The training covers all aspects of farming: from sustainable agricultural methods such as polyculture, green compost, soil regeneration, and plant cover, to business management, and adopting democratic rules. It also promotes concepts of women’s equity, youth integration, civic values, having a strong voice in matters related to rural life, and the power of non-violence. All cooperatives must register with the National Council of Cooperatives (CNC) in person which, at this time, is impossible due to the lack of security. All five cooperatives must participate in the training.
To each newly established Talia Farms cooperative we offer the opportunity to participate in the Women's Goat Project.
Goats are considered to be a "four-legged savings account” for families living in poverty who cannot open a bank account. When families own goats and a major financial need arises - a wedding, a serious illness, or urgent farm repairs - they can sell a goat and cover those expenses without owing money to a loan shark charging exorbitant rates, or being forced to sell parts of their land. Those who participate, significantly strengthen their financial stability.
This project also benefits the cooperative as the new goat owner pays a small fee for receiving the goat, and that fee goes towards the capital of the cooperative, not to EWI.
Since women take care of farm animals, they benefit from the project since they decide when to sell, and they control the purse strings.
Increasing agricultural production involves a continuous dialogue with the cooperative members and extended planning. Some of the subjects include:
Once three of the five planned cooperatives are fully functional and have a total of 300 to 500 members, Talia Farms will start the implementation of the Food Transformation center to manufacture long shelf-life products for export.
All produce the center will need will be purchased from the cooperatives.
Our region is strategically situated for exporting as it is on the border with the Dominican Republic, close to two ports and the airport.
Agriculture cannot thrive in a place where the topsoil is regularly flooded and becomes depleted of its nutrients.
Water is a valuable commodity, becoming increasingly less available due to persistent droughts and climate change that results in the rainy season being much shorter but the rains more powerful and destructive.
In Marre-Roseau where the first cooperative opened, there is no water source at all, except for the rain. This means that numerous families task their children, some as young as six years, to go down to the ravine to collect water and then carry filled containers on their heads and backs up the mountain slope.
This trip can last between 3-5 hours depending on the child’s ability to carry heavy containers. It also means that the children who do this chore cannot attend school, perpetuating illiteracy and poverty.
EWI and CAMA installed rainwater roof collecting systems in private homes. One system is used by two families. The condition of most roofs is so poor that the project had to first replace the roofs and then install the systems.
The need for more rainwater roof collecting systems remains high.
Water for The Patrice Lumumba School in Ganthier
A much bigger rainwater collecting system we installed at the Patrice Lumumba School to provide water for washing hands, so important during the pandemic, and to maintain the edible garden. Now that a year has passed, we know for certain that, as planned, the system provides enough water to last during the entire dry season.
Ayiti is the original Taino name for Haiti and is still widely used. It means ‘mountainous land’ and, indeed, mountains occupy 75% of the land surface, and there are 922 named mountains. One result of this topography is that Haitian farmers cultivate on steep inclines.
Cultivating on steep inclines makes farmers vulnerable to dangerous seasonal floods. Recurring floods destroy the arable land and wash out the topsoil that is vital to food production.
Among several possible solutions to mitigate this problem, we chose the bioswales system. The advantages are that this system is affordable, can be built and maintained by the farmers, and there are no moving or replaceable parts. Any system installed in impoverished and isolated areas requiring outside professionals and spare parts inevitably fails.
CAMA and EWI plan to dig a series of bioswales, to slow down the water flow while still allowing some water to pass through and irrigate the land in a more controlled fashion.
Regenerate the Soil
Once the bioswales are in place and the flooding is reduced, the next step is to regenerate the topsoil. Smallholder farmers plant the same crops each year for their own consumption and for selling on open-air markets. Between repetitive planting of the same cop which reduces nutrients and the destructive seasonal floods, the top topsoil becomes depleted and produces smaller quantities and less nutritious food.
Now that farmers belong to a cooperative, it is easier and more cost-effective to establish topsoil regeneration and maintenance practices that can be widely disseminated.
More than two-thirds of Haiti is deforested at 98% - as our region is. The use of wood charcoal is ravaging the country’s tree cover, which is dangerous and destructive. Wood charcoal cooking endangers women and children most as they breathe the fumes all day, and consequently suffer from pulmonary illnesses that are sometimes fatal.
This is a solvable problem, but successive Haitian governments and international donors have so far lacked the will to resolve it. While it is true that the solution is costly – the need is vital.
The cooperatives and EWI are committed to planting trees and using research to choose those that are worst for charcoal as they are fire-resistant, or are revenue-producing such as mangoes, coffee, and cacao that farmers will protect.
This project will also promote the triple cropping method to mix revenue-producing trees, bushes, and plants to use land more efficiently and practice polyculture to better retain land’s richness.
The Patrice Lumumba School, Ganthier
Building the School
This community-based school started in a rented one classroom space with 30 students and one teacher. Today it owns a building and has 274 students and more than twenty teaching staff.
For the past twelve years, EWI has been supporting the Patrice Lumumba School which has primary, middle, and junior high school levels. The school provides quality education to all children, regardless of their religion or ability to pay. The school also accepts students who have aged out of the educational system but want a second chance at education.
EWI has provided financial and practical resources to build the school, the wall around it to keep the children safe; and provides Creole books for children learning how to read. It installed a rainwater collecting system, initiated a civics course, and provides emergency lunches (see below).
We partnered with Ralph Lapointe, the school’s Director, to create a civics course to teach students of all ages how to be responsible citizens, what is a democratic form of governance, and how to make their voices heard without resorting to violence. Students conduct classroom elections, learn how to disagree while respecting each other’s point of view; and how to better understand the Haitian form of government. All participants receive a Certificate of Completion. The course is now taught in two junior high schools and, once security is restored, it will resume offering it in more schools beyond Ganthier. So far more than 300 students completed the course.
Due to violence, social unrest, the pandemic, and poor governance, the Haitian economy is in tatters. For the first time since the school’s inception fifteen years ago, children came to school hungry. Parents simply didn’t have enough money to feed them. Thanks to generous donors who reacted fast, the school was able to quickly establish an open-air cooking facility, and students’ mothers take turns volunteering to cook. The program started in January 2021 and currently serves 300 lunches each day. The grants and donations cover ¾ of the total cost, so the fundraising effort is ongoing
EWI provided a literacy course based on the Alfalit method to 40 rural women. Participants’ age ranged from 20 to 70 years old. All completed the course and wrote beautiful thank you notes, which we treasure. One fifty-year-old participant said that “learning how to read and write is like moving from an imprisoning darkness into the light”.
EWI will repeat this course, this time offering it to both men and women. Last time, men complained about not being included. We seized that opportunity to discuss with the men “how does it feel to be excluded?” The consensus was that it was neither fair nor pleasant. From then on, the women’s equity rule has been much easier to implement.