Recently, we critiqued USAID’s agriculture program in Haiti. Critique is important, but equally (or more) important is providing positive examples. This week, I’m pleased to introduce a post by Paul Miller, Executive Director of the Haiti Justice Alliance, focused on the kind of solution that works. Paul profiles an inspiring urban agriculture program we learned of recently. Connecting with efforts like this one through established partners, such as Réa Dol, is one of the great strengths of HJA’s collaborative model.
Mark (top) explains his micro-garden project to HJA delegate Nathan Yaffe (bottom).
During our May visit, our delegation saw organizations rising from the rubble due to their own fearless determination and their commitment in the face of daunting challenges to re-build Haiti. We would like to share one of their remarkable stories with you.
Mark’s Micro Garden Project / Madam Rea Dol
Mark Jacobs has initiated a micro-garden project focused on providing economic opportunities for Haiti’s ti machann (market women). Working with Réa Dol, an amazing community organizer, Mark has begun experimenting with growing rooftop vegables as a way to create micro-enterprises. These will be run by the women’s groups already participating in Réa’s micro-lending program.
Starting an urban agriculture project in a tropical country with highly degraded topsoil poses many challenges. However, because of his farming background in Guyana, Mark comes equipped with the knowledge to tackle these problems. The pictures here testify to the success of his initial efforts.
Mark's micro-garden, flourishing with the help of shade netting.
The strength of Mark’s project is two-fold: he takes advantage of readily available resources, and his vision is informed by condition on the ground. On the first topic, his planting containers come from shipping palates that are discarded in Cité Soleil. On the second, his program is designed to directly address the economic constraints faced by the ti machann.
As the project develops, Mark will employ and train Haitian women to participate with his micro-gardening efforts. He has already hired one Haitian woman who is tending to his plants while he travels to obtain materials for his project.
Entrepreneurial micro-solutions that work will be readily adopted by Haiti’s resourceful people. Mark is working on a scale that will effectively allow his work to be transferred to others. This means his model can create sustainable enterprises that provide food and economic opportunity. With small steps and small successes will come larger steps and greater impacts.
As always, the hope in Haiti lies in the response from Haitians themselves, and from the organizations that trust the Haitian people to provide for their own well-being.