Monday, June 1, 2009

Planting Hope in a Season of Gloom: Farmers in Haiti work to mitigate the effects of devastating tropical storms

By Aly Lewis The verdict is in: the sky is drenched in clouds and temperatures have dropped. San Diego’s June gloom has officially begun. But the start of June marks another gloomy season for communities around the world: Hurricane Season. For many of the farmers Plant With Purpose works with in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Season means storms and flash flooding, mudslides and destruction, lost crops and animals, and even death. Already this year, 11 people have died in Haiti from flooding and the season is just beginning. Last fall, four deadly tropical storms hit Haiti in a three-week period. Families lost crops, homes, and hundreds of animals—their food, shelter, and emergency savings. Plant With Purpose was able to respond to these needs by distributing sheep and goats to over 300 families to replace their lost animals and providing bean seeds to replenish crops to nearly 2,000 families in 44 communities. This is already making a huge difference in the lives of people who had lost everything. The animals restore their economic safety net, and the beans give them hope for the future, as they will be able to plant their land and become self-sufficient again. Furthermore, as the animals have offspring, these will be given to additional families. In addition to direct hurricane relief, Plant With Purpose is working with farmers to reestablish erosion control barriers and plant trees to make the next hurricane season less devastating. Already farmers have constructed 238,833 linear meters of anti-erosion barriers. The hurricanes of 2008 demonstrated the value of these preventative measures, and many more people have shown interest in Plant With Purpose’s restorative work. These preventative measures are taking place on in Plant With Purpose’s Trans Border Project on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic as well. After just two years of working on the Haitian/Dominican border, 77% of farmers have reported a decrease in erosion, making them less vulnerable to devastating mudslides during storms. This year, some taller trees fell down during the storms, but most of the seedlings planted through Plant With Purpose survived. In fact, our Director in Haiti reports a very high survival rate among the 15,000 trees that farmers have planted. Overall, farmers have joined with Plant With Purpose to establish 11 tree nurseries, have planted 15,155 trees, and constructed 8 miles of soil conservation barriers. Because of these new techniques, 56% of farmers have experienced increased crop yields—which means more to eat. This may not sound like much but it is a remarkable change after only two years of participation. In a region where hunger is rampant and the average family eats less than two meals a day, more to eat can be the difference between life and death. Perhaps most significant has been the Haitians’ resiliency and tenacity as communities work together to build a better future for their families. Farmers are learning techniques for better management of their land, and there was less damage to areas where Plant With Purpose farmers have been participating in reforestation and soil conservation efforts. In the midst of devastating storms and a worldwide economic crisis, we are encouraged by the small glimmers of hope and change we are blessed to witness and be a part of in this desperate region. Click here to help farmers in Haiti plant hope instead of gloom.

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