Ivoire is a small, rural village in the Chaine des Matheux mountain range in West Haiti. The region is known for poor road access—it takes two hours by foot to reach Ivoire from the nearest town at the bottom of the mountain. Subsistence farming is the way of life for families in Ivoire, but the steep hillsides are prone to erosion and over time the soil quality has declined as precious nutrients and topsoil are washed away. In addition, water supplies in this region are scarce and difficult to access—in many cases, water must be carried long distances by hand from unsanitary streams and springs. The region has also suffered from two recent major catastrophic events: the January 12, 2010 earthquake and the major cholera pandemic that soon followed.
Joseph Baptiste is a 41-year-old farmer in Ivoire. He and his wife struggle to feed their family of three children and pay for their schooling. To help make ends meet, Joseph raises a variety of crops including corn, pigeon peas, sorghum, and sweet potatoes. His wife has a small business, which is particularly helpful during the dry season when farm income declines.
Joseph participated in a training program held by Groundswell’s partner in Haiti, Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL). Groundswell and PDL are supporting communities across Haiti, including Ivoire, by building their capacity to lead their own development processes and to sustainably improve their agriculture, livelihoods, health, and resiliency. The PDL training focused on sustainable farming practices, as well as helped establish a micro loan and credit program.
After participating in the program, Joseph has changed his farming practices to better preserve and restore the soil. He says, “In the past I burned my crop residues, but now I use them to build barriers to protect the soil against erosion. With the soil conservation structures, more water is being stored in the ground and the crops are benefitting…”
Participating in PDL’s training also helped him increase his crop yield. “I now know how to better pair different species,” says Joseph. “By doing so I am harvesting more food. Last year, I harvested 80 cans of beans for the 10 cans I planted. It was the very first time I harvested so much. It was because I took better care of the land after the training sessions organized by PDL.”
These trainings are having a ripple effect. Across Ivoire, other farmers who participated in PDL’s training have adopted similar practices to stop soil erosion and improve soil fertility. And now, farmers who did not participate in the training have seen the positive impacts of these practices and are also adopting them. As Joseph says, “There is more collaboration among the farmers. We are helping one another to accomplish more as a community.”
Meet more farmer heroes like Joseph in our recent video about strengthening rural communities in Haiti.
This blog post was written by Emily Kujawa, one of our amazing volunteers. Emily is a dietitian and public health consultant with a diverse background in public policy, program development and management, and public health research and evaluation. She has expertise in food access, food policy councils, childhood obesity policy, and school-based nutrition. Emily is passionate about advancing sustainable food systems that bolster local economies, improve the health of diverse communities, support social justice, and preserve natural resources. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.