Monday, October 31, 2011

Swivi--MPP's follow up in yard gardens

MPP's project the Road to Life Yard and Moringa project has entered a new phase. We are focusing less on our experimental area at MPP's national training center here in Papaye and focusing more on taking what we've learned out into the community.

When we started the project in 2004, we were experimenting with different ways of growing more food, with less work, in small, intensively managed spaces. Our focus has always been the small areas rural families have around their homes. We call them "jaden lakou" or "yard gardens." "Yard gardens" may sound redundant to folks in the States, since our gardens in the States are almost always in our yards. But Haitians call all of the areas where they produce food a "jaden," a garden, and many of these small pieces of land are quite long distances from the families' homes, from their yards. So talking about "yard gardens" is not redundant in rural Haiti. It isn't new, either. As mission co-worker Carline White pointed out recently, Haitians have always produced food in their yards. What MPP is doing through the Road to Life Yard-Moringa project is not changing what people do. It is adding new ideas and new ways of doing what they already do very well, helping them do what they do even better.

As we work more and more in the community, one of most important tools is what is called in Haitian Creole, "swivi" or "follow up." We follow up with what we talk about at the center to see how people are applying it in their own yards. Since I returned to Papaye October 12th, I have been working with crew members, visiting their communities and the people who are applying these new ideas. So far, we've visited at least 58 families in five or six communities scattered around the center. Not everyone is doing a great job, but there are enough people doing good stuff to keep us energized. Here are a few stories.

Julienne Dorcin began working intesively with her yard almost as soon as she moved back to the community of Leodiague with her husband and children, about three years ago. Now she has become a key member of the committee formed in January this year to provide technical assistance to the growing number of families wanting to set up their own yard gardens. Julienne has taken her cue from Road to Life Yard crew member, Wilner Exil, and she does an excellent job, in her yard, and as she visits families. When she enters a yard, she immediately looks to see what they are doing, and whether its working. She listens as family members explain the activities they've carried out, and the problems they've encountered, then she provides them with advice and insights, based on her experiences. She has become an incredible resource, for her own family, and for her community.

Gilto Orné (left) and his brother, Abarky, decided they wanted to build a goat house closely modeled on the one in MPP's training center. Gilto sat down with me and with Alexander Placide, the other agronomist assigned to the project, and put together a budget. Based on that budget, Gilto borrowed on his salary that he earns working in the Road to Life Yard-Moringa project and began building the goat house with help from his father and brother, both of whom have construction skills. They had the boards sawn for the house, and put up the frame that allowed them to build a platform that the goats can walk on. This platform is the key element to this style of goat shed. It helps the goats keep their feet dry at all times and it allows the goat droppings to fall down through the cracks to the ground below. Having the goat dropping below and away from the goats helps keep them healthier. It also makes it easy for Gilto to collect it and then compost it in a neary hole. When the goat droppings have composted sufficiently, Gilto takes the fertilizer and uses it in his vegetable production.

In the photo above, you can see the tree leaves that Gilto hangs for the goats to munch on all day, a gourd in the center, filled with salt that the goats can lick, and a water bucket to the right where the goats can drink their fill whenever they wish. Gilto works with Wilner Exil at the Colladère Farm every Thursday and I can tell you from experience, sometimes Gilto can drive you nuts. But when he gets an idea, he gets it "nèt", completely.

Maxius Exil is a working mother and farmer in Leodiague. When we visited her house, she told us offhandedly that these pepper plants sent her children to school this past September. She sells the peppers every Saturday, and was able to sell enough to buy new clothes, shoes, notebooks and pens for her three children. She is one of the families in Leodiague planning on enlarging the space where they practice this type of yard gardening.

Julien Dorcin (left) began developing his yard garden space two years ago. The soil was terrible, and when we did follow up with Julien and his wife, we told them, frankly, they should pick a new space. Julien and his wife ignored that part of our advice, and kept putting manure into the soil, again and again. Together with learning better ways of mixing up the soil for the vegetable tires, Julien and his wife's persistence has allowed them to turn that small, horrible sandy space, into a productive piece of yard, producing cabbage and tomatoes and spinach in the ground and in the tires.

Elismene François benefitted from a cistern project put together by an association of farmers within MPP called Association of Planter's of Bassin Zim. When I did follow up at Elismene's house in the community of Gwanit. soon after her cistern was built, she and her husband were doing nothing with the water. We grumbled at them quite a bit about that. Not too long after that, Elismene purchased four or five tires. This season, she produced what must be hundreds of eggplants in her tires. She sold and gave away a number of them to her neighbors, but she kept several hundred that she planted in carefully prepared soil around her house. Now, she told us, she goes to market every Saturday with a burro load of eggplants to sell. Her bench that holds the vegetable tires off the ground recently fell down, but she has already erected a new one with posts that her husband cut for her.

