Monday, December 8, 2014

Friends from First Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama Celebrating Yard Gardens in Bayonnais

Becca Montgomery, an elder from First Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, singing "Amazing Grace" for the farmers in Bayonnais gathered for an end-of-the-year celebration of their yard garden program.
“She gave from her heart. Now we need to give back from our hearts.” That was the response of Viljean Louis to a group of about 60 Haitian farmers after Becca Montgomery, an elder from First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, Ala., had provided them a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Together with Kristie Taylor and Liz Hubbard, Becca had spent three intense days with the folks from Bayonnais. The three tested their own limits, and some of their assumptions about what mission work really is. The culmination of the group’s visit was a joyful gathering organized by Viljean and other leaders on Wednesday, November 12th, to celebrate the organization’s yearlong work with the MPP-FONDAMA Yard Garden Program
I have been working with the yard garden program of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) since being sent to serve with MPP by PC(USA) World Missions in 2004. In 2012, I was offered the opportunity to extend what we had learned in MPP to other groups of organized farmers. The Bayonnais folk represent the fifth and latest organization where we have begun training and providing follow up through home visits.
With funding from Presbyterian Disaster Agency (PDA), MPP created this extended yard garden program in conjunction with FONDAMA (Hand in Hand Haiti Foundation), a network of Haitian grassroots organizations working together to address the root causes of hunger — mostly through campaigns of advocacy. FONDAMA is affiliated with the Presbyterian Hunger Program initiative, “Joining Hands.” Cindy Corell, from Staunton, Va., is the PCUSA mission co-worker serving with FONDAMA and she led the group that came to Bayonnais.
Most development projects involve some type of material input. That has become a fundamental expectation throughout most, if not all of Haiti. When a project begins, the first question “beneficiaries” normally ask is “What are we going to get from this?”
But leaders of Mouvman Peyizan Bayonnais (MPB) and the new participants accepted a different paradigm. Instead of them asking us what the project would give them, we were the ones who challenged them. We asked “Are you committed to taking everything we share with you and pass it on? When you do ask something from us, are you willing to limit what you ask to the things that you can then pass on to others?”
They said, “Yes” and these past 12 or 13 months have shown to me that they really meant it.
When we provided ideas for finding their own seeds, rather than providing seeds, they said “thanks.” When we brought them red worms, instead of wheelbarrows, they said “thanks.” When we provided prizes for the participants who had transformed their yards the most, Notaire Philippe said, “We should be giving you the prize.”
When we asked them to define their vision for the program the other week, this is what the Bayonnais crew came up with: “We, the participants in the Yard Garden Program, want to produce an abundance of food in order to be healthy, so that we are not dependent on other people and so that we can live our lives where we were born. We also want to share our knowledge so that everyone in our communities can be part of the Yard Garden Program. In this way, there will be more people who trust the [Bayonnais] organization and they will support us when we need to make changes at every level of our society.”
When the Yard Garden team asked the Bayonnais participants how we could support them in their vision, they did not ask us for wheelbarrows, for seeds or even for watering cans. They asked us to simply keep working with them, helping to train new participants.
When Becca finished her beautiful song and Viljean challenged all of the Haitians gathered to respond, from their hearts, they did. They sang Becca’s song back to her, in Haitian Creole, and in  four-part harmony.
It was electrifying beyond understanding.
World Missions, the mission-sending body of the Presbyterian Church (USA) talks about what they call “the community of mission practice” and that defines as well as anything who we were that Wednesday. The visitors from the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, the Haitian grassroots organization, Cindy Corell and me, present together, defining and celebrating our common vision and our common pursuit of God’s Kingdom come, here on Earth.
Jenny and I want let you know how grateful we are to all of you who have been such active members of our particular community of mission practice, some of you for more than ten years. It is your prayers and your financial support that have allowed us to be part of such incredible work, serving together with the partners of PC(USA).
Please continue to be a part of our mission through reading our letters and our blogs, through your prayers and through financial support. And if any of you think you would like to be part of something like what the Tuscaloosa folk experienced, let us know!
In addition to the prayers that we covet for ourselves and especially for our daughters, Keila and Annika, we ask you to pray for my fellow team members working with the MPP-FONDAMA Yard Garden program in Haiti — for their health and for the well-being of their families. Even more than myself, they are frequently gone from their homes for extended periods, and they take real risks traveling on bad roads and walking up into remote mountains.
And in all things, give thanks with us for God’s abundant blessings.
In Christ,

Mark, Jenny, Keila and Annika
Doing home visits with participants in the Bayonnais yard garden program. Left to right, Mark Hare (project coordinator), Kristie Taylor (member of 1st Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa), Lucien Joseph (member of MPP and team member in the MPP-FONDAMA yard garden program), Silvenie Desantus and her mother, Rosalie Sineas (members of Bayonnais farmer organization and participants in yard garden program) and Liz Hubbard (member of 1st PC).

