Urban Horticulture Project
Prepared by: Mildred Delphin Régis, Project Manager
Urban Horticulture CARE-HAITI
92, Rue Grégoire P.V.
B.P. 15546, Pétion-Ville Haiti
Tel: (509) 57 5389/ 57 5358
Fax: (509) 57 6785
Contact in Haiti: same as above
Contact in Canada: Jacqueline Wood/Jean Bernard Lindor
Programme Officers, CARE Canada
P.O. Box 9000,
Ottawa, ON Canada
Tel: (613) 228/5608/5644/5619
Fax: (613) 226-5777
CARE has been working in Haiti for almost forty years now. Different kinds of programs are being implemented by CARE in Haiti, such as Maternal Child Health program (pregnant women, mothers and children care, nutrition), Sanitation (potable water), Energy (economic charcoal stoves), Education, SEAD (Small Economics Activities Development), ANR (Agriculture and Natural Resources), Emergency Relief (Food for community activities, School canteens, Communities canteens). In Agriculture and Natural Resources, CARE has a long history of working with hillside farmers to help them increase their revenue, conserve dwindling natural resources, and protect the environment. Most of CARE's and other organizations efforts are focussed on rural areas. Only recently CARE began to develop a program to work with the people living in marginal urban areas to help them take advantage of urban horticulture opportunities.
Why Urban Horticulture In Haiti?
Studies undertaken by various organizations in many of the world, such as Asia, Africa, Europe and America have shown that urban agriculture is an important and growing area of agricultural production. Urban Agriculture can result in:
- Increasing food availability, leading to increasing food security;
- Increasing employment opportunities, particularly for women; and
- Promoting a healthier urban environment through the recycling of organic and inorganic wastes.
Urban areas of Haiti can benefit from urban agriculture activities. Port-au-Prince, the capital, is a big city with 60% of the total urban population of the country (almost 2 million inhabitants). Around Port-au-Prince, where slums have developed as rural populations migrate to the city, there are many areas growing food (corn, pigeon peas, beans, cassavaÉ) and there is still room to grow vegetables. There are few opportunities for income in both the informal and formal sectors, therefore growing food within these areas could provide substantial opportunities for both income and food. The annual income per family is almost US$400 and generally it is less for people living in slum areas. The food available for the slums are usually not fresh, and too expensive. People have often one unbalanced meal a day. Further, the environmental situation in Port-au-Prince is appalling, with poorly functioning garbage collection services and poverty leading to ever-increasing piles of decomposing organic material and waste from discarded containers, materials and equipment.
CARE's Piloting Activities
CARE began a three year pilot program in urban horticulture activities in two slum areas of Port-au-Prince in November 1996. The program is funded by a CIDA - CARE Canada matching grant, the IDRC Cities Feeding People programme, and by CARE- USA under its unrestricted fund. The objectives of the pilot period are to document technical approaches for urban agriculture within the context of the urban slums of Port-au-Prince, to document the food and income generation potential for these areas and to develop an effective extension and learning approach. The pilot project will seek to benefit low income and un/under-employed groups, particularly women and children. One of the strategies will be to work through existing organizations having interests in these areas. Because of the importance of environmental problems, municipal councils, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture are also expected to participate, and to have a role in the integration of Urban Agriculture activities, in there long term plans. Other areas of interest include:
- Observation of motivational levels of communities and slum residents
- Identification of specific subgroups who show higher levels of interest
- Modes of transmission and diffusion of knowledge and practices among the communities
- Document adapted urban agriculture techniques for Haiti
- Develop interest of local institutions and government in urban agriculture.
Progress to Date
Two slum areas around Port-au-Prince have been selected: Mapou-Fon Brach at Fontamara 27, and Cité Siclait at Delmas 31.
Two technicians were hired by CARE to support the implementation of the program and an organization with experience in urban agriculture, Haiti Gardens/ODEJHA agreed to implement the program in partnership with CARE. The agreement put emphasis on the empowerment of this organisation in terms of Urban Agriculture interventions, and the learning aspect of the program is been implemented with there input.
Contacts were established with local government authorities, and participants for the establishment of demonstration gardens were identified.
A baseline survey was done to provide data on the socio-economic status of the people living in the project's areas, including household nutritional information. The information was collected from individuals as well as from focus group discussions. Community members were given the opportunity to express their ideas about urban agriculture activities. The results of these surveys indicated that concerned communities were interested by the idea of exploring urban agriculture possibilities, but were suspicious as often such discussions do not lead to activities. The results also indicated that the project will have to overcome a number of constraints, such as:
- presence of free-ranging livestock;
- high price and lack of water, and
- a general feeling by all round that agriculture in urban areas may not have an important impact and may not be possible.
