I left the frozen tundra of Iowa early Tuesday morning with a group of agriculture students from Hawkeye Community College, one early elementary education student from the University of Northern Iowa, a local farmer and the director of the Global Ag Learning Center (GALC) at Hawkeye Community College and landed in Haiti’s balmy 86 degrees by the afternoon. I was able to go two years ago with GALC during my graduate studies, and now I am here as an adjunct instructor.
We are staying with UCI in Haiti’s Central Plateau. UCI’s founders, Jean Jean & Kristie Mompremier have been instrumental in transforming this are from a desolate, oppressed place to one of vibrancy and hope. They have spearheaded several projects including a Christian church, elementary school, nutrition centers for children, and a university all run on donations tuition (of which many scholarships are offered through sponsoring donors). The university offers what the people need most:
Theology: To give the people the Christian message of hope
Medicine: To help the people with their health needs
Agriculture: To provide the people with adequate nutrition
Nursing: To assist and teach the people with their health needs
Elementary Education: To provide a quality education to younger generations
GALC has been coming to Haiti for 5 years now to help their agriculture students with food production. My first trip here, I addressed the agriculture and medical students emphasizing how a collaborative effort between the two disciplines would benefit the health, wellbeing and
economy of the population. Sometimes we get locked into our own little silos and forget the power of working across lines for a common cause. This year, I am here as an instructor and am thoroughly enjoying watching our students teach and learn from the Haitian students.
Local Diet & Food Production
The diet here is primarily rice and beans (that are shipped in) with a splash of occasional vegetables, fruit, eggs and even more rare–goat’s milk or chicken. The soil has eroded from the deforestation that occurred hundreds of years ago. The soil itself is about 6 inches deep and full of rocks. Under that layer, the earth is a powdery lime making creating an alkaline environment not conducive to growing many crops.
Food production is done primarily by hand, although some farmers have an ox, bull, donkey or sometimes a small horse to pull handmade tillage equipment. Irrigation is needed during the dry season and is carried out through gravity in furrows between rows.
Our Experience Thus Far
This year, I’ve seen principles we’ve previously shared with the Haitians in use with increased crop and livestock production as well as a thirst to learn more. Compost teas and soil conservation techniques have been shared to the local farmers as well. A new chicken barn has 1000-23 day old broilers in it that will provide protein and jobs for the people, as well as manure fertilizer that will be composted into fertilizer for the crops. Any day, they are expecting a shipment of 700 laying hens to start egg production.
It makes my heart sing to know that we are helping the poorest of the poor in the Western Hemisphere. Food is central to overall health, well-being, and plays such a big role in economics, the environment, and fulfilling a purpose in life. It is a joy for me to see how the Haitians have taken the information we’ve given them and used the resources they have to apply it and form their own solutions.
One may think the learning only goes one way, however I believe the opposite is true. I am learning more from them. Haitians truly depend on each other, graciously giving and receiving for the benefit of all. They are immensely grateful for what they have and any help they receive. Their love for God the Father, Son and Spirit provides peace in their hearts and a hope that they will have a brighter tomorrow. It is inspiring to see such contentment and happiness come from that faith and trust–something I want to carry in my heart and use as well.