Notaire Philippe, member of Bayonnais farmer organization, in his yard with a patch of moringa (Moringa oleifera). In addition to cooking with the tender shoots, Notaire has begun drying and pulverizing the mature leaves to make a nutritional supplement which his wife is using in their food. The family also shared some of the leaf powder who could not afford the vitamins prescribed by their doctor.
Aladie Colin, Notaire's wife with their seven-month old son. Aladie has been able to produce abundant milk without losing weight herself and their son got top marks from nurses in the clinic where she took him for vaccination at six months. Notaire and his wife credit this to the addition of moringa in their diet.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hydraulic Ram Pump Workshop at Sant Lakay, MPP (Farmer Movement of Papaye)

All in all, I guess it was worth spending the five hours in customs.

Dieu-la Joseph, agronomist in charge of MPP's Road to Life and Moringa yard garden project, creates a sipper valve as part of the Hydraulic Ram Pump Workshop offered by MPP at their national training center in Papaye, Hinche (Haiti). The workshop was led by Buzz Durham from Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina. Funds for the project came from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). All photos by Mark Hare and Herve Delisma. Used by permission.

Buzz Durham came back to Haiti in September as part of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church's ongoing commitment to explore with MPP (Farmer Movement of Papaye) the potential of hydraulic ram pumps as tools for rural families to produce more and live better. This time, Buzz came to give a workshop.

This was Buzz's third trip and, as always, it was an adventure. It started this year as it did last year--in the Dominican Republic. Thursday, September 11th, the day after Jenny, Keila, Annika and I picked Buzz up at the Santo Domingo International airport, Buzz went by himself (with a friend of ours driving him) to an irrigation supply store in the capital to check out the supplies of polyethylene irrigation pipe. He came back from the store with a 300 foot roll of approximately 2" pipe (4 Atm) and a roll of 600 feet of approximately 3/4" pipe (also 4 Atm), together with two essential fittings. Both rolls, together with the fittings, cost a total of around $US 230. That is, on average, less than $0.30 a foot. This was articularly impressive since Buzz speaks only very basic Spanish.

Here are three previous posts related to the work with hydraulic ram pumps in Haiti:

2012 Installing the hydraulic ram pump in Léodiagüe
2012 Installing hydraulic ram pump in Léodiagüe

2013 Looking at problems with the pump in Léodiagüe
2013 Looking at problems with hydraulic ram pump in Leodiagüe, Hinche

2013 Checking out possibilities for the pump in Verettes and Léogâne (Pump and Biochar workshops)
2013 Hydraulic Ram Pump work


Clemson plan for hydraulic ram pump
Clemson plan for hydraulic ram pump

With that accomplished, Jenny, Keila, Annika and I headed home to Barahona Thursday PM, with Buzz and our pipe.

Saturday morning, Buzz and I loaded up the project Landcruiser with our luggage and the pipe. Buzz's luggage consisted of a few clothes, an inflatable mat and lots of spare plumbing parts for all of the contingencies that he had been able to imagine. We got to the border with Haiti, Jimaní on the DR side, Malpasse on the Haitian, and got through the Dominican migration procedures pretty quickly. And then we hit Haitian customs.

We started the Haitian customs procedures for the pipe around 12:30 PM. We left customs with the necessary paperwork by 5:20 PM. We were not the last ones out the door. I have no words.

On our way to Croix des Bouquets, about two hours west from the border, we had those papers checked twice by Haitian authorities. It may be my imagination, but at least one of those times, I thought the officer was disappointed that the paperwork was so clear. (I know for sure that on the Dominican side some of the officers on the border are disappointed. The time before last, as I was moving on out from the border, one officer said "Your paperwork is always  perfect. Can't you give us something to keep us happy?")

After turning north at Croix des Bouquets, there were no more checks, and we arrived in Hinche with no glitches. Just very late.

On Sunday, after resting in the morning, we  parked the vehicle at Basen Zim (Bassin Zim) and walked up to Leodiagüe to talk with the brothers Wilner and Wilus about re-installing the pump on Palma "river," the stream that flows near their respective homes. All of the parts for the pump we installed in 2012 were still available, but the PVC pipe that brought the water to the pump had gotten beat up too much by the rainy season flash floods. And Wilner, who had been keeping the pump functional, now works in another part of the country--down the road from Malpasse, in fact. So part of our discussion was whether Wilus, who would participate in the workshop, was willing to take full responsibility for maintaining the system. The big advantage with the new installation, we hoped, was that we would be using the polyethylene flexible pipe, that can flow with the movement of the water, rather than the original rigid PVC pipe, which had to absorb the force of the water every time the stream flooded. Wilus was willing to commit to that responsibility. Wilner said that he and Wilus had already talked about it.

