Few disagree that agriculture will play a critical role in the overall development picture of Haiti. Re-establishing the strength and primacy of the family farm must be an emphasis in any thoughtful strategy to bring transformative change to this land. Much is heard about Haiti’s ecologically distressed landscape. But in our exploration of La Gonave’s 387-square miles, we see great and exciting potential for restoring her land. Indeed, much of La Gonave is mountainous, but there are thousands of parcels of fertile ground, some large, some small, just waiting to be cultivated. Some say the topsoil is gone, but we disagree. Much of the land, indeed, is barren, parched, and non-productive. But the soil is there, just waiting it seems, to be rejuvenated, plowed, and planted.

Starfysh has begun the great task of restoring the land by supplying farmers with seeds, trees, and livestock. This initial strategy will, of course, be an important aspect of our ongoing work. But we must also be about the hard work of making sure our work lasts. We must take the long view. In addition to supplying seeds and planting trees, we must train family farmers and agri-businessmen and women to carry on the work as we move on to other island locales. Food storage, seed salvage, composting, pest control, fertilization, rainwater harvesting, and irrigation techniques must be taught. In some contexts, such as homes with no tillable land, non-traditional (e.g., container and rooftop gardening) techniques will be taught.

We believe every single one of the 10,000–12,000 family homes on the island of La Gonave has the potential to grow its own family food, plus some. We must also develop and improve supporting infrastructures like navigable roads and cost-effective sea transportation so growers can cheaply move their goods to the mainland market. In addition, it is important that we identify potential markets for La Gonavian fruits and produce, which will provide a tremendous incentive for local growers to continue to grow and improve their product.

Finally, we must not underestimate the importance of the overall positive ecologic impact of our work. In addition to its paramount contribution in reducing hunger and providing family incomes, a thriving island agriculture program will go far in improving La Gonave’s topsoil and preventing erosion, thereby protecting her precious and abundant underground aquifers.

PROJECT #1

Life Garden: Agricultural Research and Teaching Farm

Vision: a multi-site research and teaching garden where…

  • Farming methods and solutions specific to the situations and needs of La Gonave are researched and developed.
  • Farmers from all over the island will come to learn about appropriate growing methods and technologies that will work in their unique situations.
  • Seedlings will be mass-propagated for distribution and reforestation.

Life Garden: Progress Report

(Updated January, 2017)

  • We were excited to add Paul Donn Jean to our staff as Director of Agriculture. Paul Donn brings much to the table, with many degrees: BS in Agriculture and MS in Project Design and Development. Most significantly, he was born and raised on La Gonave and his life passion is to see agriculture flourish in his homeland.
  • Paul Donn currently oversees a staff of five Life Garden employees.
  • We have established a grove of approximately 1,200 moringa trees. These trees are being used for a) source of seeds, b) transplanting, c) leaf harvesting, processing, and packaging. Moringa, ounce-for-ounce, one ot the most nutritious food sources in the world, grows well even in the most troubled soils and has great potential here as source of nutrition where diseases stemming from malnutrition are so prevalent.
  • Thousands of tree seedlings are being propagated in our new shade nursery.
  • An on-site office space for our agriculture operations is near completion.
  • Eight 1,000-gallon rainwater cisterns are storing water so that we do not need to draw from the town’s water source.
  • A 40’x40′ outdoor teaching pavilion/classroom has been completed.
  • MOUNTAIN Campus – Starfysh has recently signed a long-term lease for another 4-acre site in the mountains. This particular site is obviously far different from our sea-level campus, its soil black, fertile, and rock-free. Here we will be able to propagate trees to greater maturity before re-planting, enhancing their probabilities for survival. This campus will lend itself well to propagating species that thrive at elevation (e.g., coffee, cacao, etc.).

Needs:

  •  Seeds, Tree Stock  $10,000
  • Tools and Supplies  $5,000
  • Well, Water-storage Cisterns for Life Garden – Mountain Campus  $14,000
  • Life Garden Office Furniture/Supplies  $1,200
  • Conference Supplies and Education Materials (chairs, tables, notebooks, etc.)  $5,000
  • Life Garden Staff/Employee Salaries  $42,000/year

PROJECT #2

Moringa Documentary Project Proposal

The Situation

When her name is mentioned, Haiti, most of us immediate think of her poverty. “Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” the world recites by memory. But there was a time when Ayiti was known for her natural beauty and rich agriculture. “Pearl of the Carribean,” she was called, once one of the richest lands in the world.

