Monday, May 14th, Boston Jean Gilles, the president of ODEPOL (Organisation pour le Développement de Orange-Pâque de Lèogâne: Organization for the Development Orange-Pâque of Léogâne), led us up into the mountains to meet with an assembly of farmer groups in his home sector of Pâque. The walk was extremely informative as well as very good exercise. The walk took about five hours, starting from Fayette, a small community about eight miles east from Lèogâne, right by the Grand Rivière de Lèogâne. Here are some of the pictures. They are generally high resolution, so take time to click on the ones that interest you most to see more detail. (Photos by Mark Hare and Herve Delisma, all rights reserved). For Google Earth users, you can check out the area around 18º 26' 22.05" N and 72º 29' 17.95" W.
Grand Rivière de Léogâne, winding its way up into the heart of the heart of the mountans. The beauty of the Léogâne moutains is extraordinary. This photo was about an hour into the hike.
Masive landslide caused by the earthquake January 12th, 2010. The
Lèogâne area was at the epicenter of the quake, which did massive damage
in the mountains, as well as in the cities. Boston reports that the
quake leveled many rural houses, most of the rural schools, as well as
crushing many farmers to death as mountainsides literally clashed
togethere in the worst of the quake's violence. Remote sectors such as Pâque, unreachable by motorized vehicles, received no aid of any kind from any of the major agencies after the quake, with the important exception of assistance from PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Agency) which helped FONDAMA provide seeds to members of ODEPOL. FONDAMA is the Haitian network of grassroots organizations working within the framework of the PC(USA) program, Joining Hands ( http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/joininghands/).
Ecôle Ste Marguerite de Latounel, one of four schools of the Haitian Episcopal Diocese, serving the children of the extensive municipal section of Pâque. More than two years after the quake, the rural schools and churches are still untouched. Rebuilding these schools would be a great challenge for some athletic group of university students. Any takers?
A farmer in his mountain field. This is a part of the world that includes the concept of a farmer falling out his/her field.
A snack bar established on the main route that students take to and from school. Families in these mountains are forced to send their children to schools two hours or more away by foot, each way. Again, anyone willing to take on the rural schools as a project?
Boston Jean Gilles, climbing up the mountain with us. When we are in Lèogâne, we stay with Boston who lives in a rented room in a house in Darbonne, about six miles east of Lèogâne's central urban area. Boston spends many days a month climbing into the mountans to help farmer groups organize and work together. He was trained in community organization in 2008 by MPP at the center in Papay, Hinche. MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay) is a grassroots movement of smallholder farmers and landless rural families founded in 1973. MPP is associated with ODEPOL through the Joining Hands network, FONDAMA.
Herve Delisma, the team member responsible for helping with logistical support for our trip, including photograpy when necessary. Herve is a native of Port au Prince, who now lives near Papaye, Hinche. Herve's wife, Kekett, and all of Kekett's family are members of MPP
Gultho Orné, during a brief water break. Gultho provided a key element of our presentation, talking about his own yard garden at his home near the community of Twa Wòch, outside of Hinche. Gultho has been involved with MPP's Road to Life Yard and Moringa project for more than three years. When he presents his work, using photos on my laptop, he is unsophisticated and extremely effective.
Me, climbing, climbing, climbing. I carried my own pack for most of the way, including the laptop, but for the last hour, I did switch with Gultho. His bag only had treated water for the trip, as well as a few clothes. Photo by Boston Jean Gilles.
My friend has some good basic information about how tropical agriculture works, specifically in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This blog demonstrates good basic soil conservation in Haiti and talks about some of the simple details that can make a difference between what works and what doesn't.
Taking a doze during a rainstorm in Paque, high in the mountains of Lèogâne, Haiti. Before the
rainstorm, Boston Jean Gilles, Gultho Orne and I had given a presentation on the Integrated Diversified Yard Garden program we are offering to members of the grassroots organization led by Boston. After five hours of walking and an hour or so of talking, and with the sound of the storm on the tin roof of the meeting place, I was happy to snuggle in among the participants and nod off.
