dignity.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Reaching Women with Good Agricultural Technology

Here is an excellent article on the problems, and some possible solutions, for reaching women who farm.

Thank you Cindy Corell for sharing the link: Reaching Women with Agricultural Technology

Monday, October 7, 2013

A time for workshops--Léogâne

All of the workshops in August, in Verettes and in Léogâne had two main objectives. One was to refresh the minds of the main technicians from each area, to help make sure they really have some of the basic information down pat. The second main objective was to include new people from each of the communities represented by the local technicians, especially individuals from the respective homes of the technicians themselves.

Before sharing the pictures, I want to share some of the basic information about where we went to hold the Léogâne workshops. I have at least two reasons for sharing some of these walking numbers. One is what among friends I would call "bragging rights." But the more important point is to share with you a sense of the enormity of what everyone we work with does every day. Wherever you go in the mountains of Léogâne, once you leave your yard, you are either going up a mountain, or down. Our friend Luccéne has one daughter who lives in Port au Prince and was visiting back home when we were there. We asked her if she walks a lot in Port. She said with a great deal of energy, "Yes! I walk a lot!" And her younger brother replied scornfully, "Flatland walking. Flatland walking." The people with whom we work in the FONDAMA Yard Garden Program are not your average person. They are Haitians who live in and love the mountains. And they do miracles on a daily basis.

After driving to Léogâne from Verettes on Friday, August 24th, Tiga, Wilner and I spent Saturday organizing and resting in Darbonne (about 5 miles east of Léogâne). Then on Sunday morning, August 26th, Tiga, Wilner and I headed up the mountains to Luccène Sommervil's home.

From the community of Jan Jan (N 18.47308º, W 72.53545), at the base of the mountain by the side of the river "Grand Rivière de Léogâne" (The Grand River of Léogâne) to Luccène's home (N 18.43483, W 72.49342)  is a 10.6 km walk, going from about 150 meters above sea level to about 980 meters (a climb of about 2,400 feet, walking around 6 miles). This time we did it in about 4 hours. This particular stretch is why I have become more serious about trying to exercise on a regular basis.

Our first Léogâne workshop was on Monday at Luccène´s house, with 8 or 9 participants.

Tuesday we walked most of the day to get to Serge Tresier's home in lower Citronier, passing by the Catholic Church and Technical School in Bosejou (N 18.42083, W 72.50700).  Serge's home is located at N 18.41245, W 72.55061.That was a walk of 13.4 km, going from 980 meters above sea level down to 252.

We held a workshop at Serge's home on Wednesday, August 27th, with twenty participants. Half of that workshop we held under a torrential downpour, half protected by tarps that Serge had wisely stretched over his yard. Did I mention that we work with miracle workers? Half-drowned by the rain, our workshop participants were laughing, joking and responding to our questions about what they had learned before the rain started.

Late Wednesday afternoon, after the river by Serge's house had subsided, we made our way down the river to the Miton crossroads ("Kafou Miton")--actually a crossroads of footpaths, not what you would normally consider roads. There Tiga, Wilner and I caught a taxi (motorcycle taxi) driven by Serge's son, Breque back to our base in the community of Darbonne.

Thursday morning we drove (!) three or four miles to the home of Gladis (N 18.47107, W 72.57529), where we held our third and final Léogâne workshop, with about sixteen participants.

Here are some of the photos from our time in Léogâne (Photos by Herve Delisma, all rights reserved):

A beautifully laid out field of yam, corn, pigeon pea and beans. As I walk through the mountains, I am continually reminded that my ministry is not to teach people how to do good agriculture. It is to help them recognize what they already do that works very well, identify practices that are destructive and bring resources to them to help develop alternatives that can effectively replace bad practices.

Workshop participants Rodrigue and Merina at Luccène's house preparing the soil mix for vegetable tires. Rodrigue came to the workshop with Esterne, the local technician who lives about four kilometers down the mountain from Luccène. Merina, a widow who is raising several children and grandchildren, lives a hundred yards or so down the mountain from Luccène and his family.

Mark preparing the manure and water mix to feed the red worms. Esterne (left), looks on.

Mark and Merina preparing the tire for the California red worms. Esterne's wife (yellow shirt) looks on.

Wilner (red hat) teaches workshop participants to prepare the organic insecticide made from sour oranges, onions, garlic, neem leaves and laundry soap. He also taught me. After seeing this insecticide prepared dozens of times, I finally decided I better learn it straight from a maestro.

Peeling, grating, crushing and pounding to make the insecticide.

Wilner shares about the value of moringa (Moringa oleifera) with workshop participants.

As we ended the workshop, we asked participants to provide an evaluation.

Luccène (front) leads Patience down the mountain to Serge's house. Herve, my multi-talented assistant, follows behind. Patience has made our walks through the mountains much much more pleasurable, carrying our clothes and materials and allowing us to walk unencumbered. Patience also helps carry tires up to the yards and will, we hope, help us get materials up for hydraulic ram pumps.

Luccène explained her name more clearly to me this last visit. He said her name is Patience because when she decides to try to go her own way and do her own thing, we have to maintain our patience until she finally decides to go where we want and do what we need her to do.

On our way down Beausejou mountain, going to Serge's house, we cam across these neighbors preparing the grave for a friend who had died the previous day. A three hour walk away from his house, Luccène recognized at least one of the men working here.
Off of the steepest slopes, we walked the rest of the way by and in a series of streams/rivers. This is a Mapou tree (Ceiba pentandra), an example of the original forest that once covered the mountains and valleys of Haiti.

Starting to cross the rivers.

Working on soil mixes at Serge's home.

Me, as always, preaching the good news of red worms.