It is sadly ironic that today she can not produce enough food to feed even her own people. 30% of Haiti’s 11 million people do not have access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The most severely-affected are families living in rural areas where 75% of children are malnourished and underweight and 22% of children experience growth stunting. And 51% of all food in Haiti must be imported.

There is no doubt that Haiti’s once-rich soil is tired and parched. Decades of deforestation have made it that way. To add to this difficult baseline, Haiti periodically suffers more than her fair share of natural disasters which worsen her already-dire situation. The winds and flooding of periodic hurricanes and tropical storms often cause widespread devastation and loss to family farms. And a heartless El Niño weather cycle recently added three years of drought to her problem of daily hunger.

Few disagree that agriculture will play a critical role in Haiti’s overall (health, nutritional, economic) recovery. Re-establishing the strength and primacy of the family farm must, therefore, be an emphasis in any thoughtful strategy to bring transformative change to this land. The challenge is great, of course, solutions will come in many forms.

Moringa

A tree native to Northern India and now common throughout Africa, has now come along as a promising solution to Haiti’s dire agricultural and nutritional situation. In Africa it is commonly known as “Nebedaye” (“never die”). Others call it “The Miracle Tree.” For good reason…

Moringa, well-researched and widely-regarded to being, ounce-for-ounce, one of the most nutritionally-dense plant sources on Earth, boasts an impressive resumed of vitamin-mineral-protein content: Ounce for ounce, fresh moringa leaves provide…

  • 4 times the Vitamin A of Carrots
  • 7 times the Vitamin C of Oranges
  • 4 times the Calcium of Milk
  • 3 times the Potassium of Bananas
  • 3/4 the Iron of Spinach
  • 2 times the Protein of Yogurt

Ounce for ounce, dry Moringa leaves provide…

  • 10 times the Vitamin A of Carrots
  • 1/2 the Vitamin C of Oranges
  • 17 times the Calcium of Milk
  • 15 times the Potassium of Bananas
  • 25 times the Iron of Spinach
  • 9 times the Protein of Yogurt

It’s no wonder why Moringa is gaining rapid popularity on the world nutritional-supplement market.

The exciting thing is that we have found that Moringa not only survives but seems to thrive on the poor soil and periodic drought conditions here in Haiti. It grows quickly from seed, maturing to seed-producing trees in just a year. Crop diseases and pests seem to leave it alone. Worldwide studies of its addition to the diets of children show dramatic improvements in growth and overall health. Not surprisingly, livestock that forage on Moringa are healthier, provide more milk, and healthier offspring.

There is no doubt that Moringa can play an important role in the overall agriculture and nutrition picture in Haiti. We need to get this message out!

Project: “The Message of Moringa”

Vision:

To establish Moringa as a high-nutrition, home-grown food source in every family garden in Haiti.

Strategy and Methods:

  • Produce a professional quality, Creole-language documentary on the merits and uses of Moringa, with instruction in its planting, growth, harvest, and integration into the daily diet.
  • Distribute the documentary, along with Moringa seeds and seedlings to businesses, churches, and schools in every city and village in Haiti.

This documentary will be viewed by millions of people across Haiti. We have already made important contacts with influential media personnel in Haiti who have committed to presenting this important film on Haitian television and assisting us getting the film distributed across the country. And, given its stated strong desire to reestablish the strength of its agriculture sector, we believe the government of Haiti will also be strongly supportive of this important film that stands to make such a difference in the health and vitality of its people.

Thousands of Moringa seedlings are already being nurtured at Starfysh’s Life Garden, our agricultural research and demonstration farm on La Gonave, seedlings we hope to put in the hands of each church, school, and business receiving a copy of the film. Each of these seedlings will be seed-bearing within a year, providing seeds for sharing and planting in regions surrounding each of these film distribution points.

Needs:

Thanks to a very generous reduction in fees from a local film production company who believes in our work, we will be able to film, edit, and produce the completed film for $20,000.

