Monday, December 3, 2012

Making It Happen: The yard garden program in Leogane

From the blog:

"My understanding of God's Kingdom, present and coming ever nearer, is about community. Working with MPP and now with farmer organizations in Léogâne and Verettes, I feel the power of working with communities, learning from their wisdom and practical experiences while also helping to contribute to making them stronger and more viable. I hope that you can sense some of what that means in the photos and the stories that I am sharing."

The first week of October, while I was helping lead a group of visitors from the Presbytery of the James (Presbytery of the James), Herve Delisma and Gultho Orne headed up the mountains of Léogâne to continue the work of helping ODEPOL (Organization for the Development of Orange-Pâque of Léogâne) develop their Yard Garden Program. Here are photos from their work. Photos by Herve Delisma, used by permission and Mark Hare. All rights reserved.

Herve Delisma, also known as Tiga (Tee gu) headed up the mountain to the municipal sectors known as Pâque and Orange, between three and four hours walk.

Gultho Orne, walking up the mountain with Tiga. Gultho and Tiga know this route well by now, and even I could find my way up by myself by now.


Tiga and Gultho began their week of work with Lucsen Sommervil. Lucsen (left) is one of the farmers chosen by the leaders of ODEPOL to become a local technician.  Wilner (right) worked with Lucsen the third week of September, taking basic data about his yard and asking him to describe at least ten things he would like to achieve in his yard in the next twelve months.

Part of the registration process is developing a yard plan showing the types of production that Lucsen already has and indicating where he wants to make changes.. Lucsen actually had to have two plans, because he  is working on a second piece of land up a cliff from his house. The original design was done in pencil, then my niece, Leah Dobbelaer and I provided the colors when she visited us in the Dominican Republic with my sister Nancy this past week.

Green shapes indicate existing vegetation. Brown rectangles indicate existing structures. The blue arrows represent the slopes, or direction of runoff. Shorter arrows indicate steeper slopes (faster runoff) and longer arrows indicate longer, less steep slopes. Blue shapes indicate new structures and red indicates new components to the yard garden system. For example, to the left in this design, are three vegetable benches that Lucsen intends to build--blue parallel lines representing the benches with red circles representing the vegetable tires. Just below the tires you can see where Lucsen plans on establishing Malabar spinach, which he plans on acquiring from his associate, Bruno Sené who lives about an hour and a half away on the other side of the mountain top.

Normally we show where the sun rises and sets, but that is currently missing from this plan.

One important thing to understand about life in the mountains of Léogâne is that there are no flat spaces to build homes. Families have to create flat spaces. They do this by digging at the sides of the hills, packing the soil they loosen until they have a relatively firm base upon which to build. In this picture, you can see the bare earth behind the house, which is where the family took the soil to build the space where their house sits. In Lucsen's yard plan, you can see the same cliff represented by the short blue lines behind the house.
 Lucsen with his first of three tire benches made and with the tires loaded with soil. It is important to remember that people working with us in the mountains have to carry the tires up the mountain to their yards, either on their backs or on the backs of horses, mules or donkeys.
Lucsen's second yard plan. The house ("Kay la") and kitchen ("Kizin nan") are directly down the cliff from this secondary area. In this area Lucsen plans on constructing vegetable beds (red rectangles to the left), planting moringa ("doliv" in Haitian Creol, red rectangle towards the top left) and building a structure for goats (blue rectangle on the right). Blue x's indicate the fence that Lucsen plans on building around the entire area. The light purple lines on the far right show the path leading around and down to the main yard.

The two green circles ("Pye Mawoba" and "Pye Twompèt") mark two large trees at the top edge of the area. The diameter of the green circles that mark existing vegetation gives an approximate indication of the shade a particular tree provides.

 Bruno Sené, Lucsen's associate from the other side of the mountain, and Gultho, lining out Lucsen's  vegetable beds (red triangles).

 Tiga (left) and Lucsen continuing the work preparing the vegetable beds.

 Lucsen (right) and his associate, Bruno, sharing a meal as they work together.

