Agriculture and Rural Development Update

The tremendous devastation and loss of life from the January 12th earthquake validated our belief that agricultural promotion and development can help Haiti’s people make huge strides toward decent living. Port-au-Prince and other major cities are sorely overcrowded and cannot support the tremendous needs of such a huge concentrated population. Far too many youth from small villages are leaving their homes and families and migrating to Port-au-Prince looking for work.

In the past few years HT invested a great deal of funding and energy into educating and training young people to care for the environment and honor and respect agriculture and farming vocations. Here is the latest news on these projects and our work outside Port-au-Prince:

HTG Gonaives Office

Our office in Gonaives is the focal point for all our outreach to the poor outside of Port-au-Prince. The primary ministry of our HTG Gonaives office is a combination of education (schools and training programs), intervention (relief and charity efforts), Environmental protection (training and reforestation), Agricultural & development (credit coops, farming, irrigation and water resources) and nutrition in rural villages. 

News on current HTG projects: The population in and around Gonaives, where we are located, increased by 20% after the earthquake and forced us to increase our feeding and charity outreach from this office. This creates a real strain on our outreach activities so we’ve increased the funding and are looking to involve more volunteers in water well drilling and agricultural management.

Clarke Family Agricultural Center

The Clarke Agricultural project is a 50 acre plot located outside of Gonaives bordering the main highway. It contains good topsoil and an excellent irrigation system that we installed during the past year. The primary purpose for the Clarke Project is to help the poor by addressing root causes of poverty and empower poor villagers to use the resources available to them.

Pumping and Irrigation system

“Our vision is to help farmers become better farmers and improve their quality of life. We can do this by using all that is available to us on the land. With good irrigation, seeds, tools, and techniques, farmers can produce not only enough produce to take care of one’s family, but create a good business and make a profit. Early on, we see the value of providing a stipend to “work” the land on the project and learn by doing. What we need most right now, are some well trained people to help us manage and advance the projects,” says John Clarke, Hands Together trustee. “There are two Haitian agricultural technicians working there now who received training at ECHO in Florida and completed a program in the Dominican Republic, so we have the makings of a good Haitian/U.S. team here,” said John Clarke.

Project Goals:

  1. Create an experimental farm to help determine highest value/yielding crops and for villagers to replicate a similar farm on their own land;
  2. Infuse participating farmers with spiritual tools to cope with the difficulties of life in the rural areas of Haiti. Emphasize the Catholic Social teaching that centers on the dignity of human life. “A farm or agricultural system that ignores economic realities is in financial trouble. An agricultural system that ignores or neglects moral principles is in ethical trouble.” (U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops) We wish to emphasize the basic tenets of the Catholic faith and Agriculture: I. The right to food, II. The call to family, community, and participation, III. Option for the poor and vulnerable, IV. Dignity of Work, V. Solidarity, VI. Respect for Creation.
  3. Create agricultural vocational training program for young people to become agricultural technicians. These “agricultural agents” can assist farmers who participate in our programs and work on site in various villages to help increase crop yields, improve irrigation systems, and facilitate cooperatives and business plans.
  4. Invite teams of poor farmers from different villages and teach experimental farming techniques and high-value crop planting. Provide stipends for working plots on the Clarke land and walk them through the process of planting, harvesting and selling for highest profit.
  5. Teach basic forestry and encourage fruit tree planting and other species that will grow fast.

  6. Teach basic animal husbandry techniques with goats, rabbits and other livestock.

Need for Farm Manager and Volunteers – Hands Together seeks individuals with agricultural and development expertise to help manage our Clarke Agricultural and run our agricultural vocational programs. Knowledge of Haitian culture, Creole and experience working in tropical would be helpful. We seek commitments of 2-3 years.

CCFP – Catholic Center for the Protection of the Environment

Our Center for the Protection of the Environment in Bassen completed a major environmental educational program for the Gonaives School system in March of 2010. Thanks to a $346,000 grant from the Canadian Aid agency, Hands Together hosted 1360 school students during 29 “Ecological Weekends”. Students learned basics of environmental protections, planted several thousand trees, and conducted training programs at their own schools. The project impacted 13,360 students in 34 elementary schools in the Gonaives area.

The entire school system of Gonaives now understands the importance of caring for our land. 2,060 students brought back their knowledge and experience from weekend workshops and shared it with their peers. We’ve planted more than 100,000 trees all around the Gonaives area and at schools. We created nurseries and now cultivate our own trees to plant,” says Fr. Gerard Dormevil, Director of the HTG office.

Credit and Peasant Support

440 members of PRODIB – a peasant cooperative that works together to advance agricultural development in Bassen, participate in a credit bank, and use the funds to pay for diesel, tools and seeds. It is a remarkable project and a big step in our efforts to reduce the “reliance on outside help mentality” so firmly embedded in many of the farmers in rural Haiti.

Irrigation and Seed Assistance

HT supports two major peasant farming cooperatives in the Bassen area, helping over 250 farmers. From September through June, 2010, we subsidized the fuel for running the irrigation pumps, provided funds to help repair several canals, and purchased seeds for the cooperative. Total Funding FYE 2010 $10,000

School Programs

With help from our partner, Mary’s Meals, we provide daily school meals to 2300 elementary school children and 800 high school students. Hands Togethers funds 8 schools in Gonaives and the surrounding areas. Each year, we provide the diocese with funds to supplement the salaries of 900 teachers and school workers.

“The earthquake caused an increase in all of our school populations. Many families left Port-au-Prince to return to their native villages and others simply left Port-au-Prince looking for medical and nutritional help. Every day we help dozens of people who show up at our offices looking for help.” Fr. Gerard Dormevil