Friday, October 14, 2011

New Photos from the Philip Craig Arts Program!

This program is graciously sponsored by a grant from Grapes for Humanity Click on the lower right hand corner for full-screen mode, and then "Show info" for image captions.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2011 H'Art & Soul of Haiti Slideshow!

HTRIP September Highlights!

Dear Supporters,

This month was a quieter one for HTRIP’s Deschapelles activities. We continued our monthly  educational program, collected broken tools and assembled community nursery inventories, and visited a mangrove restoration project the northern part of Haiti.

Paul Tompkins, a specialist in marine restoration ecology, left a grateful HTRIP staff in the middle of the month, but not before leading a trip to Bas Limbé, a small town on Haiti’s northern coast where USAID-DEED sponsored a mangrove restoration project that restored several kilometres of coastline before its funding ended this year. Before the trip, Paul gave a presentation for HTRIP staff about the importance of mangroves, which are not only an important habitat for fish but also an essential part of the overall ecological health of any coastal area. Just as trees prevent erosion from hillsides, mangroves act as a sediment trap that prevents topsoil from washing into the ocean—this type of erosion not only reduces fertility on land, but can suffocate coral reefs and disrupt marine ecosystems. Although the people in Bas Limbé work in a very different context than we do (on the beach instead of in the mountains), many of the concepts—like soil conservation—are the same for both of us, and the HTRIP staff benefited from seeing these same concepts applied in a different place. Other practices in Bas Limbé—like the “community watch” partnership with local authorities to prevent people from cutting down the new mangrove trees—may hold promise for the area that HTRIP serves. 

This month's education topic was compost. The infertility of the soil in HTRIP communities means that composting is essential for planting trees—and just about anything else—in rocky, inhospitable conditions. HTRIP has always taught composting, but this year we have undertaken an initiative to encourage and enable all of our community nurseries to build and maintain a large, central compost pile. October’s education topic is nursery construction and management, in preparation for the beginning of our central and community tree nurseries in November.

While technicians were teaching and demonstrating composting techniques, they were also collecting broken tools and taking inventories of community nurseries. Just as we hope to begin construction on our new central nursery this month, we will purchase and distribute the nursery materials we provide each year to our community nurseries.

We look forward to a busy month ahead. It was a pleasure to see so many of you at the Friends of HAS Gala in early September, and we thank you all for your continuing support,

The HTRIP Staff,
including Starry Sprenkle and Dan Langfitt

Friday, October 7, 2011

HTRIP: A Year in Review

Dear Supporters,
August saw the completion of tree distribution and planting, a preliminary tool inventory to prepare for an earlier start of this year’s tree nurseries, a final graduation ceremony for HTRIP’s literacy program, a continuation of our monthly education program, and our annual staff retreat to the beach where we focused on developing a long-term strategic plan for the project. 

Learning to read
HTRIP hopes to eventually turn impoverished mountain villagers into tree farmers who market timber products to generate enormous increases in household income and standard of living.  One barrier to success is the fact that most of our program participants are illiterate and therefore extremely vulnerable in the marketplace (in a business transaction, it is easy to take advantage of someone who can neither read nor add numbers).

Teaching adult literacy to help make our participants better businessmen, then, was the logic behind the separately-funded and relatively independent program begun in 2007 under the leadership of Agathe Généus, a dynamic an innovative teacher and community mobiliser.  Since then, Agathe has been bringing her unique curriculum far into HTRIP’s mountain communities.

On the 11th of August, we celebrated the achievements of those members of HTRIP communities who completed the two-year literacy program.  At a graduation ceremony not far from the location at Drouin where we held one of the HTRIP agro-forestry graduation ceremonies last May, each community prepared a song, dance, or skit about the importance of literacy—and all of them featured new graduates reading aloud in front of the entire group.  Unfortunately, funding is no longer available to continue this program, but the learning is not over.  HTRIP’s philosophy stresses community empowerment, and Agathe’s work involved training local instructors to go back to their respective communities to teach literacy to their comrades.  We are confident that even though the formal program has concluded, its impact will not end now.  We hope that it will continue for years to come and prepare our participants for the marketplace.
Everyone on the HTRIP team is enormously grateful to Agathe for her important contribution to our mission, and we will keep her onboard as an informal consultant until another lucky program lures her away from ours. 