On Monday, Buzz and Carel, an MPP driver and I headed to Port au Prince. In Mirebalais, we picked up two MPP civil engineers--Junior and Markendy. Together we went to Eko Depot (Eko Depot-Web site) and picked out all of the parts for a 1" pump. Eko Depot had all of the parts. Below is an image of the purchase.

Then we ate lunch and checked out another well-stocked hardware store, MSC Plus (Google Maps-MSC Plus). A random check of prices indicated that the parts were actually cheaper at MSC Plus.

Finally, we picked up some #18 wire for building cisterns in Léogâne, and we drove home.

Tuesday  morning, Buzz and Junior added some valves to the large open fish cistern that was to serve as our water source for the pump, so that the water could either go to the pump, or drain out into the banana field across the way. I worked with Herve ("Tiga") to put together a packet of materials for the participants.

The valves that Buzz and Junior added to the system to make it useable for the hydraulic ram pump demonstration. Photo by Buzz Durham. Used by permission.

By 4 PM Tuesday, most of the participants had arrived. They were an interesting mix. We had two folks from the farmer organization ODEPOL in Léogâne (Serge and Esterne), three participants from two farmer organizations in Verettes (Mario, Givenson and Mathurin) and two from the farmer organization MPB in Bayonnais, Gonaïves (Merladette and Lechenn). We had a missionary working with agriculture in Petit Gôave (Clint Bower) and his family, a mission worker for Christian Veterinary Misison (Rhoda Beutler), two farmers from MPP (Herve and Wilus), an agronomist from MPP (Dieu-la Joseph) and the two civil engineers (Junior and Markendy). That would be a total of eight different organizations, counting Buzz and myself from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and four or five different professions, depending on your definitions.

With the day just about finished, we gave an introduction to the workshop by way of a role play. We divided folks up and asked them to imagine they were visiting a farmer in a remote community who was worried about declining production (which he mostly blames on lack of rain), problems making the water safe for his family--one child in particular was sick almost continuously. "Ti Pyè" also was worried about bad roads. His wife had almost died of cholera the year before because he had to take her down the mountain on a horse.

The challenge to the three groups we formed was to come up with some long term recommendations for MPP as an organization as well as some medium term ideas or recommendations for the local animators (or community development workers/advocates). Finally, although we said it wasn't the real reason for their visit, we asked them to imagine what ideas or hope they might provide for the family before they left--something that could make some difference in their lives right now, however small that difference might be.

We were not so concerned with the answers that the groups came up with. Rather, our hope was to stimulate their imaginations and put them in the right frame of mind for the workshop. The pumps can be a resource in certain kinds of circumstances, but what is most important about working with farmers is learning to look at all the resources a family or a community may have, and help people find ways they can use everything they have more effectively to produce more and live better.

Buzz going through the parts of the pump before turning participants loose.

Wednesday AM we began in full measure working with the pumps. Buzz began by going through all of the parts. Then each team of five participants got parts to put together their own pump. They were free to put it together and take it apart as many times as necessary until each person was comfortable with the ways the parts go together. The team that put together the 1" pump eventually added Teflon tape and screwed everything down completely. About 11 AM we all headed down to the zone of big fish cisterns and started putting the parts together--the drive line, the pump and the feed line. The feed line was 1/2" irrigation tubing that Buzz had gotten as a donation from a greenhouse supplies store in the Asheville area. Every single other part or piece was purchased in Haiti, off the shelf.

Buzz helping Mathurin from Belé, Verettes assemble a pump.

 Mario, from Dofine, Verettes, helping Lechenn assemble the pump.

All put together. From top right to bottom left: impulse valve, sipper valve, one-way valve, nipple, T junction. The air chamber (3' long 4" pipe, sealed) will screw into the top of this T-junction. The end (bottom left) will lead to the feed line, taking the water to where you want it to go.

Installing the pump. Clint is tightening the junctions while Lechenn stabilizes the air chamber. The green cistern in the back is the fish tank that provides the water for the pump. The feedline will be the red coiled pipe to the bottom right. Buzz got this as a donation from a nursery supply business in Asheville. Every single other piece was purchased in Haiti, off the shelf.

Everything except the feed line. No standpipe yet.

