Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Konferans Agrikol Delegate Visits South

On Monday, August 15th 2016, three of the Konferans Agrikol Sid committee members traveled over southern Haiti visiting some of the delegates from KAS 2016. This was done in an effort to encourage planters / delegates to apply and try out, techniques and or ideas from the conference. And also to help us as a committee stay connected to delegates, try to better understand each one's individual situations, what was being applied from KAS 2016 and to help us understand which subjects to focus on for KAS 2017, which by the way is planned to be held in LaBaleine the last week in June. So mark your calenders.

In this blog I will try to cover the highlights of the trip with some photos. I would love to write about all the stops, but the post would become quite lengthy! We visited 10 delegates plus a couple of other organisations and planters along the way. The three members of the committee that went on the trip were Etienne Francios, Clint Bower and myself Bryan Beachy.

Clint and I left Miragoane Monday morning around 8:00 am. We met up with Etienne at his house, grabbed a bite to eat and it was off for the first visit. Our first stop was with Marie Claudette and agronomist Lugludger with the American university of  Les Cayes where they are working along with CIAT, researching 30 different varieties rice in which are higher in zinc, in an effort to produce more nutritious rice for Haitians. This year they will narrow down the varieties to the top 5 in yield, plant output "density" and short plants as tall plants is not wanted in Haiti for fear of wind damage.

The second stop was with agronomist Pierre Angelo Joseph were him and a planters group is experimenting in a dryer area of Haiti where there is no irrigation available. They are trying to grow corn in the second rainy season in search of higher market prices, since corn is out of season this time of year. Pictured below is MR Angelo and the president of their planters group in a hot pepper garden just planted, that they're trying out in search of a higher market value crop as this area mainly grows corn and beans because of no irrigation. The pepper garden was around 32 santyem, "1 acre"
The next stop, Jean Ronald Maxi with Apostolic Christian Harvest call working on their dairy project. It was interesting visiting their farm and seeing where they are experimenting on forages for cattle and also have made a man powered hay baler where they're experimenting with feed storage for the dry season. 

That was all for Les Cayes and it was off to Port-à-Piment to visit Paul Dit Gedeon. He was happy to supply us with coconuts for a afternoon snack and to show us his garden of everything from cashew trees, bananas, eggplant, peppers, corn, cassava and amaranth, where he since the conference started applying mulch and incorporated a hog pen to his garden for manure, he explained how the conference helped open his eyes to the importance of taking care of the soil so it can take care of you.

The last and final stop for the day before heading back to Les Cayes was Les Anglais, there we ate supper at Etienne's in law's house and after supper took a walk to visit a agro-forestry plot that Etienne's organisation planted around 20 years ago. It was very beautiful and refreshing to see. there were around 12 different kinds of mangos in this one plot. The caretaker of the garden (Left)

The second day started bright and early. A few of Etienne's friends from his club, Passion For Haiti wanted to tag along so we loaded up and it was off to Les Irios a 107 mile trip to far west edge of Haiti with some not so good roads along the way. Roughly 7 hr drive. 

The first stop was at around 9:00 am in the town of Duchity were Etienne's father lives. We got to meet Etienne's dad, some bananas, bread and coffee and back on the road. Next stop Jèrèmie, where we tried some konparet, "licorice flavored biscuits" Something I'd never ate before, they weren't to bad. 

We then met up with agronomist Wagaus for a quick tour of the campus for the organization he works with CTH. He went on to explain how the conference helped him to see the value in Moringa and Chaya and how he's encouraging his planter groups to use these in their diets as they can be a big help to their nutrition. He noted how ironic it was that both these plants were all over their area, and people weren't utilizing them.

