Friday, August 9, 2013

Urban gardening gets a boost in Haiti | United Nations Radio

By Beng Poblete-Enriquez, United Nations.

“Ti Savanne” is a district of Carrefour Feuille in Haiti and it is undergoing a major transformation. It’s becoming greener.

For several months now, recycled car tires have become an all too familiar addition to the roofs and gardens of homes where all kinds of vegetables and spices are growing.

A project called “Urban agriculture” was launched in September 2012 by Oxfam and its local partners.

The main goal of project "Urban agriculture" is to fight food insecurity in this destitute area.

A plant nursery was set up with the support of the workers in the neighbourhood.

OXFAM, a non-governmental organization assisting the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) with several projects, provided the seeds, seedlings and agricultural tools. In January 2013, the first seedlings were distributed to the people of Ti Savanne.

Ernesia Boss is a single mother who was selected to participate in this pilot project. She received theoretical and practical training on how to grow plants in a car tire. Three months later, Ernesia started reaping the rewards of harvesting the vegetables in the community garden of Ti Savanne.

“Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I have bread but I had to buy vegetables to make soup for the children. Since I now have the garden, I can just take what I need. This improves the living condition of the children and of the whole family too. “

Food insecurity is on the rise in Haiti following last year’s hurricanes and drought, according to the National Commission for Food Security (CNSA). For Oxfam, the development of urban agriculture can offer an alternative to this food insecurity problem. Peleg Charles is Oxfam's Media and Communication Officer.

“We see success in other countries that used to combat food insecurity with urban agriculture. On one side, we help to improve food insecurity in the households and on the other side we help the population to participate in the protection of the environment.”

About a hundred people, the majority of whom are women and 10 men, are the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the project in Ti Savanne.

In other areas of Carrefour Feuille such as Campeche and Pingue, OXFAM also established nurseries and community gardens where a total of 250 families have been benefiting.

More than 5,500 recycled car tires and over 60,000 seedlings were purchased by OXFAM for this project. Already there are signs that the project is a success. Henri Felisme is a community leader in the area:

“First, if a person is jobless, he or she is also vulnerable. Every day, the person gets up thinking that there is nothing to eat and that causes stress. Second, look at the beneficiary who comes into his garden, with its limited resources at its disposal, and the person finds vegetables growing. Third, the farmers retain what they sell during the fair; the income from the individual sale can reach up to 25 US to 30 US.”

Herbs and vegetables such as tomatoes, beets, carrots and eggplants are thriving in the urban gardens providing a gateway for food security and access to a means of livelihood. Urban agriculture has become a blessing for Ernesia who does not have sufficient income and who lives with five children.

“From what is growing in my garden I could also sell. At the moment, I am only consuming. I need to organize myself with my children to find products to sell, as I would like to have a profit from my garden – for food and for sale.”

During the two-year project, Ernesia will be provided with the seeds and car tires free of charge. Meanwhile, going forward, she plans on growing vegetables in her own backyard and is learning the ropes from her neighbour on how to manage this.

Negotiations are currently underway with the CNSA to sign an agreement with Oxfam and its local partners on the ground to build up the capacity of farmers and to increase their production through the project which should spread also to other challenging areas in Haiti.