HTRIP gets greener
Since clean drinking water is difficult to get around Deschappelles, most Haitians (at least when they are out and about at the market or at work) hydrate with purified water sold in small quarter-litre plastic bags on the streets for a few gourdes.  Predictably, the used and discarded water bags (sache dlo in Creole) litter the streets.  This month, HTRIP began reimbursing locals for collecting these sache dlo for eventual use in HTRIP central and community nurseries as growing containers for our tree seedlings.  We pay 25 gourdes (about $0.50) per 100 sache dlo, compared to 120 gourdes (on average) for the more expensive black seed bags we used to buy in Port au Prince.  Although the difference (about $2 saved per 100 bags) seems small, when you consider that we plan to acquire nearly 350,000 tree seedling bags this year, it amounts to considerable savings… and the only side effect is and pocket money for the entrepreneurial Artibonite children collecting the sache dlo, not to mention less littered streets.

Passing the half-million mark (with ninety-thousand to spare)
While the literacy program concluded, the regular HTRIP tree-planting work continued to roll forward.  HTRIP staff personally moved 31,085 trees in July and August, mostly from our central nursery in Deschappelles, but also to some extent among communities in the mountains.  Much more significant is the number of trees that communities produced and planted for themselves: all told, we produced and planted 221,139 trees this year, by far our most productive year to date, bringing our grand total to 591,888 trees since 2006.  At this rate (we intend to produce and plant more than 300,000 this coming year alone), we will be well passed the one-million mark by the end of 2013.

Planning for HTRIP’s future
Speaking of planning for the future, HTRIP is proud to announce the progress it has made in its long-term strategic planning.  On the 17th of August, HTRIP staff gathered with its consultants for a day-long brainstorming session at a beach resort near Saint Marc to set concrete goals and policies for 2011-2012 and design a long-term HTRIP strategy.  The Year 6 strategic plan evaluates program performance since 2005, articulates specific targets for this fiscal year, and outlines a long-term strategy for HTRIP over the next fifteen years.  The final document will be available in mid-September, but here are some of the highlights:

   2005-2011 accomplishments:
    • Educated 2,818 men and women about agro-forestry and helped them plant more than half a million trees and construct more than 100 kilometres of soil conservation;
    • Built a tightly-knit team of consultants, drivers, and agro-forestry technician/extension agents;
    • Developed a solid model for agro-forestry education, tree plantation, and soil conservation flexible enough to sustain in the long term; and
    • Dramatically improved operational efficiency (in 2006-2007, we required nearly five dollars in our annual budget for every tree planted under the HTRIP aegis; in 2010-2011, that figure dropped to nearly one dollar).
   2011-2012 project goals:
    • Continue our successful tree-planting programme with 44 active communities, graduating more than 1,000 participants and planting as many as 350,000 trees, including work in the remote and inaccessible 6th section of Verrettes (localities like Barbe, La Bonne, Terre Nette, Gabriel, etc.), where we will need to adapt our programme to the area’s geographical and logistical limitations;
    • Convert 85% of the seedling containers that HTRIP uses to the cheaper and more eco-friendly sache dlo “water bags” and reduce the targeted cost per tree produced by 25% compared to 2010-2011;
    • Build a larger and better nursery (see right) that will give HTRIP more efficiency for materials management and distribution, and—more importantly—afford it the space to develop a grasses initiative and experiment with several new tree species;
    • Expand last year’s shade-crop trial to 6-12 more communities to continue our initiative to make HTRIP tree plots more productive until they are ready for harvest;
    • Offer regular staff development opportunities so that HTRIP staff is prepared to better contribute to the new programmes we are developing; and
    • Engage in another year of successful collaboration with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies on long-term HTRIP goals (see below).

Thank you all for your continuing support,
 The HTRIP Staff,
including Starry Sprenkle, Dan Langfitt, and Paul Tompkins