Haiti, the poorest state in the Western Hemisphere, faces overpopulation, soil erosion, erratic weather, pollution, and deforestation. Functional literacy is estimated at less than 25 percent and nearly a third of the working-age populace is unemployed. Abundant aid has flowed into Haiti over the last decades. While this is well intended, and much has been helpful, the general Haitian mindset is “give-me-more-aid” versus “I-will-find-and-use-my-resources.”

Even so, many Haitians have a vision to provide for themselves. That’s why more than 900 farmers went through the SALT Agri-Plus Program in Haiti in 2016.

Haitian farmers are working together to put sweat equity into their little plots of land without a trace of funding.

No loans, distribution of funds, or mass dissemination of goods have been part of the program since it started in Haiti nearly four years ago. Why then do Haitian fields now look more productive? Why have these farmers stopped asking for money and goods?

Through the Agri-Plus program, they have discovered how to use their agricultural resources to provide for themselves without depending on foreign aid.

Vetiver grass

 

The Vision of Agri-Plus

The vision of Agri-Plus is to encourage spiritual growth in churches and communities, while helping farmers implement better farming practices that are sustainable on a local level.

Participants work together as a community, learn from each other, and discover better methods of stewarding the resources God has placed in their care.

We also want to use Agri-Plus projects as a platform to provide teaching, not only about farming, but about what it means to walk with God. All teaching emphasizes the importance of following Jesus in daily life.

 

Soil Conservation

Soil erosion is a serious problem in Haiti. That’s why planting vetiver grass is a central part of the Agri-Plus program in Haiti. Planting vetiver grass strips on hillsides slows water running down the slopes and keeps valuable topsoil from moving on down the hill. As the topsoil is trapped in the grass, fertile shelves of dirt accumulate and provide a harbor for moisture and a seedbed for productive crops.

This method of soil conservation, along with classroom time and learning to work together as teams, is the core of the Agri-Plus program in Haiti.

This method of soil conservation, along with classroom time and learning to work together as teams, is the core of the Agri-Plus program in Haiti.

Student farmers plant grass hedges in their fields, and teachers stay in contact with the farmers to encourage them to continue planting and show them how to maintain their hedges. Once an astute farmer learns this conservation concept, he or she will continue to plant and maintain vetiver strips. The concept is simple and the results are obvious.

Four full-time indigenous teachers now work in the soil conservation program. More than 700 farmers completed the classroom part of this program in 2016. We continue to receive calls from new groups that want teaching and access to this program.

 

Bean Project

More than two years ago Clint Bower, SALT Agri-Plus manager in Haiti, began researching new dry bean varieties that could benefit Haitian farmers. Drought tolerance, disease resistance, and improved yields were the primary drivers. Some potential varieties were found and testing began in 2015 with four reliable farmers. Black bean variety Lore 249 proved to shine in all three areas and is out yielding traditional varieties by 50-70 percent and is resistant to Golden Mosaic Disease. This bean variety is in high demand!

The bean project is available to farmers who have been through the soil conservation program and have planted vetiver grass. Participants attend classes where they hear teaching on good cropping practices, bean growing management, and proper bean storage.

Bean field

Each participant is given two cups of the new bean variety. They are responsible to plant these beans beside their traditional beans, observe any differences during the growing season, and do a yield comparison at harvest. They also must save seed from these beans for any future plantings.

Around 200 farmers completed the bean program in 2016. Many more farmers would like to be a part of the project in 2017.

 

Pilot Projects

Plantain

Plantain is a fruit similar to banana that is often cooked or fried and is a wonderful crop with great potential. Plantain variety FHAI 21 is resistant to Panama Disease and Black Sigatoka. This variety has been procured and is being propagated in the SALT nursery. At this point, we are making this variety of plantain available for farmers who show above-average management skills and live in areas of high-fertility soil that gets adequate moisture.

Banana plants to propagate

 

Grazing

Agri-Plus staff in Haiti are experimenting with the concept of more grazing and less crop production in areas that are sloped and highly erodible. Permanent pastures eliminate tillage and will hold the remaining topsoil much better than annual cropping practices. The cows do the field harvesting instead of man.