With everything put together, Buzz started the pump. And it worked! Wilus climbed up a tall Leucaena tree and the water went up and up! But then the pump would stop. Pump, pump, pump, stop. Start it again: pump, pump, pump, stop. By then it was time for lunch and we agreed to start again at 3:00 PM to brainstorm what was going on.

At 3 we did come together and Buzz asked us to think together to make a list observing everything they had seen. One thing we saw was that the pump DID work, but it would stop. We also saw that there was a pipe in the fish tank that kept the fish from going down the pipe, which was mostly good, but it also seemed like it might be restricting the water flow. And on. Everyone participated, everyone had something they observed. Tiga observed that we had talked about putting in a standpipe, which keeps the return shock wave from blocking water flow.

With all of the ideas down on paper, we split up into the three teams and each team was given two or three things they would do. One idea that came out was to try a larger pump--1 1/4", rather than 1". I worked with that team. Another team took the pipe protecting the fish and cut more holes in it, to let the water flow through more freely. The third team went to work installing a standpipe.

By the time my team got down with the larger dimensions pump, the standpipe team had saved the day! Just putting more holes in the vertical pipe in the cistern that keeps the fish out had not worked, although it kept the pump pumping longer before it stopped. The standpipe, on the other hand, solved the problem entirely. The pump pumped and pumped and pumped.

Now everyone wanted to see how high the pump could pump. They asked Wilus to climb up MPP's radio transmitter tower. And he agreed, the nut. Eyeballing the height, from down by the pump up to the highest point the water would still come out the workshop participants estimated at least 80 feet elevation. The drop from the cistern to the pump was between 7 or 8 feet, so 80 feet of height is plausible. In general, the standard hydraulic ram pump is supposed to be able to push water ten times higher than the drop of the water that propels it.

Wilus with the end of the feed line, around 80 feet above the pump. This pump is a resource for MPP at their training center, to provide them with a demonstration point for folks interested in the technology.

Thursday, September 11th the workshop moved out into the field, up to Léodiagüe and Palma River. Buzz went with the 1 1/4" pump freshly put together on Wednesday and his team removed the entire original pump, reinstalled the drive line and repaired the standpipe. My team rolled out 300 feet of flexible black pipe (after removing with a great deal of caution, a full-grown mesquite tree that had been cut and left right in the stream bed). We also re-built the sand sack dam. Together we all installed the feed line (the 3/4" polyethylene pipe) and worked most of the air out of the supply line pipe. Then, we started the pump. Buzz and I felt much trepidation as we did, because we had worked very very hard the first time, with Wilner, Wilus and their cousin, Julien, to get a tiny trickle of water out of that first system. We were happily astounded, to say the least, when on the first try, the new system started pumping water, a small but steady stream, rather than a trickle. Ecstatic would be a good description. Dumbfounded might also work.

Buzz supervising while Rhoda connects the supply line to the standpipe. Julien, Wilus's cousin and neighbor, keeping things stable. The galvanized pipe leading out (down) from the standpipe is the drive line that feeds the water with all its force to the pump.

Installing the new pump.

Unrolling the flexible pipe, about 300 feet of supply line, upstream to the source.

Wilus got hold of about 3/4 sack of cement to add to the sand/dirt. We mixed it all up and filled about seven large sacks.

Givenson from Desarmes, Verettes, putting the last sand-dirt-cement filled sack in place.

Esterne from Orange, Léogâne with a piece of pipe lined with screen, put on the end of the supply line to keep junk out.

Turning the Palma River pump on. The valve spilling out the water is the impulse valve.

 Buzz congratulating Wilus and Lechenn on a beautiful job.

 Herve and Wilus, farmers from MPP, evaluating the workshop Thursday PM.

Left to right, Mathurin (yellow shirt) from Bele, Verettes, Givenson Laurent (Desarmes, Verettes) and Mario (Dofine, Verettes) evaluating the workshop.

 Markendy Labady (white t-shirt) and Junior Lapaix, the two MPP civil engineers evaluating the workshop.

With plenty of time to pat ourselves on the back, we ate dinner at Wilus's home, then most of the crew trekked down the hill to bathe in Bassin Zim. Carel, the MPP driver had already left to drive around and pick up the team by the water. After bathing in Palma river, I drove the second of the two vehicles back around, doing an errand or two along the way. By the time I got back, we were ready to have a final meeting to review everything we had learned, and to do evaluations. All in all it was kind of an amazing workshop. All in all, I guess it was worth the five hours in customs.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Herve Delisma and Team--Leading Home Visits in Léogâne and Workshops in Bayonnais, Gonaïves

Bayonnais, Gonaïves. Herve, far right, sharing some of the technical information related to yard gardens before beginning practical experiences. Herve led a team to the mountains of Léogâne to do home visits in July, and then in August, organized and led four on-site workshops in Bayonnais where the farmer organization, MPB (Farmer Movement of Bayonnais) is working with local families. Givenson Laurent, from Desarmes, is writing.

