By Partners in Progress
Editor’s Note: “Konbit vanyan kapab” is kreyol (creole) for “strong konbits can.” Konbit refers to a traditional work group where people work together for a common purpose. Agroecology is an integrated approach to agriculture that is primarily concerned with access to healthy food, social and economic equity, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem balance. Agroecology is a major focus of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) work to achieve un-sustainable development goals. Fao sees agroecology as a unique approach to meeting the needs of future generations while striving to leave no one behind.
Partners in Progress, which supports rural sustainable and community development in Haiti, is a non-profit organization that was formed by the Pittsburgh Haiti Solidarity Committee, a former project of the Thomas Merton Center. The following is a report that Partners in Progress wanted to share with our NewPeople readers to encourage us to continue our support for TMC projects which foster and act on the mission of the Merton Center to create a more just and peaceful world:
There is cause for hope in Haiti – despite the dysfunction and corruption of the current Haitian government. As the Haitian people’s struggle for social and economic justice continues, farmers of the Konbit Vanyan Kapab Agroecology Program are laying the groundwork for a brighter future. By sharing agroecology knowledge and resources with other farmers, they believe they can and will improve health, resilience, and economic opportunities in their rural communities.
This past year, 52 farmers and 3 agronomists participated in the agroecology program’s Farmer-to- Farmer Initiative. Initial reports from participants are very positive. New agroecology farming techniques have enabled them to grow a wider diversity of crops, increase yield, and, in some cases, nearly double production. More importantly, farmers believe that agroecology can be a pathway for regenerating farm ecosystems and revitalizing traditions of working together.
Ronald Cassagnol, a Farmer-to- Farmer participant, sees agroecology as a way for communities to regain control of their food system and to improve health and well-being. “People in Haiti used to live much longer than they do now,” says Cassagnol. His concern is that dependence on imported food has increased consumption of high carb foods and exposed people to more chemicals. “Many people have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer,” Cassagnol continued, “and these diseases were not common many years ago. We can grow more healthy fruits, vegetables, and medicines and help the environment at the same time.”
“We are so grateful to the agroecology project—it is about construction, not destruction.” Cassagnol has become a leader and his passion for the program is evident. He believes that Agroecology can help communities mitigate impacts from climate change and conflict. “Our environment,” he added, “used to be a paradise, and it can be a paradise again.” The Farmer-to-Farmer Initiative provides resources to establish tree nurseries in each village. Trees are an integral part of agroecology systems and are also distributed to community members. One community member says: “Trees keep us cool when we farm. They make us feel happy. Our animals are happier, too.” Farmers know that trees also reduce the loss of crops and damage to homes during storms.
Another farmer, Odette Joseph, says that she was able to increase production of peanuts through agroecology practices. This made it possible for her to help others during this time of political unrest. Joseph says proudly: “I have been sharing peanuts with members of the local women’s group when they are having trouble finding food.”
Iraméne Leveiller, a farmer new to the initiative, says that “the new economic activities that agroecology brings will get more young farmers interested in farming.” She believes that economic opportunities are critical to giving young people a reason to stay in their communities. As farmers increase production, diversify and develop value added products, they will be better positioned to compete in the market place and reduce dependence on food imports.
Agroecology has the potential to improve child nutrition and school sustainability as well through farm-to-school initiatives like the successful program managed by the Sisters of St. Antoine in Fondwa, Haiti. St. Yves School in another part of rural Haiti recently launched a similar farm-to-school child nutrition program using agroecology farming practices.
To find out more about the efforts of Partners in Progress, visit www. piphaiti.org.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 3. April, 2020. All rights reserved.