Christmas Joy Offering – Supporting our leaders: past, present and future.

Gardens in Haiti offer both food and dignity

One in three Haitians faces critical hunger

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

A woman in Dofine, Haiti, works in a community garden. A FONDAMA garden project provided seeds and technical assistance. (Photo by Herve Delisma)

“And God said, ‘Let the Earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the Earth.’ And it was so. The Earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:11-12

LOUISVILLE — In 2013, mission co-workers Cindy Corell and Mark Hare were working with Viljean Louis, coordinator of the Peasant Movement of Bayonnais in Haiti. More than 100 people in the mountain community arrived to receive training for starting yard gardens. They were to learn the skills and then share them with neighbors.

To the Haitians it would be life-changing, Corell wrote in a recent letter to supporters.

“Gardens planted close to homes would bring not only nutritious food, but dignity and a step out of poverty for members of the community. He (Louis) took on the air of a preacher, walking among his community members sitting in the house where we met. He told them, ‘God didn’t start the world in a bank. No, he started the world in a garden.’”

Corell remembered that visit while thinking about the current situation in Haiti, where nearly one in three people is critically hungry. She said the gardens that bring life to families who tend them are needed now more than ever.

“The uncertainty after the assassination of Haiti’s president, ongoing fear of violence, a rising number of kidnappings, robberies, and murders, along with political instability, severe loss of purchasing power, and now a new surge of COVID-19, keep people closer to their homes,” she said. “Unable to get out to make money or visit area markets, those without gardens face severe hunger.”

Corell works with the PC(USA) global partner FONDAMA, a network of farmer organizations that provides resources, including an agricultural technician to help families in two hard-hit regions to build new gardens. It is a project designed for sustainability. All materials are inexpensive or free. They encourage families to save seeds for the next planting season and to help neighbors create their own gardens.

FONDAMA works to restore the Haitian environment toward food sovereignty and sustainability. FONDAMA wants to secure food sovereignty through the promotion of family and cooperative agriculture, an agriculture that is organic and respectful of the environment so that the rights of future generations may be protected.”

Network leaders designated communities in Dofine and Kenscoff to kick off the program. Agricultural technician Herve Delisma worked with those communities to prepare gardens in December. He visited regularly to support the gardeners for a growing season. With the project completed, the gardeners are now able to continue on their own. Other projects are planned with support from a FONDAMA agricultural technician in other regions of the country.

“Sadly, the government of Haiti has failed to help its people,” said Corell. “Conditions continue to deteriorate, and the needs for gardens and guidance are growing.”

Corell said fear, despair, mismanagement and climate change discourage people from being able to work the land. Many in rural areas are left hungry.

Rural families are hosting relatives who have left the capital city because of the violence, further straining already limited resources.

“Though I am not in Haiti because of the pandemic, these stories bring great pain,” said Corell. “I am so grateful to those who have faithfully supported our ministry in Haiti. It continues in spite of the great difficulties. We yearn for the day that a reckoning will come: for the day when gardeners seek the sacred spaces of growing plentiful food, enough to live, and enough to share.”

“I keep this image in my heart, that of Isaiah 51:3, in which the prophet describes a rebuilding and an abundance that inspires songs of joy: ‘The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving, and the sound of singing.'”

“Please join me in praying that it may be so,” she said.

Cindy Corell has worked in Haiti since 2013, serving as the Presbyterian Hunger Program/Joining Hands companionship facilitator. She is currently sheltering-in-place in the U.S. but longs to return to Haiti one day soon.


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