This past July and August Herve Delisma was busy. Herve, more commonly known as "Tiga," is my associate in the MPP-FONDAMA yard garden program. After getting home at the end of June from working for around two weeks with me, Herve hopped in the project truck on July 6th  and the driver took him and two assistants to Léogâne, to begin an eight day intensive visit to the homes of yard garden participants in the mountains of Léogâne, helping the families plan the work in their yards, and doing mid-year evaluations of their work. The team, made up of Lucien Joseph (Papay, MPP) and Mathurin Sainté (from Verettes) finished on Monday, July 14th and headed back to their respective homes.

The last week of July, Herve began preparing for a series of on-site workshops in the mountains of Bayonnais, Gonaïves. On Sunday, August 3rd, he headed out again with the project truck, this time with three additional team members, Marimaud St Amour, Givenson Laurent and Lucien Joseph. The workshops that this team presented were partly to reinforce the capacities of  members of MPB (Farmer Organization of Bayonnais) already working with yard gardens, but their main focus was to introduce neighbors and family members of the current practitioners to the yard gardening ideas in a formal context--reinforcing the work current practitioners are doing as they reach out to share their new knowledge.

Tiga and his crew taught the participants how to build vegetable beds, create soil mix for the vegetable tires, care for African red worms and make organic insecticide from sour oranges, onion, garlic, neem leaves (Azadirachta indica), vegetable oil and laundry soap. The team traveled from site to site, carrying red worms and some of the insecticide ingredients as they went. The local MPB team members had to provide tools, manure, tires and space for the workshop, as well as coordinate food preparation. Each of the local team members was also responsible for choosing the family members and neighbors who participated in the respective workshops.

The fourth and final workshop was on Friday, August 8th. When I arrived early morning on Saturday, August 9th to meet with Herve's team and MPB's yard garden team, I was astounded by how positive each and every one of MPB's team members were as they evaluated the workshop facilitators. I had had every confidence that Tiga would do the best job he could and I also had a great deal of confidence in all of the team members he chose. But, being an odd sort of pessimist, I assumed that nearly everything would go badly anyway. Instead, nearly everything went exceptionally well. Viljean Louis, the coordinator for MPB, was pleased as well and that was the final and the best result. Our work with this yard garden program only makes sense if what we do helps the farmer organizations with which we work become stronger. Because these are the groups through which our Creator is winding and weaving, working to lead Haiti into a new future.

Photos by Herve Delisma and Givenson Laurent. Used by permission.

Visiting yard gardens in Léogâne. Herve (white shirt) talking with Esterne Joseph (middle, green shirt) and Libren (far left, striped shirt) about the excellent work that Libren and his family are doing. Libren is one of the second generation yard gardeners, introduced to the ideas by Esterne. Libren has a patch of medicinal herbs to his right. He also has the area planted to flowers. In the tires there are hot peppers and eggplant. The community is Kabwach in the Léogâne municipal sector of Orange. N 18.43998, W 72.51151
A new patch of yard garden at Enite Greffin's house. Enite's mother, Madanm Jean, received Herve and his team. Enite is now studying in Port au Prince, but her mother and father and keeping the garden she started going, and expanding it. This patch has basil, amaranth, eggplant and hot peppers. Enite and her family live in the community of Demye in the municipal sector of Sitronier. N 18.40741, W 72.54566.

SALT hedgerows coming up in Luxène Sommervil's field behind his house in Bwa Nèf Matye (municipal sector Orange).  18.43483, -72.48634

Workshop at Rosemarie Joseph's home in Jn Charles. Teaching participants to turn tires inside-out. Marimaude St Amour, from MPP in Papay is in red shirt on the right.

Lucien Joseph (far right) from MPP in Papay, teaching how to prepare a topnotch soil mix.

Givenson Laurent (far left, red shirt) from the yard garden team in Verettes, teaching how to build a raised bed for vegetables.

Marimaude showing how to put together materials for African red worms.

Herve (white shirt, far left) leading the group in putting together an organic insect control.

Givenson (front, center) leading the MPB Yard Garden team in part of the evaluation of the week of workshops. One of the MPB team members responded to my inquiries, "Mark, you thought we couldn't do it without you, but now you know that we can."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) in the mountains of Léogâne--Part II

... the best thing you or I or any of the team I work with can do that will make a difference is to find and keep the faith.  Part of that is the faith that these communities already have the answers for their challenges today and their children's challenges tomorrow, deep inside of them.

