Acul-du-Nord Nursery & Botanical Garden
In November 2012, Sonje Ayiti applied for and received a wonderfully insightful grant from the Haitian Ministry of the Environment that enabled 30+ young adults a chance to make a significant, ecological difference in northern Haiti. The members of this team, the Enviwonman An Se Pann / The Environment is for Everyone, worked long and hard hours, and received a small salary for their efforts. Sonje Ayiti was given use of 16 acres of historically significant farm land in Acul du Nord, that also contained a 1-1/2 ac walled enclosure and a disused agricultural building. This large and enthusiastic young group began working to convert the enclosure into a vibrant and producing nursery to help in the reforestation efforts in the country, to help provide much-needed fruit trees, while also training / equipping the workers for future employment in the agricultural sector. Pierre Jovenel stood out among the group, and is now serving as our Sonje Ayiti – Nursery Director for the facility. He is now continuing his agricultural studies in the Cap-Haitien area, and Sonje Ayiti has helped to find funding for his tuition support.
It is our plan to develop a program that will allow us to sell the 40,000 beautiful fruit, nut and timber tree seedlings to individuals, communities, institutions, hotels or other businesses that recognize that these trees will, if properly nurtured, provide food, shade, and income, while holding the valuable soil in place for generations to come. Finding funding partners to help us either donate them to severely eroded areas, or to schools, community gardens, hospitals or clinics is a present high priority. We are well suited to continue growing more of the healthy and life-giving seedlings, as we have a seed-harvesting program, a vermicomposting program (turning organic material into fantastically rich soil through the digesting/composting process using our special variety of earthworms), and have just begun our rabbitry program. We are poised, trained and fully equipped to begin adding great value to our northern Haiti communities.
The largest portion of the property, nearly 14 acres, has long been used as a valuable agricultural parcel. The fertile and well-maintained soil has grown many different crops over the years, when not being used as pasture land for cattle, horses and/or goats. During its long life as producing farmland, many indigenous fruit, nut and timber trees have been nurtured and have borne some of the finest harvests in the area. Cashew trees, several different types of mango, avocado, guava, lemon and orange, pistachio and almond, vanilla and papaya, several types of coffee and cocoa trees all can be found growing in this gently upward sloping parcel of land. At the far western section of the property it rises sharply to the top of a knoll several hundred feet above the nursery and looking out north to the ocean and mountains. Sonje Ayiti leaders plan to develop this section of the property as a Native Species Botanical Garden. It is a fairly unique piece of botanical history beautifully growing out of some of the most fertile soil in northern Haiti, and we feel as though it should be studied and appreciated as a glimpse into Haiti’s past ecology, with a vision towards what we hope that a well-managed and nurtured future will reveal.
If you would like to help support our future agronomists and farmers, then consider partnering with us. If you or your organization would like to help to stem the tragic soil loss through erosion, and help to provide not only fresh and readily available, nutritious food to a malnourished family or community, please contact us. If you would like to partner with us to help market our seedlings, help us plan and / or set up our Native Species Botanical Garden, or work with our vermicomposting program to help introduce valuable soil amendments back into the thousands of acres of formerly fertile farmland….then please, contact us.
Pasé-a-Kado / Kabrit = Pass a Gift / Goat
As one of Sonje Ayiti’s initial projects, our Goat distribution program has enabled many families the benefit of having a source of income, as well as a source of valuable nutrition. Our training and distribution program began in 2007 aided by a $12,000 grant from Community Coalition for Haiti, and, after receiving subsequent grants from Heifer International and as part of the IMA/ACCorD program, has since been largely self-propagating. The idea is fairly simple: After being recommended by a local screening committee, and after being put together in a GS-5 unit (a support group of 5 families, bonded together, working on a joint project, and holding one another accountable), preparing a field of at least 1-1/2 acres, that has good water, fencing, and an adequate shelter, and undergone an intensive, 2-week training session by our trained SAO Ag staff, they are awarded 20 goats…including two males, and several pregnant females. At the end of one year, they are to donate back to the SAO main herd offspring to help replenish the stock so that additional donations can occur to enable 5 more families…and the process continues. It is not a new concept, but it is one that is highly prized in Haiti.
One of the drawbacks to native Haitian stock is that they are smaller in size, and do not produce very much milk. Sonje Ayiti has, over the course of the past year, increased the number of valuable, larger purebred stock to our herd. We now have, in our breeding herd, South African Boer, Mixed Alpine and full-size Nubians, who are considerably larger than the native Haitian variety, offering greater meat value when slaughtered, and produces enough milk, when properly managed, to significantly increase the protein value, as well as the real possibility of making and selling both butter and cheese.
