By Jean-Baptiste Francois, Agriculture Manager, World Relief Haiti When I was a child, I had the opportunity to live in the rural area of Haiti with my uncle for two months every year during school vacations. For two decades, I saw my uncle always laboring the soil with a rake, pickaxe, hoe, and a cow when necessary. During that time, he was never able to buy a much-needed motorcycle to help him and his family because the income produced was not enough.
He always talked about losses. Many were the factors for the low income and the losses: lack of rain (because there wasn’t any irrigation system), pests and disease invading the plantation, among others.
Today, at World Relief’s Demonstration Farm in Christianville, we are producing vegetable seedlings (pepper and tomatoes) in one of the high-tunnels - similar to greenhouses, but made for warm climate, such as Haiti’s. With this high-tunnel, the impact of pests and disease can be reduced and controlled.
Agriculturally speaking, plants are similar to human beings, as they are most vulnerable during their first 30 days of life, a period called the ‘nursing stage’, which includes seed germination and the emergence of a new plant. It is important to provide maximum care in order have healthy plants ready to be transplanted. Often, crop deficiencies and diseases noted in the field initiate during this nursing stage.
As agriculture specialists, it is easy for us to understand the importance of producing seedlings in a controlled area. Plants are easier to manage, transport and transplant, develop a healthier and fuller root system to sustain the plant and provide ample nutrition for a better harvest.
However, small-holder farmers in Haiti, accustomed to using traditional methods, do not adopt these practices and technologies quickly. They require a much greater investment in the short-term than farmers are able to afford. We continue in our work even if more time is needed for the farmers to both understand the importance and have the ability to adopt appropriate technology in the rural areas. We know it will be more beneficial and profitable for them in the long-term.
We want the farmers to experience what can be accomplished by adopting appropriate technologies, so they can be as successful in agricultural production as farmers from other countries.
As Agriculture Manager for World Relief, I can now help small-holder farmers in Haiti, like my uncle, to change that reality of loss.