On Tuesday, May 27th, the day after we finished the workshop at Luxène's home,  we walked down, up, over, down and around and around to Serge's home, about four hours of hiking. The project mule, "Patience" carried our luggage and some tools. We carried the A-level and a pick handle.

When we reached Serge's house, after resting an hour or two, we walked out to the field where we would be doing the workshop.

This is Serge's first choice for a field to install the SALT system. It was land so steep, it terrified me just to try to stand there, let alone swinging a hoe or pick. This is Herve coming down from that field, on his bottom.

This is Serge's second choice for a field. Can you see any difference? Perhaps not, but this field actually did not scare me to stand in it. However, walking across this and an adjacent field to get back to Serge's house after the initial visit did pretty much terrify me. At one point the next day, while crossing the adjacent field to get to where the participants were waiting, I nearly froze up. As in, "Send in a helicopter because I am not/cannot take a single step." Having my "students" watching from the next field, I believe, is what kept me putting one foot in front of the other.

As I told Chavannes, the director of MPP when I saw him briefly the day after we finished the workshop, "When you work with rural farmers in Haiti, and you let them lead you, you really never know where exactly you are going to end up."

Aside from the steepness of the field, the work progressed more or less in the same way. Cutting bamboo stakes....

....staking out the distances between the hedgerows. One difference the steepness made here was that the hedgerows were much, much closer. We got to that one meter drop in less than four meters from the last hedgerow.

Preparing the seed bed...

Serge (white and brown shirt) working with Luxène (red shirt) to lay out the double furrows to plant the two lines of trees. One other difference was that we soaked the seeds overnight to give them a head start. Since we were at 300 meters above sea level, rather than the 1,000, moisture is less predictable. We also covered the beds with stalks of pigeon pea to help maintain moisture and give the seeds the best chance possible for proper germination.

 As we did in the workshop at Luxène's home, the second day we worked on building our own A-level from bamboo. This time the participants used an old battery with a nail in it instead of the rock.

Calibrating the A-level.

Another difference in the second workshop was that we had three young women participate, Mireille (sitting) and Enite, as well as Ullia (not pictured). The were full participants, wielding hoes and planting seed up in the mountains alongside of the six or seven men. Mireille participated together with her husband, the first time he has been a visible part of the yard garden work.

We also had Andre Ceus, from MRPST (Farmer's without land calling for their rights), a farmers organization from the high mountains of Verettes. All told, counting PC(USA), we had folks from five different organizations, including four different farmer organizations--MPP, ODEPOL, ODEVPRE and MRPST.

Two young boys being raised by their grandmother, Merina, down the hill from Luxène's home in Bwa Nèf Matye.

In the end, what are we about? Was this workshop really about starting a new agricultural revolution in the Léogâne mountains? Not really. What it was really about was about transforming lives, starting with my own.

Part of that transformation is recognizing the enormous gifts present among the farming communities in places like Bwa Nèf Matye, or Yeye. There is strength there, and a great deal of good humor. And skills--so many skills. What do I have to offer than can compare with what they already have? Not much, actually.

As a team coming out of MPP's long history and tradition, we can share a good idea or two, maybe a key scientific principle that turns some things around. With the training I have from CHE, we can offer honest and sincere Bible-based reflections that will shine a new light on what being a Christ follower is all about. But in the end, the best thing you or I or any of the team I work with can do that will make a difference is to find and keep the faith.  Part of that is the faith that these communities already have the answers for their challenges today and their children's challenges tomorrow, deep inside of them. Believing too, without doubt, that God the Creator has always been present and has never abandoned them, nor ever will.

Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) in Léogâne-Part I

I told Chavannes, the director of MPP, "When you work with rural farmers in Haiti, and you let them lead you, you really never know where exactly you are going to end up." 

Hey Friend,

My two weeks of Yard Garden work in May were spent in the mountains of Léogâne. The first week, the team and I spent visiting homes, drawing yard designs, doing the registrations for 2014 and just generally getting a feel for how the yard garden is developing, and what the next steps might need to be to help assure that the Léogàne farmer organization, ODEPOL, has a self-sustaining yard garden program.

During the second week, we did something pretty much completely different.

Rather than focusing on the area around peoples' homes, I led two workshops introducing an integrated system for soil conservation and soil rehabilitation called Sloping Agricultural Land Technology, or SALT. In Creole, we have translated the name as  "Sistem Pwodiksyon an Pant", the system for production on slopes, or SIPWOPANT.

