The month of April allowed us all to catch our breaths after an exhausting March, as we finished the 2010-2011 cycle of education sessions, prepared for two large graduation ceremonies, and began to set our summer priorities with recommendations from the Yale School of Forestry.
At the same time that we were completing the final agro-forestry lessons in our 41 participating communities, we also distributed approximately 4,000 more kilograms of food to the families organizing the konbit work days to do essential soil improvement work. We leverage seasonal labour markets to our advantage (labor is cheaper when there is not planting work to be done) and try to ensure that this work is finished before the beginning of the rainy season.
Just as HTRIP participants were finishing up their academic year in April, so were the students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with whom HTRIP has been collaborating. Students taking a course offered jointly by the Schools of Forestry and of Public Health visited us in Deschapelles in early March and have since been writing a set of recommendations to help us expand and enrich HTRIP's program. At a preliminary presentation of their ideas on April 13th in New Haven, these students recommended developing a more complex agro-forestry model that would in turn cater to a more diverse set of farmers' needs (complete with alternative planting arrangements, contingency plans for transitioning current plots, and new tree species to be used for animal fodder). HTRIP is eagerly awaiting the final proposal, but in the meantime it has already implemented some of the recommendations: for instance, the class recommended that HTRIP place greater emphasis on high-nutrient trees like gliricidia (an excellent supplement for livestock) and moringa (a good addition to human diets). We already have 3,000 moringa seedlings sprouting in our nursery and hope to have the same quantity of gliricidia by the middle of next month. Members of this group will also help HTRIP to run an experiment this summer with shade-tolerant crops in its oldest tree parcels.
Most of our energy this month, however, was spent in the enormous logistical task of organizing two graduation ceremonies for 1,200 people total in a country where logistical resources are very limited. HTRIP's staff performed admirably, arranging the necessary food, transportation, tickets, gifts (coconut trees! see picture) and lists of graduates to ensure two smooth, orderly, and enjoyable graduation ceremonies. The first was held on May 1st, south of Verettes at a night club that HTRIP rented for the day, and the second one was on the 8th of May at the HAS dispensary at Bastien in the mountains. We look forward to sharing pictures and stories with you soon!
Thank you, as ever, for all of your support,
The HTRIP Staff, Including Dan Langfitt and Starry Sprenkle
About the Photo: Coconut trees sprout in HTRIP’s central nursery. We continue to search for fruit trees that will grow successfully in our communities’ arid conditions. This year, we are trying coconut trees; each of this year’s 846 graduates will receive a high-value coconut tree to plant on his or her land (photo (c) Dan Langfitt, 2011).