Sharing the good news of God's abundance during the last workshop at Gladis's home, Thursday August 29th,  exploring the texts from Genesis 2:15 and Revelation 22: 1-3. We used these texts in all of the workshops, using the CHE system of participatory reflection.

Third Léogâne workshop, mixing up the soil.

Wilner working the insecticides. Then the moringa component and finally, the quiz game to help participants review what they had learned. Finally, after six full days of workshops over two weeks, not to mention a bit of walking, Herve, Wilner and I were done and ready to head towards our respective homes.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A time for workshops-Verettes

August was a month of workshops for Herve Delisma ("Tiga") and me. We held one three day workshop for over 30 participants in a Catholic center in the foothills outside of Verettes and three one-day workshops in the mountains and plains of Léogâne, for a total of some 40 participants. In addition to Tiga and myself, Wilner Exil, from the hills of Hinche-Papaye, worked with us, along with various local technicians from the respective farmer organizations in the two municipalities.

Here are some of the pictures from the two and a half day workshop in Verettes. Participants arrived Tuesday, August 20th and left at the end of the day Thursday, August 22nd. Photos by Herve Delisma, all rights reserved.

Every day we started with prayer and singing and sometimes dancing.

A group of participants working on an organic mixture for controlling insect attacks. During two days of  morning sessions we divided the participants into six groups of four or five each, then cycled them through six different practical trainings over those two days.

In this training, the participants learned to make this mix, using sour oranges (grate the rind, mash the seeds), onions (grated), garlic (crushed), neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves (crushed and soaked in water), vegetable oil and laundry soap.

Wilner Exil (far right) led this session for three of the groups. Fabiola (to the left of Wilner) worked with Wilner the first day and then led three practical trainings the second day.

After twenty-four hours of letting the various ingredients "ferment," the participants mixed everything together, passed it through a sieve to remove most of the solids and stored the liquid in clean gallon jugs. To apply to vegetables, one gallon is diluted with four gallons of water.

The second practical training we taught was making the soil mix for the tires. In soil mixing the participants learned to pass the soil, sand and animal manure through screens, then mix it in proportions that make a friable texture. Alexis Paul Louinord (far right, orange shirt) taught two sessions of soil mixing, then worked with me on red worms. Paul is one of the leaders in the Verettes farmer's movement, ODEVPRE.

Givenson Laurent (far right) taught participants the techniques for making a top-notch raised vegetable bed. Givenson does a fine job of growing vegetables in his own yard, a long narrow piece of land in the town of Desarmes, east of Verettes. Givenson is also a member of the Verettes farmer's organization ODEVPRE.

Red worms! Marimaude St. Amour (right in red shirt) led this workshop showing participants the particular techniques for working with African red worms (Eurdrilus eugeniaie) in old tires. The process Marimaude was using involved creating something like a nest, using weeds and tree leaves, then covering that with water-logged manure. To make sure that we would have enough animal manure for all of the practical trainings, we filled 18 sacks in the hills of Papay-Hinche, tied them onto the roof rack of the project's Toyota Landcruiser ("ambulance" style, versus pickup) and hauled them for two and a half hours to Verettes. People along the roads we travel are often amused by the things we haul. Marimaude came from the Road to Life Yard crew at MPP (Peasants' Movement of Papay) to help us with the workshop.

Here participants are getting experience with a new technique we have just recently invented, using pieces of 4" drainage pipe filled with mortar (rough sand and cement), instead of wood posts, to make the benches to hold the vegetable tires. Tiga worked with folks on this for three sessions, then Marimaude took over.

Here are participants learning to make "fuel from the fields charcoal." This is a technique developed by the D-lab at MIT. In this process, we use scrap bits of organic material, such as dried leaves from breadfruit trees, cornstalks, dried banana leaves, coconut husks, etc., to make lightweight charcoal pieces. These pieces are then crushed into a fine powder, mixed with a binder such as cassava starch and two or three other ingredients, then pressed into a mold to form them. Finally, they are left to dry for a couple of days before using them. Here is a link to a .pdf file explaining the process: Fuel from the Field Charcoal

In the yard garden context, we taught participants how to use fuel from the field charcoal to create biochar. To turn the charcoal dust into biochar, we mixed it with red worm manure (vermicompost) and urine.
I (far right--white guy) led this workshop twice, then Lucien Joseph (left, black cap) took over. Lucien Joseph is another member of MPP's Road to Life Yard crew who came with us to help lead the workshop. Lucien also travels with Tiga periodically when I cannot be present to help monitor the project and provide technical assistance.

Marimaude (far right) leading the cement bench post workshop.

During the afternoon sessions, we worked on more theoretical information which included studies of three different Biblical texts. These sessions were based on my training in Community Health Evangelism that I am receiving in the Dominican Republic as part of Jenny's community health work in Batey 7. Check out the Batey 7 blog: Batey 7

Our wrap up for the workshop included a game we've invented as part of this yard garden program. Participants sit in a circle and we go around, one by one, and offer them a choice of any of the different workshop themes. Then the leader for that particular workshop asks a question worth 3 points. The respondent gives their best answer and the particular leader decides if the answer was worth 0, 1, 2 or 3 points. If the first respondent doesn't get the answer quite right, the questioner opens it up to anyone in the group who thinks they can complete the answer, and that person gets whatever points remain. In the end, each person gets a special applause, like the applause of the rain, or the train applause, etc. Also something we learned from our CHE trainers in the DR, Flor and Hiran de Leon.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mining: A huge issue in Haiti

Mining is a huge issue in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It is hard to imagine how it can be anything but devastating for the farmers with whom I work. Here is the link to a comprehensive look at the issues and how grassroots organizations are organizing:  Mining in Haiti

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