We finally arrived in Les Irios around 2:00 pm, we drove to agronomist Sadonique's house where we were going to be staying for the night, we cleaned up a little and headed for our friend Betly's house to eat a early supper, after which we explored his little farm of everything from chickens, ducks, geese, turtles and rabbits. Very interesting to say the least. Later that night Sadonique asked us if we would meet with their planters association ARDI to give the planters some words of encouragement. We all introduced ourselves and then after had a good discussion time. Etienne encouraged them to keep working hard and to keep building on what they already have. Plant cacao trees and hopefully some time soon we can have a exporting market to sell too! He stressed the point of not sitting with our arms folded, waiting for some organisation to come help them and save the day. And that only Haitians can develop Haiti! Don't think we need foreigners to develop Haiti or it won't ever happen, it starts with me! 
I thought they were very open to Etienne's counsel and left seeming to be inspired! We ate conch and fried plantains afterwards and then walked down the road back to Sadonique's house for the night. We slept on top of his house under the stars. (Below) Meeting with planters association ARDI.

The third day started with maybe one of the most inspiring stories I've ever heard of. A man in a wheelchair, paralyzed from his hips down since a youth who built a school and planted a forest! We walked to his house as he's just down the road from where we slept, we had the opportunity to meet him and he shared his story with us about how he organized groups of children from town to come and help him do the work since he wasn't able to from his wheelchair, and together they planted over 3 acres of trees and now is a mature forest! This was a good reminder to us all of what we can do if we put our mind to it!

  We then went to visit some cacao plantations, some that have been there for over 100 years from what they said. And a couple that have been planted in the last couple years by the planters association that Sadonique and Betly are in ARDI. The dream of their group is to keep increasing cacao production in their area and hopefully somehow down the road have a processing plant there to do the fermentation process and export the cacao for a better market price. They shared how currently in their area there is only one cacao buyer coop that exports which buys the majority of the cacao in south western Haiti and therefore the market is controlled by that one buyer which causes poor market prices for their cacao. We also visited some of the greenhouses in which they're planting coco trees and also visited the graft specialist of their area. He had a couple trees at his house that we got to see that were grafted by him.

 (Below) A picture of a 3 yr old planting, old soccer field turned into a garden! And on the right a grafted cacao tree.

(Pictured above) Top left is a cacao greenhouse at one of the planter's house and on the right is a cacao tree full of cacao.

On the way back to Les Cayes Wednesday afternoon we stopped in Dame Marie at the cacao processing coop I touched on earlier. Here they buy the cacao green from the local farmers and properly ferment and dry it in order to get a product of higher quality for the international market.
(Pictured above) The cacao coop and (Below) The fermenting boxes where the cacao is fermented for 3-6 days before going to drying racks.

Thursday day 4 started with us heading to Les Cayes to sit in with the Club Passion For Haiti meeting. The club is made up of anyone from agronomist to students studying agronomy, nursing or even engineering, a group of people that has decided to put the heads together "Tet ansanm" a creole term for pulling together or collaboration one with another, to make a difference in Haiti. Thursday morning the meeting was a agriculture debate. It was interesting and encouraging to sit in and hear their thoughts and solutions to challenges here in Haiti. (Pictured Right) P.F.H. meeting.

We then headed out to see some gardens that agronomist Dachna a KAS delegate and her husband are doing along with volunteer labor from the P.F.H. Club. One was a 1.5 acre hot pepper garden. they are doing a experiment by planting part of it with the Foundation For Farming technique taught at the conference. This includes adding natural compost to each plant when planting and then mulching it.
The other experiment they are working on is with bananas. They planted a couple different varieties with a couple different methods of treatment when planting.

After the visit to the banana gardens we headed towards home for our final stop of the trip, Plaisance-du-Sud. This is an area in which the club P.F.H. is also working in cacao planting and we had a delegate there we wanted to visit from the conference, MR Frederic Jeudy. We got there and were very encouraged to find that he had made a very large cold compost pile and is planning on using the compost for planting cacao trees and planting corn and beans with the Foundations For Farming technique. We were very happy to catch up with him, and drink his sweet coconuts that he had got together for us! We then visited a garden close by his house where P.F.H. has been working on planting cacao trees with their volunteers. The field we visited had around 400 three month old cacao trees growing.

And that is the conclusion of the delegate visits for the south. We were very encouraged to see the amount of work that is being done to improve agriculture here in Haiti!
We are planning on visiting the KAS 2016 delegates from northern Haiti sometime in October, We will Lord willing update the blog after that trip and maybe have more information for KAS 2017.

God Bless, The committee.