Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries. A rapid scan of policies, programmes and interventions related to nutrition and agriculture, carried out by the University of Haiti in collaboration with CTA in 2015, revealed that 38% the population is food insecure and almost a quarter of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. The situation is particularly difficult for those living in rural areas. Smallholder farmers have limited access to irrigation, inputs and credit, and suffer from the lack of transport, storage and processing facilities. Many rural Haitians are trapped in poverty. Indeed, it is poverty, rather than the poor availability of foodstuffs that is the main cause of food insecurity and undernutrition.
“We decided to set up a project targeting farming families to help tackle the nutritional challenge,” says Judith Ann Francis, CTA’s Senior Programme Coordinator for Science and Technology Policy. “The project has involved setting up model gardens with a diverse range of nutritious local crops and livestock, because you need to have a diverse diet to tackle malnutrition.”
CTA has collaborated with the University of Haiti’s College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, which conducted the rapid scan mentioned above, and Meds and Food for Kids (MFK), an international organisation with experience working with farmers in Haiti. At the inception meeting, held in July 2017, it was agreed that the two organisations would design and evaluate integrated crop and livestock farming models for two school gardens and three community gardens. These could then be replicated, on a smaller scale, by farming families in rural areas. The project also intends to develop educational material on nutrition and promote a programme to set up more home gardens.
Under the project, 150 smallholder farmers – 90 women and 60 men – received a five-chicken layer unit for egg production, as well as chicken feed, and funding for crop production. The crops themselves were chosen after consultation with the farmers, who were encouraged to divide their home gardens into six subplots. One subplot is dedicated to the poultry unit, while four plots are used for the cultivation of crops, one for each season. The final plot is left fallow for grazing goats and hens. The position of the plots can be rotated to help boost fertility and control crop pests and diseases.
Five smallholder farmers and six staff from the three MFK community model gardens received training in nutrition and crop and poultry production. They then organised three training sessions, with approximately 40 farmers each. The project has produced written training materials on crop and chicken production in both French and Haitian Creole.
Considerable care has been taken to choose appropriate crops and most farmers are now planting three main groups of plant-based food in their home gardens. These include body-building foods rich in protein, such as beans and peas; energy-rich foods, such as maize, yams and cassava; and leafy vegetables, such as moringa, which provide farming families with micronutrients. Although most of the produce from the home gardens is for household consumption, some farmers have a surplus to sell. This means the project is helping to improve incomes as well as nutrition.
In order to spread the word about the potential of model gardens, an initial learning journey was organised with 80 participants in December 2017, and more learning journeys are planned for February-March 2018. A mid-term report found that most beneficiaries were expecting the project to lead to positive changes in their lives. To attract public and private investment in model gardens policy roundtable events are planned for mid-2018.