Farmnag – Soil Is Not Dirt and Other Agrarian Insights

Haiti – Restoring Civilization Through the Soil
January 22, 2010, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We are watching one of the worst disasters of modern times. An entire country’s capacity to function has been destroyed. And the extent of the devastation indicates that functionality will not be restored easily or soon.

Haiti has been the focus of a multitude of NGO efforts for decades with little effect. We hear that Haiti was on the cusp of change just as this disaster occurred. It appears that effort will be ramped up in the wake of the earthquake. Haiti needs to reconstruct its resource-based agricultural system, replant forests and redevelop towns and cities in safe and appropriate conditions.

The reason Haiti has not been a viable economy since its independence is there is no viable, sustainable food system. Deforestation and soil erosion started the decline of agriculture. The recent introduction of annual and chemical-dependent crops (soy and corn) has further degraded the land and capacity of rural people to sustain a farming system and economy.

Currently, Haiti does not have enough organic matter to rebuild its soils – there are no forests to contribute organic matter and little animal grazing. The terrain is too steep to hold the poor, exposed soils that have been cleared. Forests need to be replanted. Individuals need to learn how to farm sustainably with good stewardship practices.

This can be accomplished through a sort of WPA program that will result in a Haitian population rebuilt on its agrarian cultural past, poised to create a more diverse economy. There are a number of successful small-scale projects that can serve as models, or even mentors to Haitians in composting, soil building and farming mentoring.

Roughly, the rural restoration program needs to include:

1. Terrace hillsides for reforestation and cultivation.
a. Utilize “raw materials” from demolition of damaged buildings for retaining structures.
b. Use and train local labor, not foreign contractors, to build this system.

2. Add organic matter to soil in the terraces to increase fertility.
a. Import animal waste (by barge) from the Eastern United States where nutrients are overpowering estuarine systems (Chesapeake Bay poultry, for example). This is real nutrient trading rather than bookkeeping.
b. Set up composting facilities for this imported animal waste and new local waste streams.

3. Create agricultural and horticultural training system based upon sustainable production.
a. In rebuilding settlement areas, incorporate public green spaces, community garden plots, community composting systems, and horticultural nursery areas.
i. These can serve to revitalize neighborhoods, absorb rainwater runoff and prevent local flooding, supply landscaping materials for neighborhood beautification, fresh produce to neighborhoods AND serve as a training program for youth and under-employed individuals.
b. In rural areas, replant tree buffers and incorporate organics into soils. Establish a mentoring program to teach sustainable practices and business practices for farming ventures.
c. Value-added ventures can be introduced to create jobs, increased economic activity based upon farming and to improve diets.

This is, by necessity, a simplistic presentation of this concept. But it is a necessary step in rebuilding Haiti and similar countries. Once an agrarian economy and society is rebuilt and stable, jobs and industries can be added that increase GDP and standards of living. But without this base, it is almost impossible to create the rest.


1 Comment so far
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Very Nice Blog !
I Like This Very Much.
Methods of Modern Farming

Comment by Monika Borua (@monikaborua)

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