After spending a day with Lucsen, Tigan and Gultho moved on to Esterne Joseph's house. Here Esterne is on the right, working with his wife clearing the land where they will create their new space for vegetable production. Esterne is another of the seven local technicians that our new program is training.

This is Esterne's yard plan. The main production space is indicated by the red symbols, partially surrounded by blue circles indicating the living posts that Esterne plans on planting to form the protective fence around his vegetables. The area is backed (to the right) by a dense thicket of bamboo mixed with a number of fruit and lumber trees.

Esterne also has several construction projects he marked on the map, including one new house (blue square with dashed lines behind the main house, "Kay Nèf") and changing the position of the main house, moving it forward ("Deplase Kay"). Esterne also wants to construct a chicken coop ("Kay Poul") and rebuild the kitchen ("Deplase Kizin"). Note the short blue arrows to the left of the house indicating the ten-fifteen foot cliff that was left where the family cut into the hillside to create their flat space.

"Solèy Leve" to the upper left shows where the sun was coming up when we did this design. "Soley Kouche" to the bottom right shows where the sung goes down. Besides helping to orient the plan, marking the approximate path of the sun helps people think about whether the things they want to plant will be getting enough sunlight, or too much, depending on the plant. Esterne's vegetable space should get plenty of sun.

Benito Mezilus (left) and Esterne, preparing the soil, sand and manure for making the mix that will go in Esterne's tires. Benito is Esterne's associate who lives a brisk twenty-five minute walk away, crossing two streams and one narrow mountain valley. Each of the seven local technicians has an associate who is receiving the same training and has the same responsibility of transforming their yards into models of excellent production.
Benito, mixing the soil for the tires. Behind Benito is the area of Esterne's yard dedicated to staple foods such as bananas, plantains and true yams (Dioscoreaceae), a vining plant that grows best when growing up some structure, such as the bamboo poles in this photo. These are not the sweet potato yams that we know in the states. See True Yams.

Most yards in the Leogane mountain communities already have a great deal of production. This new program is in many ways an experiment to see if we can take a really good thing and make it even better.
Esterne and Benito lining the bottoms of the tires with pieces of wood.
Tiga with Esterne's tires filled and ready to plant.
Benito and his nephew who lives with Benito and his mother.
Benito's yard plan. Tiga and Gultho did not have time to work with Benito on making this plan a reality. Again, the red indicates the new elements to be added, including one bench for vegetable tires in front of the house, a number of papay trees to be planted (to the far right) and a space for the production of moringa and other vegetables (to the left, as you first enter into the yard).

Benito already has an extensive area planted with bananas, plantains, palm trees (used for construction) and fruit trees. Looking at the path of the sun, you can see that where he plans to put the moringa and other vegetables, he may have problems with shading.

After three days up in the mountains, Tiga and Gultho headed down to spend a day or so working with folks in the low lands, in the community of Darbonne, to the southeast of Léogâne city. In Darbonne, they worked with a local technician named Presime, also the vice-president of ODEPOL. Presime's yard is very small, but he already has half a dozen tires positioned and producing.

Presime took Tiga and Gultho to work at the home of Julia, his associate, building the vegetable bench and mixing up the soil. Presime is also in charge of a yard garden project funded by Agricultural Missions (Agricultural Missions), involving, I believe, between fifteen and twenty women.

Julia, mixing up soil. Gultho, supervising.

Building the vegetable tire bench along one side of the house.

Vegetable tire bench built, tires prepared, Julia filling them.

Tiga helps finish filling the tires and then, they were ready for planting.

Walking and working in the mountains of Léogâne can be exhausting, but the warmth of the people who receive us keeps us going back and their dedication in putting into practice the ideas that we have shared with them rejuvenates us again and again.

My understanding of God's Kingdom, present and coming ever nearer, is about community. Working with MPP and now with farmer organizations in Léogâne and Verettes, I feel the power of working with communities, learning from their wisdom and practical experiences while also helping to contribute to making them stronger and more viable. I hope that you can sense some of what that means in the photos and the stories that I am sharing.

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