Friday, June 1, 2012

A walk in the mountains of Léogâne--Part II: Orange-Pâque

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 MORE 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.

From left to right, Herve Delisma, Gultho Orne and Boston Jean Gilles, standing by a revolutionary war era cannon. About three hours into the hike, we reached this cannon, overlooking the valley leading down to the West, towards Léogâne and the ocean. It was placed here by the former slaves during slave revolt and subsequent revolution, between 1797 and 1803, that led to freedom for over 500,000 slaves and  Haiti's independence from France.
Soil conservation hedgerows formed along the contours of the slope using elephant grass, a relatively nutritious grass that provided decent forage for goats and cows. As we reached the municipal section of Pâque and began walking through the area where ODEPOL was founded, we began seeing fields like this, where the farmers have learned to begin protecting their soils.
The meeting place for our encounter with the farmer and women's groups from Pâque. Eighty-five men, women and youth attended the presentation, some walking for close to an hour to the site.
Mark Hare, mission co worker of the PC(USA)  using a Power Point presentation to explain the concept of integrated diversified yard gardens. After about thirty minutes of presentation and explanation, Gultho provided another twenty minutes of testimony about his work in his own yard. Then Boston helped us field questions from the group, with Gultho, Herve and Mark responding as appropriate. One of the main questions was when we were going to begin the program in their mountain communities.

Mark trying to get warm. Between 3,500 and 3,800 feet above sea level, the site was chilly, especially when a heavy downpour began, a few minutes after our presentation was finished.
This is a typical field in the mountains, planted to black beans. The soils tend to be heavy clay, but can be very productive. These beans are planted on long hills that are carefully formed using hoes. When these hills are formed following the contours of the slope, they are a temporary but effective means of soil conservation. In the picture also are bananas, mango and other fruit species.
Houses and yard in the Pâque-Orange area of Lèogâne. A typical scenario for mountain homes is two or more homes clustered together, each belonging to various members of the extended famil. The yards are typically filled with shade and fruit trees. Our challenge as we work with people on their yard gardens is NOT to re-invent something they already do very well, but to find niches in these systems where we can help people produce even more. One concern, for example, is that fruit trees produce seasonally. So we can focus on techniques that can allow families to produce food on a daily basis. Intensive planting of moringa trees and Haitian basket vines are possible options.
Boston Jean Gilles (far left) introducing the presenters to a farmer's group in Lower Orange. After sleeping Monday night as guests of Boston's brother and wife in Pâque, we walked down the mountain Tuesday morning, about two and a half hours, to this community in the lower part of the municipal section of Orange. We had presented the integrated diversified yard garden program to farmers in Upper Orange when we visited Lèogâne in April.
Mark Hare and his Power Point presentation presenting to the group in Lower Orange. After about thirty minutes of presentation and explanation, Gultho presented. The laptop battery just made it for the two meetings, Monday and Tuesday.

We got back down to the "flatland" Tuesday PM about 2 o'clock, and slept a good part of the rest of the day. Even Boston slept, and he is usually meeting with some group or other, or doing workshops, during whatever part of the day he isn't hosting us or leading us up or down some mountain.

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