by Kate Nare
Meet Elizé Calixte from the Savanette community in Haiti. He is 19 years old and lives with his mom, his step-father, and six other relatives. His mother has been working with Plant With Purpose's Haiti program, Floresta-Haiti, since 2007. She earns a living by baking and selling bread in the market to contribute to the family's income. Additionally, with loans she received from Floresta-Haiti she was able to construct a cistern, begin diverse farming techniques, and send Elizé to school.
Recently, Elizé graduated from high school and officially became a member of the Savanette Floresta-Haiti community group. He is using his carpentry skills to make furniture which he sells in the market. Since joining the group Elizé has contributed to the micro-watershed restoration project, which involves constructing soil conservation barriers and planting trees to restore the health of the soil and prevent erosion. He has also learned diverse agro-forestry practices, such as growing fruit trees side by side with timber trees to prevent soil erosion and increase his yields to provide food and income for his family.
Elizé's mother said, "Floresta-Haiti has taught us many things and we are very grateful. We are excited to see our lives improving and it is a joy for me to see my son using his education to help our family. His has a very entrepreneurial spirit."
This is what Plant With Purpose's work is all about: families learning and implementing sustainable techniques to lift themselves out of poverty and create opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and provide hope for the next generation. Elizé's story is one of many, and we are honored and grateful to work with these hard-working individuals.
Visit our website, www.plantwithpurpose.org, to learn how you can sponsor a village in Haiti for $30 per month. With our matching grant, this amount will be doubled to $60 per month to make an even greater impact in the lives of the rural poor in Haiti.
re-posted with permission
by Scott Sabin
This article first appeared on July 6, 2009 in Issue #15 of Mars Hill Graduate School
As our two pickups struggle through the grass and mud, it is clear that we are the first to pass this way in at least a few days. In the pouring rain the entire road, what Carlos, Plant With Purpose's Dominican director, calls the international highway, seems like it could wash down the side of the mountain.
Rising thirty or forty feet to our right is a tangle of green. Old tree trunks are visible through the undergrowth, and branches with reddish bromeliads overhang our path. Patches of heavy mist drift through the trees and obscure the tops of the mountain. To our left is a vertigo-inducing drop-off into thin air, the valleys of Haiti visible far in the distance.
We are driving between impoverished border communities through Sierra de Neiba National Park in the Dominican Republic, near the Haitian border. It is a place of breathtaking beauty. After crossing the pass, we begin the winding descent down the other side of the mountain range. The forest changes from broadleaf to tall pines.
After three days of visiting our work in the struggling hillside communities to the south, the park is a reminder of how magnificent this island once was. I begin to feel as though I've caught a glimpse of how things were meant to be in the Garden. One can only speculate about what creation in a pre-Fall world must have been like, yet for all that the curse has tainted and all that human sinhas done to damage our earth, the beauty of what God has made still shines through everywhere. God's ability to work things together for good is obvious in the intricate ways that ecosystems like this fit together so perfectly. Nothing is wasted, and everything has its niche. Everywhere life springs forth from death, and resurrection is foreshadowed.
Soon we drop out of the trees and leave the park. As we wind our way down muddy switchbacks, the forest gives way to newly planted bean fields blanketing all but the steepest slopes. The view is still spectacular, but now there is much that is clearly broken. Here the curse is obvious. Hugerills caused by erosion are a testimony to the unsustainable nature of the agriculture. On the far side of the gorge, above the flood-scarred dry wash that marks the border, dozens of Haitian homesteads dot the hillsides. There, years of intense cultivation have given erosion a head start, and the exposed bedrock that fills the fields is a portent for the Dominican side as well.
This is new territory for me; Plant With Purpose only recently completed initial surveys on this side of the park. The first village we come to, a collection of wooden shacks, a one-room school, and a military border checkpoint, has been appropriately nicknamed "The Armpit."
The conventional wisdom, that you can tell the location of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti by where the trees stop, isn't entirely true, but it is close"the greater population density on the Haitian side makes the border obvious. But on both sides, circumstances have made it challenging for people to live without destroying their environment. And the environment returns the favor, its degradation making life tenuous for these forgotten people. It is a broken relationship in a fallen world.
Poverty limits the options of farmers who have no resources other than the hillsides. When times get especially hard, they cut the trees to sell as firewood. The Dominicans can clear more of the forest to plant their beans, moving into the edges of the national park, but the Haitians must cross the border daily to sharecrop the Dominican bean fields. They trade half their crops for the right to farm Dominican hills, taking their unsustainable farming practices deeper into the Dominican Republic.
As the trees fall, the soil continues to erode and the watershed continues to degrade, robbing the farmers of their two most important assets"soil and water. Thus, poverty spreads and is clearly visible in the eyes and on the faces of the shoeless workers that walk back and forth across this border.
But even here, there is hope. There is good news and there are options. The people may be disempowered, they may need to be reminded of their own God-given talents, but they are not stupid or helpless. Like all of us, they need to be reminded of their own importance in the eyes of God and of the love he has for them. The good news of the kingdom is that they can begin to live as if the curse were lifted. Relationships with God, creation, and neighbor can begin to heal.
Creation need not be an enemy. Farmers can learn other ways to farm that work with the steep hillsides, instead of against them. Trees can be planted that thrive in this environment and provide income to poorfamilies while slowing soil erosion and restoring the watershed. Waste can be used as fertilizer rather than river pollutant. By mimicking the diversity of creation and its cycles, a new, healthier relationship can be created. New life can come from decay. Like all of our relationships, these new relationships are still tainted by the fall, but they can be improved and health can be restored. Finally, as Dominicans and Haitians, people with a long history of mistrust and even violence, work together for a common purpose as brothers and sisters in the Lord, relationships between troubled neighbors can be healed.