We are extremely proud of this program that has made a great difference in the lives of many of our families in northern Haiti, and know that our Goat Specialists are well-respected and highly qualified to continue this program on into the future. The community families who have benefited from the Pasé-a-Kado / Kabrit program have been very responsible with their gift and have been the best promoters for other families to endeavor to meet the strict screening process to be eligible to receive the same benefit. Sonje Ayiti never steers away from our goal of helping Haitians to help Haitians, and this program exemplifies our three foci: promoting health, education, and employment.
This program has been expanded to include the Cima community where to date more than 80 parents have received goats. Twenty-seven of these parents have gifted other parents with the offspring of their goats. This is their way to pay forward, allowing the cycle to multiply.
If you have an interest in our goat-gifting program, and would like to donate towards our efforts to continually improve our native breeding stock, or help us in our educational training efforts, please contact us.
School / Family and Community Gardens
In July of 2012, Sonje Ayiti began their work as the country/community leader to help form and implement the IMA/ACCorD program designed to help stem the terribly high rate of infant and birth mother deaths. The program has educational, community support, clean water, baby/mother/prenatal monitoring, and nutritional supplement/supply elements to it, and, by all accountings has been very successful. One of the key ingredients to supplying pregnant women, lactating mothers and young children with a calorie and protein sufficient diet, as well as the regular ingestion of the appropriate vitamins and minerals essential to good health has been the introduction of family gardens.
By working together to mix well-composted soil, blended with moisture-absorbing organic material into small plastic seedling bags, then sewing quality seeds, watering, weeding and then replanting them into well-prepared family garden plots, the communities have helped themselves by helping one another. Nurturing each life-giving plant has its own promise of a future blessing. When following all of the prescribed elements of the program, for those families with a new vegetable garden pregnant women now have a better chance of delivering a healthy-weight baby, mothers of infants are now better able to produce milk to nourish their growing young, and children under two years of age are growing at a much more normal rate. The educational element has not stopped simply because the plants are in the ground and growing…the garden recipients are learning how to properly shade, water, weed and separate their seedlings. They are also learning the best practices of how to properly, wash, store and serve their harvest to gain the maximum nutritive value, and will soon be taught how to harvest and properly store/save enough of their crop’s seeds to provide for the next season’s crop.
As of the end of January 2013, at the end of the July’12-Jan.’13 IMA/ACCorD program, there were 126 vegetable gardens thriving in the Grande Rivière du Nord, Bahon, Bailly, Cormiers and Grande Gilles communities. All of these gardens were begun through Sonje Ayiti and IMA/ACCorD leadership efforts, and most are now bearing their first crops of healthy, nutritious fruit. Such programs can provide valuable nutrition to other families and communities in northern Haiti. Financial support to pay the community workers and Ag specialists, as well as the purchase of the soil preparation, seedling bags and seeds will enable this program to help save other lives, and give pregnant women, lactating mothers and growing babies a better chance to thrive.
M-CAD Farming Coop. / Partnership
In 2009 a group of 200+ local farmers in the Limonade area of northern Haiti, under the guidance of Sonje Ayiti, formed the M-CAD cooperative. Sonje Ayiti suddenly had over 250 acres available to put to work growing fresh, marketable produce, enabling Sonje Ayiti the opportunity to distribute locally-grown and nutritious food to the schools, women and children groups, and local markets at a fair price, and provide the coop members some real bargaining power and income for their efforts. This group of men and women, who had previously been farming small, subsistence-sized plots, could finally put their considerable skills and experience to work in a way that could be not only productive, but also sustainable, enabling a significant potential for future agro-business development in the area.
At present, Sonje Ayiti and our M-CAD partners are preparing land to be used to help supply fresh, locally grown food for the soon-to-open Restaurant and SuperMarket in Dubout, across from the new Henri Christophe University. Another crop project that we are working on include growing a high-yield strain of corn for use as a significant cost-saving measure for the SAPENSA Poultry farm feed, and to add much-needed nutritive value to the local communities. In 2011 and early 2012 we experimented with growing very high value habanero pepper varieties with great success, but finding the appropriate marketing scheme has not yet been solved…though the potential is very high, as well as a number of other agricultural crops. M-CAD, with the strong partnership of Sonje Ayiti is poised to put its considerable experience, large and willing workforce, and over 250 acres of rich and arable farmland to good use to bring benefit to the community and to sustain their families into a promising agricultural future.
Sonje Ayiti is currently looking for several agricultural partners to help fully develop this growing partnership with the M-CAD farmers. We are considering partnership at every level, including local Future Farmers of America (FFA), or 4H programs at the high school level, as well as higher education institutions, faculties and student-organized / led projects, and agro-business investments. If you or your group are interested in exploring how you might partner in these efforts, please contact us.