In many developing countries, agricultural production is a major source of both employment and sustenance. In a country with poor infrastructure such as Haiti, it is often difficult for urban populations to gain access to the fresh food that is produced outside of the city. Poor roads can lead to spoiled goods and costly transportation. However, one organization in Haiti has decided to turn the issue on its head: why not grow the food right in the city instead of transporting it?
Following the earthquake in Haiti, Mennonite Economic and Development Associates (MEDA) and Productive Cooperatives Haiti (PCH) launched an urban gardens project in a neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince called Avenue Poupelard. This slum neighbourhood was one of the hardest-hit areas, with many community members still living in makeshift shelters two years after the earthquake. People were dependent on handouts to survive and support their families, and had limited access to fresh food.
When the project began, many of the participants didn’t believe that food could be grown in the city. Their dense, overcrowded neighbourhood hardly seemed like fertile ground. However, a demonstration garden was installed on the site of a building that had collapsed in the earthquake. Participants were encouraged to visit the demonstration garden and learn how to plant and care for vegetable crops. They were also given seeds and soil to plant their own gardens at home.
As people began to see the demonstration garden take shape, they devised new ways to overcome the challenges of growing in an urban environment. Lack of space meant that many people planted in any container they could find, including tires, buckets, baskets, and tin cans. Due to a lack of fertile soil, participants were taught basic composting techniques and made their own nutrient-rich compost at home. To solve the issue of lack of water, participants created their own rainwater catchment systems using only their roofs and an assortment of buckets and bottles.
The first round of the project was so successful that MEDA and PCH initiated a second round with even more participants. Swiss chard, beets, and spinach have proven to be popular crops because they are easy, fast-growing, and have high yields. Participants have been able to add nutrients to their diets that can be hard to come by in Port-au-Prince. Many have reported that they have more to eat and their health has improved.
Another interesting result of the project is that participants are sharing the fruits of their labour with their fellow neighbours. Some participants have helped to feed several families from their small gardens, while others have taught their neighbours how to start their own gardens. The neighbourhood has become a close-knit community with a sustainable food source as more people carve out a bountiful garden from their own little bit of urban jungle.
For more information, see this article from the Foundation for International Development Assistance.