World Hunger Relief – Haiti

Ferrier farmers prepare a rice seedling bed using the new System of Rice Intensification (SRI).

Trip Reports from Haiti

Background and Local Context

The Ferrier area lies on the northeastern plain of Haiti, between a mountain range to the south and the Caribbean coast to the north.  The region is semi-arid, but receives enough rainfall for excellent production of crops with modest moisture needs such as cassava, sorghum, cowpea, and pigeon pea.  Several thousand hectares are also flood irrigated for rice production. In addition to crops, cattle, goat and pig husbandry have been, and continue to be, an important part of the local farm economy.

Several Baptist, Pentecostal, and other protestant denominations are active as well as the Catholic church.  Most of these denominations appear to coexist relatively peacefully.  World Hunger Relief-Haiti tries to work with all these groups without discrimination.  The current Board of Directors includes both Protestants and Catholics, and reflects our belief that the Kingdom belongs to all who claim Christ.

History and Current Activities

World Hunger Relief, Inc. first began working in northeastern Haiti in 1980.  During that decade, a training center was constructed where dozens of interns from Haiti and other countries have trained.  In addition, WHRI dug and maintained dozens of wells for drinking water, enabled the establishment of an orphanage (now managed by Hope For The Hungry), and managed a large agro-forestry project in cooperation with a UFIMA, local farmer’s cooperative.

World Hunger Relief – Haiti S.A. was incorporated in Haiti in June, 1990.  The organization is entirely Haitian-run, though they do receive financial support and advice from WHRI.  They have continued the well drilling ministry, and hold periodic training courses for adults.  In 1996 they began construction of a primary school, the College de L’Avenir de Ferrier (school of the future) which provides practical agricultural training in addition to traditional subjects.  In 2008 the school had nearly 300 students in 10 grade levels (preschool – 9th grade).  Building construction is an on-going need, and has been supported by WHRI, Mission Waco, and other sources.

In 2008, a participatory community appraisal revealed an interest in renewed agricultural activities.  Since this time, we have become increasingly involved in assisting rice producers in the Ferrier area.  We are excited about the potential for these activities to provide food and income not just Ferrier, but throughout northern Haiti.

After a visit in February 2009, we identified two priorities to address local farmers’ concerns regarding the high cost of inputs for rice production.  The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a management approach that reduces purchased inputs by optimizing transplantation and water management.  This system originated in Madagascar, and has spread through much of Asia and parts of Africa, but has never been tried in Haiti.   We were fortunate to partner with the Cornell Institute for International Food and Agriculture (CIIFAD) and Jim Carey’s Better U Foundation in organizing one of Haiti’s first-ever SRI workshops. WHR-Haiti President, Jackson Nelson, hosted the workshop for 20-25 farmers from around Ferrier.

Ernest Mathieu’s oxen plow in preparation for rice planting

Ernest Mathieu’s oxen plow in preparation for rice planting

A second priority identified was ox traction to reduce the cost of tillage.  Currently many farmers in the area pay Dominican farmers to use tractors to plow their fields, this is costly and impacts their ability to plant on time because the Dominican farmers have to finish plowing their own fields before they can bring their equipment across the border.  To address the need for ox traction WHRI and WHR-H have added another Haitian partner: the Group of Research and Action for Economic and Social Development (G R A D E S).  This organization is made up of Haitian agricultural professionals who, among other skills, have developed a training program for farmers interested in using oxen to work in their fields.  They have partnered with WHRI and WHR-H to help local farmers purchase oxen and have helped teach the farmers how to train and use their animals for cultivating their fields.  SRI support is provided by the Ag Development Foundation and Ox Traction support by the Vista Hermosa Foundation.

ETAF Director, Rodmon Vincent and CAF Ag Teacher Francois Geffrard show off tree nursery to Jim Wolfe (l)

ETAF Director, Rodmon Vincent and CAF Ag Teacher Francois Geffrard show off tree nursery to Jim Wolfe (l)

In addition to these on-going activities, WHRI supports agriculture education in two schools located in Ferrier.  The Collége de l’Avenir de Ferrier (CAF) is a K-8 school begun in 1996 by World Hunger Relief – Haiti.  In additional to traditional academic subjects, this school provides practical agriculture training.  WHRI provides support for two CAF agriculture teachers, Francois Geffrard and Cleanne Nelson.  The Ecole Technique Agricole de Ferrier (ETAF) began in 2011, and currently trains 25 students with a broad academic curriculum as well as practical training in vegetable production, tree nursery management and rice production. ETAF is supported by sales of products from these student-managed enterprises, tuition from students, and modest funding from WHRI.