We are looking for individuals, businesses, and groups who will partner with Starfysh to make “The Message of Moringa” a reality. The return on investment in this important documentary will be enormous, impacting millions of people dealing with the problem of hunger. Partners investing $100 or more will be added to the documentary credits at the conclusion of the film.

PROJECT #3

Biochar: Restoring Haiti’s Damaged Soil

The Situation

Haiti’s soil is tired. This we know. Decades of indiscriminate deforestation have slowly exhausted this land once known for her rich agriculture. Once the “Pearl of the Caribbean,” there was a time when Haiti produced 60% of the world’s coffee and 40% of the world’s sugar. More recently, well-intended slashing of food import tariffs has had a catastrophic effect on Haiti’s farmers, unable to compete with cheap imports when selling their crops at market. As a consequence to these human factors, Haiti’s precious soil today is parched and thin, unable to produce the abundant harvests of more glorious days. In a country of 10 million people where over 60% live in rural areas, people depend on their farms and gardens to live. Today, less than 20% of Haiti’s cultivated land is actually suitable for agriculture. It is no wonder that Haiti is one of the most food insecure nations in the world and that 45% of Haiti’s people are chronically malnourished.

Solutions to Haiti’s severe agriculture problems will come in many forms and from many directions. While government and economic solutions work themselves out, Starfysh’s role in agricultural development will be to get our hands dirty. Literally. We will work the soil.

Biochar

As it turns out, agricultural science research has in recent years made significant strides in technologies and practices of soil improvement and restoration. One such advance is in our understanding of the value that “fixed carbon” can play as a permanent remediation to damaged soils. One of the most exciting areas of agricultural research in recent years has centered around the merits of biochar as a permanent amendment to distressed soil. It is exciting to Starfysh because poor, unproductive soil is La Gonave’s reality (as it is in the rest of Haiti). The studies on biochar show convincing evidence that it…

  • Improves soil as a habitat for beneficial microorganisms
  • Improves soil’s ability to hold minerals essential for vigorous plant growth
  • Improves crop yields
  • Improves water retention
  • Improved soil texture
  • Improves pest resistance

Remarkable as these benefits are, it is even more noteworthy that the improvements that biochar confers on soil infertility is permanent. Evidence proves that once worked into the soil, biochar and its benefits will remain for hundreds of years. The value of biochar as a permanent amendment to bad soil and its dramatically positive effect on harvest yields is well-published in the agricultural scientific literature. Knowing that our results (i.e., dramatic increase in yields) will mirror published studies, we expect the greater benefit will be realized when farmers here see for themselves the impact of biochar on their gardens and fields and then embrace a plan to produce biochar locally.

Project Objective

During the 2018 growing season, fixed carbon in the form of high grade biochar will be demonstrated at both of Starfysh’s “Jaden Lavi” (Life Garden) agriculture research and demonstration campuses (sea level, mountain), two to four school gardens, and 12-15 selected family gardens across the island. At each site, crops grown in biochar-fortified soil will be grown along side control plots of the same crops grown in un-fortified soil. Test and control gardens will be otherwise identical (e.g. sun, water, etc.). Data will be measured by plant vigor and yield.

Starting prior to and then continuing throughout the demonstration phase, feasibility studies will look at the critical elements necessary to produce biochar right here on the island: tree species, power considerations, transportation issues, and economic impact.

Impact

Bold claims must be backed by bold initiatives. We believe fixed-carbon in the form of biochar could be one of the game-changing solutions to Haiti’s agricultural problem. The island of La Gonave will be the perfect laboratory to test this claim and eventually could even be the source of high-quality soil-saving biochar for all of Haiti.

Needs

We are looking for financial partners who will help us prove that Haiti’s tired, nutrient-depleted soil can be permanently restored. $35,000 will fund this critical phase: purchase, shipping, customs, and local delivery of project supplies, and tree seedling propagation. Tools and supplies available in Haiti will be preferentially purchased in country, in accordance with Starfysh’s “buy local” philosophy of development.

Starfysh is extremely thankful for the time and expertise that our friends at American Biochar Company have brought to the table. Their partnership makes this game-changing initiative a reality.

To learn more about how you or your organization can partner with us in this important project, email us at [email protected]