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.