Last winter we were confronted with a tragic situation on La Gonave. We are used to “major problems” but this one went beyond that. People we knew to be hungry most of the time had transitioned into starving. A combination of climate (drought) and seasons (winter) the food that might often be available was no longer there.
Many of you know that we collected money (thanks, again!) and received permission from Feed My Starving Children (www.fmsc.org) to get another shipment that could be distributed to all the families in our communities, not just the school children.
At that time we vowed that we would follow up with a more sustainable, long term solution to this kind of food insecurity.
We applied for and received a grant from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (pda.pcusa.org) to begin garden projects in each of our 10 communities and just this month the training has begun!
In early September, 13 representatives from the partnership went to the community of Matenwa on La Gonave (http://www.matenwa.org/about1-ctpf) to learn how to best develop “Creole Gardens” that grow well in the island climate and are sustainable. Because the training is local the participants can readily access help as they develop their plots. Matenwa has spent 10 years with local farmers developing a method that produce 11 months out of the year with minimal water and sustainable practices.
In speaking with Doug Freeman, head of the partnership’s Lunch Program, it is clear that the goal of his committee is to work with this new garden project. The short term goal of using local produce from the gardens to offset the need for imported rice products, and the long term the goal of moving to a lunch program that is entirely locally sourced. But the current situation on the island makes that merely a dream.
Still, we have to move in that direction and the training was received with great enthusiasm. As the seeds begin to go into the ground we have great hope as to what their impact can be.
Farmers who have had to depend on large plots of unirrigated plantings for food and produce to sell can now be trained to also have smaller garden plots to correct for years of drought and food shortages. Feeding the family will no longer be as dependent on the weather.
As these gardens are developed and the 13 people are trained, we hope to move to having them be the agents in their own communities who can train others, thus spreading the method to larger areas.
The island is devastated by food insecurity and bringing more people into the cultivation of food can offset that problem. This type of garden has already proven to be successful in providing food for families on La Gonave.
So, we are all hopeful. Sometimes the smallest seed can be of great importance. We move ahead with trust and prayers that this simple project will prove to be a big step towards fighting hunger on La Gonave.
For the Partnership