The nation of Haiti shares the island of Hispanola with the Dominican Republic. The D.R. is a lush fertile country, rich in agricultural production. Haiti, on the other hand, is unable to feed itself, having destroyed its environment and ruined its soil.
I can’t imagine that any group of people have ever more mismanaged and abused their environment than have the Haitians. Ignorance and corruption have turned what was once a prosperous agricultural society into a land filled with starving and malnourished people.
All the blame for this doesn’t fall on the Haitian people, or even the criminals who have controlled their government since the country was founded. Foreigners aiming to help Haiti have, despite most often being well-intentioned, actually worsened the situation by encouraging unsustainable practices and by trying to integrate Haiti into the “global economy.” Whatever the benefits of industrialization and large scale agribusiness may be elsewhere, they are counterproductive unless the society is first able to meet its basic needs, like supplying its own food and water.
But regardless of what has caused their agricultural problems, Haitians need to fix them. To do so, they must learn and employ basic sustainable agricultural practices.
We met a Haitian agronomist/pastor named Daniel Paul who runs an orphanage in Ouanaminthe. Pastor Daniel studied agriculture before going to seminary, and he understands how to care for the soil and how to farm it responsibly. His little plot of land, surrounded as it is by a veritable wasteland, is like an Eden. He is producing a surplus of healthy food, feeding his kids and selling the remainder in the market.
If folks all over Haiti would begin to follow his example, Haiti could once again produce enough food to feed itself. And safe, nutritious food would help reverse the rampant disease and malnutrition that plagues Haiti.
Cherie and I are hoping to help Danita’s Children begin to grow their own food. We hope that not only will the kids there have the benefit of the nutritious food, but that they’ll break their dependency upon the D.R., and that they’ll take the skills they learn out into Haiti as they leave and start families.
We dream of gardens popping up all over Haiti, overflowing with food.
We dream of the day when little Haitian kids won’t be saying, “Mwen grangou.”
We heard that a lot when we were in Haiti.
In Creole it means, “I’m hungry.”