What is SALT/SIPWOPANT exactly?

"SALT is a package technology of soil conservation and food production,integrating differing soil conservation measures in just one setting. Basically, SALT is a method of growing field and permanent crops in 3 meter to 5 meter wide bands between contoured rows of nitrogen fixing trees. The nitrogen fixingtrees are thickly planted in double rows to make hedgerows. When a hedge is 1.5 to 2 meters tall, it is cut down to about 75 centimeters and the cuttings (tops) are placed in the alleyways to serve as organic fertilizer."

(From the document, How to farm your hilly land without losing your soil. Here is the link to that:
 The SALT "how to" site )

Here are some other links that I just checked out that provide some insight into what SALT is about and what its impact has been:

1) A detailed description of SALT and its history:  Description of SALT
2) Adoption of SALT in Asia & Africa:  Adoption of SALT in Asia & Africa
3) Viability of SALT in the Himalayas:  SALT in the Himalayas
4) The birthplace of SALT as an Eco-tourism site: Birthplace of SALT

My own history with SALT goes back to 1998, during my first year as a PC(USA) mission worker at Rancho Ebenezer in Niquinohomo, Nicaragua. Hurricane Mitch had just devastated northern Nicaraguan, most of Honduras and parts of El Salvador and Guatemala. A man named Harold Watson came to Nicaragua from the Southern Baptist Convention to evaluate how they might best address both the immediate needs for relief and the longer term needs for recovery. Harold, as it turns out, was the missionary in the Philippines who, together with the local farmers in the mountains of Davao, had developed this system. My boss, Rev. Franscisco Juárez, the director of Rancho Ebenezer, agreed that the center should incorporate the technique in its soil conservation and recovery work.

We did try out SALT at Rancho Ebenezer, under Harold's tutelage, and most everyone was impressed with the results. When I became a PC(USA) Mission Co-worker in Haiti, serving with MPP (Mouvement Paysan Papaye), it was one of  the techniques we incorporated in working with the land MPP provided to develop the integrated diversified yard garden system. So technically, SALT, or SIPWOPANT, has been part of the yard garden system since we began developing that within MPP. But it really is a technique aimed at farmers' fields, not their yards.

After two years of working in the mountains of Léogâne, and after being encouraged by two of the key leaders of ODEPOL, I felt I had enough knowledge, and stamina, to give the system a try there. So Herve Delisma , my assistant in the FONDAMA Yard Garden program, and I organized two hands-on workshops in Léogâne. We held the first workshop at Luxène Sommervil's home in Bwa Nèf Matye, in the high part of the municipal sector, Orange--about 1,000 meters above sea level. We held the second workshop at Serge Trezye's home and in a field about twenty minutes up the mountain from his home. Serge lives in the rural community of Yeye in the municipal sector of Citronier which is between 200 and 300 meters above sea level.

Here are the pictures (photos by Herve Delisma, Lucien Joseph, Givenson Laurent and Mark Hare. Used by permission):

Givenson Laurent, from the farmers organization, ODEVPRE (Verettes) is helping us carry the A-level that Herve had made bye a carpenter near his home in Papaye, Hinche.

The first step was getting ourselves and the material up the mountain. Materials for SALT are simple. Hoes and picks, a rake if you have one, an A-level, stakes and seeds. In our case, we used Gliricidia sepium.

To get the seeds, Herve Delisma, my assistant in this project, had to drive about 45 minutes (one way) from his home, on his motorcycle, out into a remote community, to purchase the seeds from a spry but elderly woman we call Toun who used to work with the Road to Life Yard team.

There is nothing I do in Haiti that I could do without the people who surround me.

Givenson on the colonial era cannon that marks a mountain crossroads, and is about forty-five minutes before getting to Luxéne's home.

Luxène Sommervil showing a sweet potato he dug up while we working the land to plant the SALT/SIPOWPANT hedgerows. Luxène was one of the main instigators for this workshop. He hopes to use SALT system to rejuvenate a spring very near his home. The spring used to last all through the dry season, but since a neighbor began cutting the forest above the spring, it has begun to dry up near the beginning of the dry season. Luxène, his wife and their two sons housed the three of us who were visitors and organized all of the meals for the workshop.

Herve and myself, checking out the land where we would be doing the practicum. It had been a year or more since I had set up a SALT hedgerow, and I also needed to get a feel for the land. This field was about three minutes from Luxène's house.

Starting the workshop with a bit of theory. We had a total of nine participants over the two days, plus me as the instructor. I wanted to make sure we kept it small, partly to make sure that everyone got a lot of hands on experience, but also just in case it turned out to be a total disaster.

