OUR WORK IN THE MOUNTAINS OF HAITI:
I was brought down for economic development with an NGO from the USA in the fall of 2012. They originally asked me to address the Vegetable Gardens they had been training the locals in to increase income and to encourage healthier eating as many locals were malnourished and the NGO focused primarily on medical aid, dental work and a spring fed drinking water system.
Once arriving there I realized that the gardens were not going to cut it to create a truly sustainable future for the locals there. They had been cutting down old growth forests for generations to sell off the timber and till the Mountainsides to grow the annual crops they had learned from flatland farmers and westerners. The years of erosion were apparent when looking across the mountain valley as you could see the soil go from dark brown in some fields, to red clay subsoil in others to the parent material of calcium based white rocks on the worst farms.
It was very clear that we needed to address their shortcomings from a systematic approach.
After doing some basic assessment I started to take inventory of their existing crops, which were quite diverse, and livestock along with their techniques for growing and managing them.
Soil Erosion & poor nutrient quality
Poor livestock health
There were signs that Permaculturalists had been there before doing work as they were using vetiver grass to manage soil erosion on steep slopes. There were also some basic projects thats that had been implemented of terracing/swales with Acacia, Eucalyptus & Casurina. Unfortunately those projects weren’t totally successful as some of the swales were failing along with people cutting back the trees for various reasons in some areas. The trees were also not very functional as production crops weren’t integrated in the system. They were serving as good pioneer species, however they needed to be interplanted with a production crop to make it a successful project. The planting of Eucalyptus could be a problem in the future as well as they are alleleopathic, which means they excrete oils that are toxic to other plants.
After doing assessment I started to share some basic solutions that seemed to be the most critical. In regards to the existing annual gardens experiment I taught them about mulching and sheet mulching to compliment the drip irrigation systems that had been installed on previous trips. (The challenge of that technology we found was it was not easy to maintain in the mountains and to attain replacement parts). As far as Mountain farming I taught them how to build an A-frame level and use it to build a terraced garden with a diversion drain through the garden.
Fruits: Bread Fruit, Avacodo, Mangos, Grapefruit, oranges, lemons & other citrus, Papaya, Banana, Passion Fruit, Cacao (not very productive), Coffee (not very productive), Soursop, Cachemon (custard apple), Cashew? (noix nut), almond (tropical vairiety?), fig
Nuts:Coconut Palms, Maya Nut
Timber:Royal Palms, Oak, bamboo,
Grasses: Sugar Cane, Lemon Grass, Vetiver Grass, elephant grass, bamboo
Tubers: Cana Lilly (Ya-oot- local name), Yacon (taro), Ginger, Sweet Potato, peanut, turmeric (they call it saffron)
Legumes: Acacia, casurina, peanut, moringa, flambouyant
Annual crops: Pigeon Pea, Tomatoes, pepper (hot & Green), leeks, Spinach-(amaranth style – Latin Name?), sorghum, onions, beans, basil (basilique),
fencing: Bayonette (a thorny palm), Piese (lazy tree)
Successfully Introduced species:
Comfrey, Tamarind, leuceana, flambouyant (N-Fixer), moringa
Failed introduced species:
Fig, Okinawa spinach, samanea saman, Sunchoke, Nettles, Egyptian Walking onion (some of these may have failed due to neglect while others failed due to climatic factors)
I will be adding more in the coming days, so please check back in in the coming days 9/1/14 – Braden