HAITI – When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in 2016, it devastated much of the country. In the southeastern town of Jacmel, crops were washed away, fruit trees were destroyed, and homes and farm buildings were demolished with everything in them, including stored food.
The people there faced not only the immediate devastation around them but the prospect of terrible and ongoing food insecurity.
In farming communities, food security depends on seed security. World Renew Haiti and the Christian Reformed Church of Haiti worked together in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew to distribute corn and bean seeds to the most vulnerable families and continue to do so. Seeds are the foundation of food security here, the repository of the genetic potential of crop species and their varieties, resulting from improvement and selection over time. In addition to seed distribution, we facilitated the training of a group of farmers in seed conservation and proper usage; they will in turn share their new knowledge with other farmers. By ensuring that farmers has basic knowledge of seeds and how to best use them, as well as high quality seeds and planting materials that promise improved crop production amidst growing environmental challenges, we hope to facilitate community revitalization and re-establish a sustainable base for long-term development.
Teaching Conservation Agriculture to School Students and Parents
Like people around the world, we are concerned about the degradation of the environment in Haiti. One way to address this concern is through “agro-ecological” techniques and practices that nourish the soil and require less water and chemical fertilizer.
Ministry for Christian Development, a World Renew partner in Haiti, has joined forces with Platfòm Òganizasyon Kominotè Piyon (POKOP), a local association confronting environmental challenges in Pignon, Haiti. Together, they collaborate with local schools to improve the environment with a focus on conservation agriculture practices such as crop rotation and natural fertilizer use. In order to model conservation agriculture, Ministry for Christian Development (MDK) and POKOP have established a model garden and nursery in Pignon where parents join their children to learn on a regular basis. By teaching conservation agriculture to school children and parents, they are also building a strong link between generations of farmers.
Strengthening communities through Village Savings & Loan Associations (VSLAs)
In Haiti, unemployment is high. In a household of seven, only one person may have a formal job. At the core of many Haitian communities’ survival — and evident in many developing countries and among the Haitian diaspora — is a traditional form of family solidarity that allows for a household to survive on this income. While just one household member may have a formal job, household responsibilities are shared by all members of the family, allowing for household expenses to be kept low.
To allow for greater economic security and growth in these large, single-income households, World Renew has supported the Christian Reformed Church of Haiti in establishing village savings and loan associations, where heads of families (often women) can systematically save money, earn interest, and access credit. In self-managed groups, they share their experiences, save their money, offer and receive (and pay back!) loans, and so improve living conditions for themselves and their families. The members of the association manage all services of the group and are provided regular training in bookkeeping and money management. These associations are local and adaptable, allowing farmers to respond to economic opportunities as well as unforeseen shocks that may typically drive them into a cycle of uncontrollable debt.
The village savings and loan model takes advantage of the positive aspect of the traditional solidarity of the Haitian family, the primary unit of production and social organization. Since women are at the core of the family, we have focused on business principles and leadership, training women to become better entrepreneurs.
Rebuilding Life After Hurricane Matthew
Neptune Samedi is 70 years old and lives with his wife Simanie Thomas and his two children, Mario and Solandie, in Timouyay, Jacmel. There he has farmed for years on land that belonged to his parents before him.
When Hurricane Matthew struck two years ago, the family lost all their crops. Until then, Mario and Solandie had been in school but with no crops to sell, the Samedis could not afford school fees and their children stayed home on the farm to work.
Neptune is a very active member of the men’s group in his church, a Christian Reformed Church in Timouyay. After the hurricane, Neptune didn’t know how he would find the money to purchase seeds to start over. But then Neptune and his family received 10 pounds of black bean and 10 pounds of corn seeds from the Christian Reformed Church of Haiti and World Renew.
Now Neptune produces banana, yam, corn, and beans on his land. He makes between 25000 and 50000 gourdes [$387 – $775 USD] in a normal year without drought and, with the income from his farm, he takes care of his family and can send his children to school. “I am very thankful to the people who made it possible for me to receive those seeds,” says Neptune. “It’s proof that those people have the love of God in their hearts”.
Prayers for Haiti
People in Port-au-Prince are demonstrating about the fuel price increase announced by the government. Several people have been arrested in the protests, but there have been no reports of any serious injuries to date. We will keep praying for peace.
World Renew Haiti