Wilner Exil (second from left) and his wife Tesil (far right) were among the first famlies in Leodiague to create a space for their yard garden. Their example has become a model and a challenge for other famlies in their community. Building the spaces with what they have at hand, applying new ideas to what they already know, they are creating places for God's abundance to burst forth, in their own yard and in the yards of their neighbors.

Praise God for his presence, shining forth in so many ways here, but especially through the strength and persistence of these people and the organization that supports them, MPP--Farmer's Movement of Papaye.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dad's Garden in Amesville, Ohio

When Jenny and Keila and I ended up arriving in Amesville, Ohio at the end of March, right as spring began, there were at least two advantages. We got to experience a southeastern Ohio spring in all its glory, and I got to get into Dad's garden at the very beginning, and help see it through to the harvest. It was good to be working with the soil, and good to help produce our own food, for the house. And it was especially great to be able to get Keila involved--whenever I could convince her to work with me, which wasn't all that often. But you have to start wherever you can when you're forming a future farmer.

Weeding and hoeing, I felt like I was being true to my vocation. But just as importantly, I felt I could look my fellow crew members in the eyes when I got back to Haiti.

Jenny took all of these photos.

Two varieties of sweet corn, one earlier and one later. The later variety was better tasting and more productive. I learned a lot gardening in Ohio this year. Among other things, it is so much easier to get a decent crop in the temperate zone. The heat and humidity of Nicaragua and Haiti during the wet season make a huge difference. Oh my, do they ever. Crops have to be tough tough to make it here in Haiti. Which is one reason, at least, no one here in Haiti as ever heard of "sweet" corn.

Keila exploring the rhubarb.

Bed of beets, carrots, broccoli and tomatos. The cabbages and cauliflower succumbed to the heat wave of July

Dad planted the beets, but I did the weeding and I fertilized them--with organic compost, of course.

Beets, tomatoes and potatoes. Mom and Dad both said the potato crop was particularly good this year.


The wheelbarrow ride is is the best part of gardening.

Asparagus and rhubarb, potates, green beans, beets, cucumbers and potatoes. I realized once again and now, I think, for always, how important it truly is to know where your food comes from. I believe that producing your own food, or some part of it, is part of the calling that God has for every single one of us. It's part of what we call food sovereignty, and that is what MPP here in Haiti is about.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Wanted to highlight the RELUFA site. Very cool slide show showing the effect of Dole banana and pineapple plantations on local farmers, and the ways that Fair Fruit is working to change the equation:

Vote! A Fair Fruit Project supported by PC(USA) Mission Worker Christi Boyd


Below is a note from our friend, Christi Boyd, a fellow mission worker in the Cameroon. Christi is advocating here for a local organization in the Cameroon (West Africa)--RELUFA, which is part of a larger organization called Joining Hands, a project of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Hunger Program. Joining Hands works on uniting grassroots organizations in developing countries, helping them to work together to change underlying causes of hunger in their own countries. RELUFA, the Cameroonian "branch" of Joining Hands has been advocating for the transparent reporting of payments received by the Cameroonian government from Transnational Corporations for national resources, such as gold, oil and diamonds. Normally, such payments have gone into the national treasury without public knowledge, and from there, to who knows where?

Please vote for RELUFA's Fair Fruit project!

From Christi Boyd:

Dear friends,

RELUFA's Fair Fruit project( ) is through to the second - and last - round in an online competition to win the 2011 Public Prize "For the World of Tomorrow". The 10,000 Euro prize will be used towards implementing our "Farm to Market" strategy to ensure longterm sustainability of the project and a better assured income for our marginalized farmers. For you all it's an opportunity to support our project and its producers without any costs or special offering!

In this last round it really comes down to rallying all our fans, and set through them into motion a chain reaction for an exponentially increasing number of voters. Will you participate (again)? Deadline for voting is the 9th of November.

This round voting is much simpler:

1. Go to ,

2. click on the green (stem) button

3. fill in your e-mail address

4. do the simple math problem (it's probably a verification method)

5. and forward this call to your family, friends, colleagues, social circles and networks, mission committee, church members, youth group etc.

You can follow the score on .

As it goes with these online competitions, it is from the start to finish a fierce battle, a matter of giving it all with a last sprint to come through the finish line as first. Thank you in advance for your cheering and please let me now if you have any questions!


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