Fertile Ground for Transforming Lives
Zanmi Agrikol has initiated another innovative outreach program in agriculture – a school garden program targeting the impoverished school kids and destitute families in the little village of Morne Michel. Located atop the mountains of Haiti, Morne Michel suffers from high rates of malnutrition, chronic food insecurity, and the daily struggles of overwhelming poverty.
To access this remote community is a half-day journey by boat and foot. One must first board home-crafted, dug-out canoes to cross the wide expanse of Lake Peligre, and then follow a dusty pathway for an arduous three hour vertical hike up the mountain from the bottom of the lake bed. Villagers and students travel this long and difficult passageway by donkey or foot to reach distant local markets, secondary schools, or any type of healthcare.
This little community is now home to one of our Pilot Projects for School Gardens — a project created to enhance the knowledge and importance of environmentally sound agricultural practices, and to strengthen the critical role of nutrition on the health and well-being of young school students and their families. Villagers receive intensive nutritional training and education about the health benefits of vital food nutrients in daily meal preparation, and this information is now being introduced to the “early learners”.
The school meal is extremely important because it may be the only food or meal these students have all day, and it needs to contain as many nutritional elements as possible. ZA agents underline the importance of augmenting the basic diet of rice, corn and beans with green leafed vegetables and a variety of root plants. In a few years, when recently distributed trees planted in the school grounds are mature, fresh fruit will be added. The idea of farm to table, which has always been a way of living in Haiti, is now being given a more exciting and up to date interpretation. Sharing the experience of growing, and then eating, their school meal is a new discovery for the Morne Michel students.
ZA Agronomists, Maxo and Bosquet, have done a great job of involving 14 school children in this project and teaching them how to prepare a nursery and plant seedlings, as well as instructing them in the basic knowledge of agriculture and the environment. Getting the young people involved is very exciting, and the kids themselves are so enthusiastic: wielding hoes and picks to level land, digging holes to plant fruit trees, and taking home all their newly discovered knowledge to their parents. We are helping rebuild the agricultural heritage of rural Haiti with a new generation of young people in tune with nature and aware of the importance of correct farming and the environmental preservation of their surroundings.
The concentrated emphasis on growing and enhancing crops has been part of Zanmi Agrikol’s and Partners in Agriculture’s efforts to foster education, improve agriculture yields, and strengthen family development in Morne Michel. Additionally, PIA and Zanmi Agrikol have partnered with wonderful, giving organizations to build a new school building, update playgrounds, install solar lighting, refurbish facilities and repair the village’s vital water source.
Support from Trinity Cathedral and the CEDC group from Clemson has provided funding for these projects; projects planned and conceived with the welfare of community members in mind, and projects where all monies go directly to implementation.
The school garden pilot is the first of what we hope will be many more out-reach efforts. Already we have requests for gardens and nutritional education in 3 other rural schools located in different geographic areas, all projects with the enormous potential to transform the lives of the most needy and vulnerable — young children!
There is a very apt Haitian saying which translates as, “An empty sack won’t stand up” — this saying is particularly applicable to poverty-stricken school children. A hungry child with an empty stomach cannot concentrate or absorb school lessons, so a daily meal packed with nutritional ingredients is vitally important for the improvement of their health and also their ability to learn, concentrate on their lessons and continue their studies.
If you would like to help fund a “Jardin L’Ecole” at one of our villages, please contact us for more information or just click on the DONATE NOW button and stipulate you would like the funds to go to a School Garden Program.