This month, HTRIP travelled to remote mountain
communities hit hardest by cholera, such as Barbe and La Bonne.
This month was a busy and sometimes even overwhelming one for HTRIP. Our staff worked overtime and on weekends to assure that we'd be ready for the new challenges that await us this upcoming month as we prepare for our biggest graduation ceremony yet.
HTRIP kicked off the month with double soil-conservation konbit in two new communities. Each year, HTRIP accepts ten communities and holds konbit work days in March and April before the rainy season begins to install earthen and rock micro-catchments on the hillsides to prevent erosion and increase groundwater penetration. This year, we selected many of these new communities (such as Drice, Barbe and Dauphiné) on the basis of HAS Haiti's cholera and malnutrition data, targeting those areas most in need of ecological restoration and poverty relief.
Never much for half-measures, we began with the two furthest (and highest) communities we have ever worked with: Barbe (seen in the image to the left), on the top of the ridge that runs between the Artibonite Valley and Saint Marc and the ocean, and La Bonne, a community just below the ridge. Thes communities are located in the most severely deforested zones of the Hospital's service area, and despite the distance (it takes us about two hours to reach Barbe by car), we are pleased to be bringing our project to the places that need us most.
Shortly after HTRIP began work in its new communities, we had the pleasure of welcoming a group of masters-level students (seen in the images to the right) from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who are taking a course offered jointly by the Forestry and Public Health schools in collaboration with Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. They visited us during two weeks in the beginning of March, and the forestry team will use the insights they gained during their time here to help our project research and implement new techniques, in addition to expanding the capacity of our program. In particular, they are developing shade-tolerant crop field testing for
us to implement together during the summer, some of our oldest tree plots already provide so much shade that it is impossible to grow traditional crops there anymore, and HTRIP wants to introduce shade-grown crops with high nutrient or market value to bridge the economic gap until the trees are mature enough to be harvested themselves. Yale hopes to continue this course over five years, and HTRIP is excited about the possibilities of this promising collaboration!
We began distributing food before the Yale group was even out the door. Since the World Food Program cancelled its food contracts following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, HTRIP has been on its own to provide the food allotments it gives programme participants every year to help them mobilize community members for the labor-intensive soil conservation konbit work that is so important to the long-term success of our program. This month we purchased, transported, stocked, and distributed (in individually-wrapped packages, no less -- and guess who did the wrapping!) 7,000 kilograms of rice, 2,800 kilograms of beans, and 336 gallons of vegetable oil to 668 participants. This month, we plan to distribute even more to as many as 900 farmers who hope to finish this soil conservation work before the rains come.
Despite the considerable logistical resources that all of these activities consumed, we still managed to continue the usual cycle of education sessions, prepare the seed bags for 35,000 trees in HTRIP's central nursery (our target is 80,000 seedlings this year), complete a long-term ground-truthing project that was begun in October to construct several new databases that will help HTRIP evaluate its methods and make its reporting more accurate, hire a second driver, and even liberate one Friday for a staff development trip to visit the World Vision agricultural projects in nearby Mirebelais.
We finished the month much as we began it, with konbit work days; we finished our ninth (at Dauphiné, left), and our tenth is planned for next week. We are all looking forward to a somewhat less frenetic April as we welcome two new technicians and prepare for the 2011 graduation ceremonies. Viewing the number of people (about 1,200) we will be accomodating, HTRIP will be holding two graduation ceremonies this year; if you are going to be in Haiti the first week of May, consider yourself cordially invited!
The HTRIP Staff, including Starry Sprenkle and Dan Langfitt
Top Image: The community of La Bonne lies below Barbe in a cleft in the mountain ridge that divides the Artibonite Valley from the sea, and the only trees to be found are immediately around the houses of the people who live there.
Bottom Image: La Bonne takes its first steps with HTRIP in a konbit to install soil conservation techniques in a new demonstration plot.
All photos courtesy of Dan Langfitt.