Our post hurricane integrated governance and food security program in southern Haiti distributes high market value fruit trees to women farmers through their local community organizations. A successful pilot funded last December and January by concerned friends gave us some good pointers on how to approach fruit tree distribution over what is known to be Haiti’s most rugged terrain into some of the country’s most remote communities. The pilot gave us a wealth of information to analyze over the winter and by the time the summer rains began we were ready to apply our field based knowledge on phase one of the program. We chose to focus first on the most remote parishes in a race against hurricane season, knowing that at the height of the season those communities will become extremely difficult to reach.
The strategy has paid off. Already, four thousand fruit tree seedlings and manioc cuttings have been distributed to a thousand women in the 10 most remote parishes of the Grand Anse. We can now focus the distribution effort to the parishes that are easier to access in spite of the heavy rains. We also designed, tested and deployed a beneficiary database and a GPS-enabled monitoring & evaluation system to track tree survival. We’re happy to say that in our follow-up visits we have found that we have a survival rate of over 90%. In case you haven’t seen it, our last blog post showed some of the women carrying away their manioc cuttings in Abricot. The reader will be happy to see how the women’s manioc fields are coming along:
Clearly, the women of the Grand Anse have a good story to tell! But in doing so, they have thrown us something of a curve ball: several of the women’s groups now want to set up and operate their own nurseries to supply their own needs and the needs of their nearby communities. This brings the program to an entirely different stage, though a certainly very welcome one! The idea of fruit tree nurseries in the hands of the local women’s organizations, operating on a profitable basis either as private or cooperative businesses, is exciting. They will generate income for the organization and be sustainable sources of seedlings. Setting up the nurseries, training their operators, and networking the operations so that they can take advantage of bulk seed purchases, exchange genetic material, share knowhow, and create a shared standard provide unexpected opportunities to significantly exceed project goals, -not only regarding good governance and food security, but also wth respect to strengthening the local women’s groups as viable organizations.
So, we are consulting with the leaders and members of the local women’s groups to determine which groups are really prepared to take the plunge and how they want to structure and network their nurseries. This is a delicate stage: if the nurseries do not conform to the women’s definitions of equity, and if they are not structured for transparency, neither the individual operations nor the network will survive. And, for TCI, creating a network of community based nurseries will yeild a much greater result, but our management challenges will increase. The Field Agents will have to divide their time between distributions for nearby communities while basic supplies, setup and training for the nurseries will require more resources and different management. We hope that readers who support women’s empowerment, good governance and food security will lend their financial support.
In the meantime TCI has begun an assessment of hurricane Maria’s impact on governance and food security in Dominica and Puerto Rico, focusing on small scale food production, youth, and women farmers. Puerto Rico’s decentralized rural sector is quite different from Dominica’s deconcentrated production system. Though both systems are at risk of being overwhelmed by the emergency provisions, decapitalized by the exodus of youth and capital, and hampered by broken infrastructure, -all of which are typical in post disaster situations,– both islands are endowed with responsible government and a legacy of community resilience. The purpose of our assessment is to make recommendations as to how to best transition from emergency relief to sustainable recovery without sacrificing good governance and small agro industries, which are important for recovering economic systems to remain fair and equitable for youths and rural women. Fairness and equity are too often twin outcomes of hurricane recovery, and we feel an obligation to help Dominica and Puerto Rico avoid them!
As we say in Jamaica, “Walk good”! And in Haiti, “Kembe Red!” And in Dominica, “Chembe-la!”