Seven participants were selected in each of the two areas to set up demonstration gardens in strategic sites to generate interest in the communities and raise awareness that agriculture in the city was possible. Interest in urban agriculture is increasing rapidly. Many organizations and individuals have approached CARE to ask how they might become involved in urban agriculture, and what kind of support they need and they could receive from CARE. This is not only for Port-au-Prince, but secondary cities as well. The activities have also been shown on television, radio, and trade fairs.
Based on the interest generated by the demonstration gardens, a number of groups have been formed in the slum communities, which have begun to learn about urban agriculture. There are three kinds of groups formed: school groups composed of children (boys and girls) and teachers, communities groups composed of adults (women and men) , and young (teenagers, girls and boys).
These groups are motivated and interested: they meet weekly for approximately two hours per session. This is certainly due to the obvious value and potential of urban agriculture, but it is also a tribute to the extension methods being used. Rather than just providing information, participants are involved in a much more interactive, participatory manner. The learning curriculum is facilitated so that groups have a role in its development, although there are some core learning modules on the importance of organic matter, light, water, plant competition and production of organic fertilizer from waste materials. The Haiti Gardens staff facilitates learning topics in a more problem solving and experimental learning manner. Each week, participants return to discuss what has happened with their experiments or gardens, process these experiences with other members of the group and make generalizations about what they have learned and how they can use this knowledge. Problems often lead to new learning topics.
Data of May 1998 , showed 48 gardens set up in the two slum areas, and for the next six months, 125 new gardens are expected, upon evaluation of demands. In Mapou Fonbrach there are 8 groups of learning and there are 5 in Cité Siclait. In total, the program has 154 persons involved in learning sessions. It is expected to double this number in the next twelve months. On-going the program is helping the set up of inputs shops, in the two slums.
What Have We Learned?
Participation and Extension: These two are inextricably linked together. Participants are very much involved and have an active role in extending activities in the field. While some participants need assistance to set up their agriculture activities because of lack of money, others readily find what they need to start and only need technical support. Children take what they learn about urban agriculture back home and begin activities in the neighbors and areas where they come from. Teachers from some of the schools are extending urban agriculture ideas and activities to other areas outside their specific schools.
Regular Meeting: The learning session each week has become a forum where participants can talk about their gardening experiences and learn principles of plant growth. Most of the participants come regularly to each meeting, saying that they like this approach because they are allowed to talk, have an opportunity to express their ideas and are able to understand new things. They begin to suggest new topics to explore and suggest ways to set up experiments to learn the topics.
Ongoing Trials: The pilot project has been able to identify and document some of the better ways to grow vegetable crops given the resources and environment of Port-au-Prince. Production has been done on concrete rooftops, in small backyards, on walls, using containers such as : old tires, basket of bamboo, metallic cans, plastic bags. Vegetables planted are Swiss chard, amaranths, tomatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, and lima beans for the moment. The most exciting aspect of this, however, is the involvement of participants in finding better and new ways to produce vegetables within the city in limited space. What we see is amazing: they are full of creativity! They also are interested in finding ways to integrate native vegetables into their overall cropping strategies.
Enhanced Self-Esteem: Participants feel proud of their gardens, what they produce and their ability to explain to other people what they are doing. This has opened the eyes of the project technicians to the idea that urban agriculture is more than just growing food. It is adding to another important aspect of their life: learning, sharing and problem solving. It is an activity which also brings the family together, as everyone is involved in the garden activities. Women are usually the first ones to become interested in setting up the garden.
Awakening the Interest in Urban Agriculture: Many people and organizations in areas outside Port-au-Prince are gaining interest in urban methods to grow food. NGOs come to visit the program and want to include these activities in their programs.
The ChildrenÉ: When the pilot was initially designed, schools were not a part of it. Now this group plays an important role in promoting urban agriculture. The children are the future of Haiti, and their involvement ensures a new vision and hope for the country.
Growing food in vulnerable communities areas of Port-au-Prince is feasible and becoming a reality. It has the potential to make a substantial impact on the lives of this population, not only in relation to food and income, but also in social development. With the proper support, it should continue to grow in Port-au-Prince and in others secondary cities. CARE-HAITI is thinking about strengthening its interventions in the Urban Agriculture area, and aims to be an organization which can assist and help the implementation of Urban Agriculture projects, related to vegetable and fruit production, waste recycling (composting), water recycling, product marketing and other specific fields.
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