I got home from Haiti
yesterday, arriving in Barahona at noon, after leaving the mountains of Haiti's Central Plateau at 5 AM. Barahona, in the southwestern corner of
the Dominican Republic is where Jenny and our daughters, Keila and
Annika live--and where I live a little more than half of each month. The
other half of each month, I am in Haiti, where together with a number
of the leaders of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay), I am beginning to work
with other rural grassroot organizations. MPP is Haiti's largest
grassroots organization serving smallholder farmers and landless rural
In April I made my first visit to Léogâne, about
30 miles west of Port au Prince, to begin getting to know an
organization called ODEPOL (Organisation pour le Devloppement
Paque-Orange de Léogâne--The Organization for the Development of
Paque-Orange of Léogâne). In April I and my two associates from Papay,
Gultho Orne and Herve Delisma made presentations three times to a
selection of ODEPOL's community groups.Now in May, we presented five
times in five different locals. The municipal division of Paque was one
of these. Monday, May 14th, we headed up into the mountains for a five
hour walk to reach the community where we were to present. When we
arrived, they served us rich mountain coffee with fresh cow milk and
then set us to work, presenting our integrated diversified yard garden
program to some 85 members, representing seven or eight different
farmer groups. The response was exciting. Then our turn was finished and
the group began discussing an internal matter relating to a corn mill
donated to the community. In the meantime, a heavy rainstorm hit.
Between the five hour walk, a heavy rain hitting the tin roof of the
meeting area and trying to figure out a topic I didn't really know
anything about, I ended up dozing, snuggling into the group to keep
Boston Jean Gilles is the president of ODEPOL and
our host when we are in Léogâne. Boston was born and raised in the
community that we visited May 14th. ODEPOL began in the two municipal
sections of Paque and Orange in the 1980's, but has since spread to all
thirteen of Léogâne's mountainous sections.
Mark Hare, really getting into the idea of biochar, using charcoal powder produced in an MIT, D-Lab workshop (solicited by MPP) as part of a soil mix for the Road to Life Yard's vegetable tires. November 2011
Amy Smith, Director of MIT's D-lab, teaching participants in an MPP workshop on design to produce charcoal powder from agricultural scraps (corn stalks and husks, coconut shells, harvested bean pods, palm branches, etc.). The charcoal powder is ideal for forming into briquettes for cooking needs, but it also has potential for using in soil mixes used to produce vegetables in tires. Photo by Mark Hare, all rights reserved, November 2011
I'm working on translating a project proposal for the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and I needed to make sure I was using the right terminology for "biochar" or "biocharcoal" and I found this site:
Then I went back to my connection with Amy Smith, director of the D-Lab at MIT and found their excellent description for making charcoal from pretty much any type of organic waste product. Amy and one of her associates, Kofi Taha have worked with MPP a couple of times, and I have a good set of pictures of the process of making charcoal dust, which can then either be formed into briquettes or mixed into the soil for our tires. Maken Pierre (Road to Life Yard crew member) and I did a preliminary test with two tires, both with the same soil mix, except one had charcoal dust made during one of Amy and Kofi's workshops. I left Haiti to spend Christmas with my family in Nicaragua before being able to get a look at the final results in the two tires, but word from the crew is that while the first harvest was really bad in the biochar tiree, the second harvest was clearly superior in the biochar soil. Amaranth, or "epinà" was the crop planted in both tires for both harvests.
P.S. The project I am translating was put together by a leaders of four communities, all located in the mountains of Bassin Zim, near Mache Karida--the Carida Marketplace. The committee who put together the project is looking for funds to help participants in MPP's yard garden program move forward more quickly. They want to help participants establish systems for rain water collection and storage, buy watering cans and other tools and provide workshops on a variety of topics. We are planning on providing the group at least one workshop on producing and using charcoal dust.