Smallholder farmers throughout the southwestern region of Haiti have risen up to begin rebuilding following the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew last October. One image taken last Friday captures the spirit of this vast enterprise as a farmer (above) works on a new tree nursery next to a giant breadfruit tree felled by the storm.
Last week my colleague Timote Georges and I visited four such nurseries that are now under construction as part of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) program, in partnership with Project Medishare, to adopt 1,200 smallholder family farms and help them get back on track after they lost between 75 to 100% of their crops during the hurricane.
In the SFA model, farmers build and manage nurseries, and then transplant and look after the resulting trees. Growing trees is how they earn the seeds, tools and training for their farms. There will soon be a total of eight nurseries as part of this recovery operation in the southwest that will generate a first crop of some 40,000 trees including coconut, papaya, orange, mango, breadfruit, coffee, cacao, cedrela (for timber), morenga and avocado.
The impact of this approach was best summed up by 85-year-old Jedilia Dieu (photo above), renowned in this area as a farm leader. "You are bringing us hope by helping us grow trees and plant our crops." she said, standing next to a tree nursery under construction in the community of Annadere. "This hope is like a great river that feeds the land because it feeds our soul. Thank you for helping us farm again."
As soon as the seasonal rains begin, which should be within the next two weeks, we are ready to start distributing maize (corn), bean and peanut seeds (the latter are a donation from Meds & Food for Kids in Haiti). The first tools have already been provided to farmers and training has begun for improving agricultural techniques.
It will take years for this region of Haiti to recover from the damage caused in just a few hours by Hurricane Matthew, but we are extremely grateful to Project Medishare and all those whose donations have made it possible for the SFA to do its part.