Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mouvman Peyizan Bayonnais (MPB)--Farmer's Movement of Bayonnais

Lucien Joseph (middle) giving advice to Rose Marie (right) with respect to her bed of Moringa trees. Lucien is a former member of the Road to Life Yard crew and frequently works with Herve Delisma and myself, providing technical assistance to the yard garden participants in the various organizations. Ovilien, another member of MPB's Yard Garden team led us to Rose Marie's house, about a two hour walk away from his home, where we had just provided similar advice.

I returned this past Saturday, April 26th to my home in Barahona, Dominican Republic after two weeks in Haiti. The first week, Holy Week, I spent catching up on some administrative work in Papaye-Hinche. The second week, I went with the Yard Garden team to continue our introduction of the program to the Farmers' Movement of Bayonnais (MPB) in Bayonnais, Gonaïves. (The organization's center in the community of Quatto is located at 19.425440, -72.513220)

It  was, as always, an intense week of work, but very good. Only three months after we held the first formal workshop, we found participants applying the new techniques to small, well-protected areas of their yards.

Perhaps what is most special for me is the people we work with are becoming more and more real to me. This was our second round of visiting people's homes, one by one, sharing food and in two homes, spending the night. The hope there is in this crazy work is when people start feeling like friends we are going to visit and share with, rather than "beneficiaries" who need us to solve their problems.

MPB is the most recent of the organizations with whom we have started working. The work continues in Léogâne and Verettes, where I also managed to spend time between Friday, April 18th and the 25th.

The Creole name for this flower is "Yam Zombi", the Zombi Yam. It has an inedible white bulb which vaguely resembles the edible root crop called tropical yam (genus Dioscorea, not the North American yam). It would seem to be seasonal (a "Spring" flower) and perhaps found only locally in the Bayonnais area (???). In ten years of working in rural Haiti, it is the first time I had seen it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Celebrating Yard Gardens

Bruno Sene, one of six participants in Léogâne who receive a certificate of excellence for their achievements in their yard gardens. Each participant shared with the audience the significance of the yard garden for them. On the display table for the yard garden celebration of ODEPOL (Development Organization of Pâque-Orange, Léogâne). Behind, from left to right: squash ("joumou"), plantains, mangoes (in bowl), coconuts. Middle: vermicompost (compost from red worms, in bucket), papaya, moringa leaves (draped over plantains). Front: moringa seeds, green peppers, hot peppers.

Last year in November we finished out the year of yard garden work with celebrations. We also did evaluations of the work with the participants and planning for 2014. We held a set of meetings in Léogâne (30 mile west of Port au Prince) the third week of November and in Verettes (about two and a half hours north of Port au in the Artibonite Valley) the fourth.

With funding from the project that paid for the food and some of the extras--a generator for loudspeakers and a deejay, for example--the participants planned their programs to recognize the work that the participants had done and to present that work to a larger community. In Léogâne the participants decided to hold one large celebration near the urban center, with between 70 and 80 guests, including visitors from three major non-governmental organizations. In Verettes, the participants chose to hold three separate and generally smaller celebrations, with most participants coming from the surrounding communities.

The first celebration in Verettes was held for the participants and their invited guests from the low-lying communities of the municipality, mostly members of ODEVPRE (Organization for the Protection of the Environment and Development of Verettes). A second was held by the organization MRPST (Movement of Farmers without Land Calling for their Rights) in their base community of Dofine, about 600 m above sea level. The third celebration was organized by an ODEVPRE farmers' group high in the mountains in a community called Dekonb, about 1000 m above sea level. Getting to this particular celebration was interesting--the road was worse (!!!) than I had remembered. But once we were there, it was definitely the most fun.

Here are some photos and a conclusion at the bottom. Unless otherwise indicated, photos by Herve Delisma and Mark Hare.

Léogâne. Boston Jn Gilles (right), the coordinator for ODEPOL, introduces the program. Father Goursse (left, standing) from the Haitian Diocese of the Episcopal Church also helped lead the program

Father Goursse shared a Biblical reflection based on Genesis 2:15, "The LORD God put the man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and care for it." Cindy Correl, fellow PCUSA mission coworker provided the contact that made Goursse's participation possible and attended with him. Photo by Cindy Correl.

You know you are in Haiti when the impromptu dancing starts. This was the celebration in Dofine, organized by the leaders of MRPST. Katelyn Leader (far right) is a friend currently working in Port au Prince who asked to be part of this craziness. She bravely trouped along with the rest of us, sleeping in three different  beds in as many nights, as we moved from celebration to celebration in Verettes.

The display table in Dofine, Verettes, with the main organizers arranged behind.  The buckets on each side contain sugar cane and tayo. The table has hot peppers, green bell peppers, grapefruit, eggplant, papaya and a coconut. It should also have had rice, beans and water cress, three of the main crops produced in the intricate irrigation system the community of Dofine has developed.

The final celebration during a crazy two weeks was in Dekonb, a five hour, hair-raising drive up a unmaintained "road."The display table for Dekonb had, from left to right, green pepper, coffee beans, an orange, carrots, cooking bananas, squash (auyama), leeks, a small branch with coffee beans still attached, cabbage (behind), "militon" and eggplant. Eventually they added a humongous beet.

Dieulissaint Ermeus, one of the two original participants from Dekonb. No visitors from other organizations in Dekonb. Just the participants themselves giving testimony to what they see as the importance of their work, sharing their insights with their neighbors. We didn't get any good pictures of the dancing, but in this ceremony, it was out of control. And they did have their deejay with his generator, CD player and speakers, transported there on motorcycle.

Alexander Placide, B.S,  giving Elsenou Louicius, our host in Dekonb, pointers about his beets. Alexander is an agronomist for MPP and came to Verettes to provide the keynote presentation for each of the three celebrations there. Alexander always gives a good talk, but in Dekonb, he was inspired, encouraging the farmers to recognize the dignity of their work and their lives. Elsenou is a lay leader for two churches in the area and the main man leading the program for yard gardens in Dekonb and Remonsen, a neighboring community.

Women preparing one of the the feasts that were part of each celebration.


Dofine, Verettes

The yard garden program is not about making huge changes in peoples' lives. It is about making small, daily changes that are consistent, persistent and positive, without being intrusive. The program is about helping people recognize the power they have to learn to do something useful with what they already have at hand, and about sharing their knowledge with the people around them. It is also about learning to celebrate the small successes, while praying and struggling for the big ones.

Mireille Domingue, in her garden, next to her moringa leaves. Gros Morne, Léogâne.

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