Friday, March 30, 2012

March Highlights!

Dear Supporters,
        March could not have been any fuller. More than anything else, March has been a month of many visitors.  This was all on top of the normal and increasingly busy HTRIP activities of continued soil conservation, food distribution, taking on new communities, and planning demonstration plot konbits in new communities.  The month concluded on wet but happy note of more than a few light sprinkles – an appreciated reminder that the annual rainy season will soon arrive and put an end to this dusty dry spell. 

Four Yale Forestry students taking a break from field
work to enjoy a much-needed (and pleasantly surprising!)
popsicle in the community of Kounwa.
        The first visitor of the month, Uma Bhandaram, is a fellow UCLA environmental science graduate and will be with HTRIP for two months.  Her boss at an environmental consulting firm in southern California allowed this Haitian hiatus because he is a firm believer in gaining international experience, the benefits of travel and different world outlooks, and we could not be any happier for it!The next group of visitors involved a little more planning, but 20+ Yale school of Forestry masters students provided a wonderful chance to show the program to a group of intelligent and motivated students eager to help in any way possible.  The class was divided into two groups; one focusing on public health questions of the hospital and one focusing on HTRIP. 

Pittsburghers Barbara Granito and Rob Long and
HTRIP intern Uma Bhandaram near Barbes
Dispensary with their gigapan camera.
Within the forestry group, Professor Gordon Geballe and I worked out three projects that could be of benefit to both students and HTRIP. One group looked into possibilities for the development of coffee production in the furthest reaching sixth section communities of Barbes and Labon. The next group interviewed the HTRIP staff, interns, myself, and anyone else they could get their hands onto to get an understanding of how HTRIP works and provide feedback from a new perspective.  The final group probably received more than they bargained for when they offered to continue my UCLA undergraduate honors thesis work.  This involved comparing Spanish Cedar tree growth from four 2006 communities and trying to understand what local environmental factors might be causing the widely differing growth rates between plots. This translated into four full days of field word which they handled with impressive enthusiasm.

Allegheny College Professors Rich Bowden and
Eric Pallant pose in front of the French Red Cross pick-up,
as technician Frantz Antoine straps it down to
prepare for the long and bumpy drive to Barbes.
To fill the gap left by the Yale Students departure, Lucy Rawson accompanied by some Pittsburgh and New York friends came down to spend time learning about the program and creating a rich portfolio of videos and photographs.  They brought with them a Gigapan – a device developed for the NASA Mars rover that takes a series of hundreds of photographs and stitches them together to form one super high resolution image.  We started with the Gigapan in Barbes, where at 3000 feet the highly detailed panoramic is sure to inspire wonder.  We decided to take full advantage of the trip and used this day to transport two 1000 gallon cisterns up to the water short communities of Barbes and Labon.  At the top of the water shed, these localities are particularly hard hit during the dry season and getting enough drinking water is a problem, much less trying to support a tree nursery.  The cisterns might not be enough water to support the 7000 trees we hope for from other communities, but it will be a start.  The cisterns were too bulky to be transported by HTRIP’s land cruisers, but the French Red Cross lent us their pickup truck which made easy work of the task.  The driver deserves considerable appreciation for making the four hour round trip twice in one day.
During this time, two professors from Allegeny University also came to learn about the program and make plans to send students down for a summer internship.

March’s education session focused on agroforestry. We have been fortunate to have Ruth Portnoff’s excellent advice and organizational skills to help implement the first full round of shade tolerant crop trials in demonstration plots that have become sufficiently shaded out.  Planting these crops will start when the rains start.

(Clockwise starting at left) Mathurin Dorcius, Ironce Pharelus,
Ruth Portnoff, Uyless Misteus, Jack Devine,
Adieff Jean-Charles, and Marielle Pharelus spend an
afternoon in the office developing computer skills.
Jack, Ruth, and Uma all continue to work with the staff on their computer skills. HTRIP is incredibly appreciative of their combined work and enthusiasm.
Lucy brought a much anticpated gift for the Staff that comes in time to finish the seasonal filial plot control and in time for the summer wet season. HTRIP owes a huge thanks to Little's Shoes in Pittsburgh and Merrils shoes for providing a new pair of hiking boots to each technician at an incredible price. And we would all like to thank the rest of our generous supporters for making all the work we do down here possible.

The HTRIP Staff,

including Starry Sprenkle, Ross Bernet, Ruth Portnoff, Jack Devine, and Uma Bhandaram

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