October Agricultural Evaluation and Training in Haiti
There were several goals in mind for the recent agricultural trip to Haiti. First, we wanted to evaluate what has been accomplished thus far, particularly regarding the introduction and implementation of Sloping Agricultural Land Technology or SALT for the production of field crops in the mountainous community of Lazile. In addition, as SALT hedgerows are being established, we wanted to immediately begin building upon that foundational step by bringing fruits and vegetables into the picture and encourage their production. Third, we wanted to begin making plans for introducing a practical livestock component into the system to further boost the agricultural and economic development of the area.
Luckenson, our extension worker for the project has been tasked with an incredibly challenging job but has been doing admirably well. As anticipated, early results are mixed among the 10 farmers participating in the SALT training and extension program. Luckenson worked with each of them to implement SALT hedgerow trials in a small area on their land and some have done better than others maintaining them. However, each farmer successfully established a stand within the hedgerows and most are expected to survive the dry season and should have impressive growth during the next rainy season. We are confident this will begin to significantly reduce soil erosion on those farms, proving they are worth the time and effort to establish and maintain them properly. In fact, Luckenson is already demonstrating this quite effectively on the SALT demo plot he has established in the area. All the farmers had an opportunity to see this firsthand during the recent training.
Fruit and Vegetable Training:
Although a fairly wide range of fruits and vegetables to improve family health could be produced in small home gardens without a great deal of extra effort, availability of this food supply in Lazile is very limited. There seems to be several reasons for this. First, there is a general lack of understanding of how important fruits and vegetables are in meeting nutritional needs, strengthening the body’s immune system and promoting a more rapid recovery from sickness or injury. Second, there is a lack of information on how to successfully produce fruits and vegetables. Third, water is difficult to obtain during the dry season even for cooking and drinking, much less for watering a fruit and vegetable garden.
These issues and several others were addressed over the course of a two day training and demonstration session. Demonstrations included basket composting, vegetable transplanting, direct root zone irrigation in compost baskets (to conserve water during dry season), pest control using neem tree seeds and leaves, making a simple pesticide sprayer using an ordinary plastic water bottle, storing seed properly and testing seed germination. The level of note taking and questions resulting from these discussions and demonstrations was encouraging. It indicated that the farmers were interested in learning and that they were taking seriously the benefits of fruits and vegetables for their families. That is a critical first step in the effort to promote home garden production of these foods among them.
An important “next step” in the SALT method is adding an appropriate livestock component. In the case of Lazile, a practical, low cost plan is to bring in a high production Nubian buck goat to cross with hardy but low production local doe goats. The offspring can be expected to retain a level of hardiness greater than the Nubian and a level of production significantly improved over the local goats.
A source of good Nubian bucks already exists at a project near the City of Leogane in the lowlands about 25 miles north of Lazile. We visited this project to see the animals first hand and find out what one of them would cost. We found that the bucks are good animals, the price is very reasonable and that one would be made available to us when we are ready to purchase it.
We anticipate having the needed preparations and being ready to house and feed a buck sometime next year.
This agricultural ministry in Haiti is sponsored by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention working in cooperation with Baptist Rural Life Ministries led by Dan Watson.