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.


Elizabeth McGuire said...

Hey Mark! This all sounds awesome!! I tried emailing you to the address I found on the PCUSA site, but I'm not sure you received it. I am trying to organize a joint POJ mission trip to Haiti and would love to come to your area of the country. Could you let me know your best form of contact so we could talk further? You can reach me at

Mark Hare; Jenny Bent said...


I e-mailed you. Hopefully it got to you. If not, post another comment and we will work things out.



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