A grazing project was started early in 2016. Drought tolerant grazing forages, such as Brachiaria, Guinea Grass, Guatemala Grass, Leucaena, and Calliandra have been procured and planted over a two-acre plot. Farmers use natural, live fencing made from planting panyol trees. The live fence will grow and can be cut off periodically and the wood used for fuel.

Clint with grazing project employee

 

Woodlot Coppicing

Planting trees and reforesting bare mountainsides in Haiti can be much more than an environmental stewardship project. It can actually be very profitable. The Senna Siamea tree grows quickly and makes excellent charcoal and stove wood. It can be cut off the stump about every three years. Shoots grow back out of the stump for harvesting again three years later. Methodical plantings staggered over three years with optimum row and tree spacing (one planting per year) will provide a wood harvest each year.

To model this project, we hope to purchase a piece of sloping land in a barren area. As this project unfolds, the trees will become very conspicuous on the desolate landscape. The goal is to develop teaching around this concept and assist farmers in adding this profitable diversification to their farms, especially in places that are not ideal for crops.

We see the Agri-Plus program inspiring, encouraging, and motivating farmers. Our brothers in Haiti tell us it is God’s work and He deserves all the glory. They are right. They also tell us they have much to learn and that the learning will never stop.

 

Grain Sorghum / Sugarcane Aphid—Research

The devastating Sugarcane Aphid that hit the USA in 2013 also hit Haiti in 2015. This has had a huge impact on Haitian farmers, as nearly all grain sorghum production saw significant yield losses the last two years.

The Sugarcane Aphid draws sap out of the leaf and then excretes a honeydew-like material back onto the plant which then grows a black sooty mold that blocks sunlight and impairs photosynthesis. Many farmers believe the Dominicans have sprayed something on their fields to keep them from competing in grain sorghum production, which complicates their ability to seriously address a science-based remedy. Because of this idea, any possible remedy will take time to discover, gain acceptance, and engage the farmers in new practices.

Eroded hillside

Agri-Plus has planted several varieties of grain sorghum, some of which may be more tolerant to the aphid. While Haitian farmers historically plant very long-season varieties, it appears that earlier maturing varieties can produce a better yield, which can possibly be harvested before the aphid infestation becomes real damaging. Agri-Plus has plans in place to plant several early (90-day) varieties in early spring.

 

Introducing Agri-Plus in Fond Parisien, Haiti

With the growth of Agri-Plus in Haiti, we needed more staff to help oversee the program. Mike and Joanna Martin, who have lived in the Fond Parisien area of Haiti for nine years, have joined the SALT Agri-Plus team. They know the culture and language well, which will be a big asset to the program. Mike has always been interested in agriculture and has a lot of knowledge and experience.

Mike Martin family

His goal for Agri-Plus in Fond Parisien is to “learn and work together with the Haitian farmers to find principles and techniques that improve their lives spiritually and physically.” This will be done through studying God’s Word and asking for His guidance, as well as learning from other people who have made discoveries about creation. He says, “We have a ministry of reconciliation, seeking that all men be reconciled to God, seeking that people are reconciled with each other, and seeking that we use God’s creation in a way that shows our love for the Creator and His creation.”

Ladies working

Mike plans to begin Agri-Plus by taking a genuine interest in the needs of the local farmers and by sharing Gospel truths. He will ask questions, listen, and observe. After several months of building relationships and earning trust, Agri-Plus program details will be developed specifically for the needs that have been assessed.

The intent is to address the greatest needs in moving towards resourcefulness and sustainability. It takes time to truly identify those needs and to plan approaches that are carefully designed to be effective and sustainable.

If you wish to help improve the lives of farmers and entrepreneurs through agricultural projects, microloans, savings groups, and Christ-centered teaching, please choose from the options below.

One-time Donation

Monthly Sponsorship

YES, I would like to give monthly gifts to fund microloans, savings groups, agricultural programs, and Christ-centered teaching.