Natural & Cultural Stewardship

Fall Break Trip To Haiti

Mon, 04 Nov 2013 13:12:00 CST  — by: Charlotte Henderson, C'13, Sustainability Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

DSCN1552The Haiti Institute in Sewanee, an organization dedicated to improving livelihoods in Haiti through incentivizing tree planting and maintenance, recently traveled to Haiti over Fall break to check and plan the next steps for the project.‌ 

Dr. Deborah McGrath, along with students Linnea Carver, Elizabeth Sega, and post-baccalaureate fellow Charlotte Henderson, traveled to Haiti to check-up on the coffee nursery started last spring break by Sewanee students and Haitian farmers and to start planning for the 2014 spring break trip.  The group was pleased with the growth of the coffee seedlings in the nursery; 16,000 coffee seedlings were planted over the summer and they seemed to be thriving. The group made the now familiar trek up to Bois Jolie and was able to check-out the coffee seedlings, talk with farmers about the next steps in regards to watering and planting the coffee, and the possibility of planting more fruit trees. Accompanying the group were the instrumental Haitian agronomists, Noel Maxo and Bosquet.  Maxo and Bosquet have been helping the group with translation, expertise, and on-the-ground work to implement the project for almost a whole year.

One of the main goals of the visit was to discuss trade between Bois Jolie and another village, Blanchard. Bois Jolie has many coffee seedlings while Blanchard has many fig banan trees (kind of like a small, sweet banana). The Sewanee team was hoping to encourage trade among the villages; however, trade among villages is culturally uncommon. Another main goal was developing and deciding upon a watering schedule for the seedlings. Haiti is about to enter the dry season and it is of utmost importance for the seedlings to be watered and maintained. It was decided that farmers involved in the program would take turns watering at nighttime to reduce the amount of water transpiring from the plants. Watering cans will be purchased by Maxo and Bosquet to assist with the watering.  In addition to establishing the watering schedule in the village, farmers were asked to collect avocado seeds along with any other seeds they want to plant in the nursery. The farmers in Bois Jolie requested for moringa (a multipurpose tree with nutrient-rich leaves and seeds), sed, and inga (nitrogen-fixing, pulp surrounding seeds is sweet, fibrous, and editble) seeds that they would like to cultivate as well. 

One of the challenges the team faces is finding an overstory crop that will protect the coffee seedlings as they grow on each farm. Fig banan is a viable option, however transportation and purchasing may be difficult. It is easy for seeds to be transported up mountains, but already established seedlings pose as a larger problem, as they are more susceptible to damage. 

As far as the 2014 spring break trip, Sewanee students could possibly help Zanmi Agrikol, our partner organization, build another nursery in Blanchard; conduct more family interviews and add more families to the program, take inventory of already established trees (data will be used to determine how much carbon can be sequestered by each farmer and also if shade exists for coffee seedling plantings); transport the coffee seedlings to farms, help plan and delegate where the coffee should be planted, take GPS points of coffee location on each farm; and much more. It is an exciting time for the project!

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