In the few years that Plant With Purpose has been working on the other side of the park, we have begun to see the changes that occur when individuals and communities rediscover their God-given potential and heal their land. Tiny trees cover the hillsides. Beans are being replaced with a diversity of crops that make the best use of the steep hillsides and scarce water. There is reconciliation between Haitian and Dominican. It still doesn't look like the park and never will, but there is perhaps even greater beauty in the redemption that is taking place as life springs forth from death. Here in the Armpit, tha tredemption is still only a prayer, but we look forward with great anticipation to the healing that is to come.
This piece was forst printed in Creation Care Magazine. For more information click here.
Scott C. Sabin is the executive director of Plan with Purpose, a Christian nonprofit organization that reverses deforestation and poverty in the world by transforming the lives of the rural poor (www.plantwithpurpose.org).
by Audrie Peveler
Sometimes I live in a bubble. I get my five minutes of news after a TV show I watch with my roommate every Wednesday night, and then I get my fill of depressing information so I turn it off. When all I need is on my university's campus, it's easy to live that way. So when the earthquake hit Haiti a year and half ago, I was, naturally, one of the last to know. Since then I have been trying to make more of an effort to stay informed on international affairs, and interning with Plant With Purpose has been a medium for that.
Long before the earthquake, Plant With Purpose was working alongside Haitian rural farmers. Significant progress was being made. Then the earthquake hit. Although the earthquake was primarily focused in Port au Prince, rural farmers are still feeling the aftershock. As Scott mentioned in his one year blog on the progress in Haiti, many who once lived in the urban jungle sought refuge in the homes of their rural family and friends. With household sizes doubling and sometimes tripling, the farmers we work with have been pressured into using farming practices that are not sustainable. These practices don't just affect the farmers, but everyone who is downstream of the pesticide and fertilizer-infested waters. Disease has been at an all-time high.
But there is hope.
The reason Plant With Purpose works on long-term relationship building is precisely for moments like this. Plant With Purpose didn't come in after the quake; they had been there over a decade before. It's difficult to trust aid that comes in enormous chunks right when the disaster hits. What is easier to lean on is help from our Haitian Plant With Purpose staff who has been and are still teaching more sustainable agricultural practices.
In early 2011 alone, 36,273 trees were planted. Trees restore the soil, and in turn, restore the land and watersheds, providing clean water and more opportunity for growth. Barren hillsides are thriving. Over 290 fruit trees have been grafted this year. Rural farmers are gaining access to credit to use for agricultural endeavors, which is a much healthier way of providing for their now doubled or tripled household sizes.
Perhaps the question still remains, "Why isn't Haiti fixed yet?" And the answer remains: extreme poverty does not have an overnight solution. No matter how many handouts we give, unless the people learn how to restore their own land, the problem will never be solved. Tent cities were a necessary solution at the time of the earthquake, but the land is teeming with hope at the prospect of restoration, and not just restoration of the land, but restoration of its people.
It's easy to live in a bubble and not think about the rubble that still lies in Port au Prince 1 ½ years later, but we are called to a higher purpose. The problem in Haiti and in all of the areas Plant With Purpose works in requires long-term commitment. Trees are our loaves and fish, and your support of Plant With Purpose makes a tangible difference in the lives of those who had no say when catastrophe hit.
To learn more and donate to Plant With Purpose's life-changing programs in Haiti click here.
re-posted with permission
An update from our friends at Plant with Purpose
We have heard from our Haiti Program Director, Guy Paraison, that our Haitian staff and farmers are all ok despite enduring extreme weather conditions from hurricane Tomas, which hit Haiti late last week.
Guy reported that the areas of Grande Colline, Fonds Verrettes, and Bainet experienced violent winds and rain last Thursday night. Although no one was hurt, many communities have lost livestock, and half of the recently planted pigeon pea crop has been lost as a result of strong winds and landslides. Some of the houses had their roofs ripped off by the wind, as well. In Fonds Verrettes, Guy said that farmers have lost 40 goats, one mule, and pigeon pea and banana crops.
Please continue to pray for our post-earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti. We are still employing farmers through our "Cash for Work" program to plant trees and construct soil conservation barriers. Since January 12th, 2010, we have employed over 6,000 farmers through our "Cash for Work" program to plant nearly 240,000 trees and construct over 360 miles of soil conservation barriers. This progress is encouraging, but there is still much work to be done. Please consider joining us in supporting Haiti by making a donation to our recovery efforts, or by sponsoring a village for $30 a month. Your contribution will empower families to reforest their land, feed their families, and grow in their knowledge of God's love and grace. Click here to see our open village sponsorships: www.plantwithpurpose.org/caribbean and click here to learn more about our Haiti recovery efforts: www.plantwithpurpose.org/haiti-relief.
"We want to plant trees everywhere around our community; we are dreaming of a forest! We know that if we can do this, the young men of our community will find hope and opportunity here, rather than having to look for work in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic, or food in Port au Prince." " Ronald, a community leader in Fonds Verettes, Haiti. Get more updates by following the Plant with Purpose blog here.
Please pray for the refugees still stuck in make shift towns as Tropical Storm Thomas makes land in parts of Haiti today. Especially pray for the work of our partners Plant with Purpose, Food for the Hungry, and World Vision who are working amongst the poorest of the poor throughout Haiti. Learn more by clicking here.