Getting into the field. Herve is showing Luxène's son how to measure the distance between the hedgerows. Laying out the field is the first step in establishing SALT/SIPWOPANT.

A diagram from How to farm your hilly land without losing your soil that explains how you can use your hand and your eyes to define the distances between the double lines of trees that protect the slope. Every time you sight past your hand to the base of the last hedgerow, you are creating a vertical drop of approximately one meter (3 feet). One vertical meter of drop is about all the force of rainwater running down the slope that you should ask a SALT hedgerow to tolerate. Any more and the coursing rainwater will continue to strip soil from your slope.

From our experience, the distances defined by the one meter drop are often too confining, and we prefer to keep the hedgerows farther apart. To inhibit erosion we combine SALT with some other soil conservation technique, such as green manures.

Lucien, far left (from MPP in Papaye), together with Lexène (middle) and Bruno (far right) marking out a contour using the A-level. We marked everything with bamboo stakes, which Luxène prepared the day before.

Herve and Remy clearing off the weeds of a 1 meter wide swath, following the contour marked out by Lucien, Lèxene and Bruno.

Givenson (right) is picking out a shallow trench above the area where we will plant the two lines of trees. The trench is an addition by us because the slopes are so steep, just to slow the water down. Luxène is also committed to leaving this field fallow at least until 2015, so the grasses between the hedgerows will also help protect the young seedlings until they can develop.

Bruno and Lexène following the same procedure. The soil only needs to be loosened up to a depth of between 4 and 5 cm (about two inches), just enough to create a nice medium for the seeds to germinate.

As Bruno and Lexêne advance, I come behind and smooth the soil out, keeping the soil along the same plane as the slope. We used a rake because Luxène (far right) had one, but normally we would just use the flat of the pick.

Using pieces of bamboo, Luxène and his crew trace out the furrows to plant the seeds. The swath of land prepared for the tree seeds is about one meter in width and the two lines of seeds are planted about 50 cm apart in the middle of that 1 m swath.

It is worth noting that all our measurements were based on the Haitian "gwo pous." That is the distance measured by extending your thumb and middle finger as far apart as possible. Five of these is usually about a meter. Five of my "gwo pous" is almost exactly 105 cm. For the distance between lines of trees, I measure two and a half "gwo pous."

The importance of using non-standard measures is to create an environment where any farmer will feel comfortable with the technology, whether or not they have sophisticated, expensive tools such as tape measures. In general we are trying to help set a path where the technology can become "ours" rather than "theirs."

Merina and Givenson planting the seeds, Gliricidia sepium. Merina (pink shirt) did not wield a hoe or a pick, but she helped with all of the rest of the work.

The second day of the workshop, before going out to the field, we built our own A-level from Luxène's bamboo.

Nailing on the mid-bar. An A-level needs two legs that are exactly the same length and when spread to 1.5 m to 2 m apart, will still be comfortable to work with. The mid-bar needs to go across exactly half way from top to bottom of the two legs. Nails are handy to hold everything together, although I have made these tied together with string. You need string and a rock to create a pendulum that hangs from where the two legs join at the top.

Calibrating the A-level. Carefully stake out the position of the two legs and then mark where the rock and string hit the mid-bar.

Turn the A-level around, putting the legs in exactly the same spots. Then mark where the rock and string hit on the mid-bar.

The "sweet spot" where the A-level marks a true level, is exactly in the middle of those two points.

Remy and Herve putting the A-level we made to work. They liked it better than the one we brought in!

By the second day, we were all working well together and we finished planting eight or nine hedgerows on Luxène's quarter acre of field, between fifty and sixty meters of double lines of nitrogen-fixing trees.

We finished the hands-on experience by marking out the future hedgerows in the field right above Luxène's spring. We left enough seed for him to get a good start on that field.

We finished the first workshop by forming two teams and having a quiz show-style review, where each person got a chance to answer a question on a topic of their choice (but still related to the workshop). Team members who can't answer can get help from fellow team members, but if no one gets the answer, the other team gets a shot at "stealing" the question.

This is obviously an artifact of me having watched too many TV game shows when I was a kid, but the rules have evolved over the last two years based on participant reactions and suggestions.

In general, farmers in Haiti seem to have about the same level of competitiveness as I do. Meaning, they like to compete, but they don't really want anyone to feel bad. Nobody complains when I lob a softball question at someone who isn't getting any of the answers, or when I give the team that is down an extra chance to make up points.

Usually I am only one of several trainers providing the questions, but this workshop everyone, including Herve, was learning from scratch.

We ended our time with a brief evaluation, which was very positive, and an excellent meal. And then team and I rested.

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