TALIA FARMS PROJECTS
As we celebrate our tenth anniversary (2008-2018) we are grateful to our Staff, Board Members, Donors, Partners and Volunteers – who are critical in realizing our mission to “Foster sustainability, prosperity and self-reliance by bringing critical resources to Haiti’s farmers, entrepreneurs and communities”. And, we are indebted to the exceptional Haitian men, women and children with whom we work each day and who inspire us to change the world for the better. THANK YOU !!!
The People We Work With
We work with rural families and communities of the Lake Azueï region. Our territory starts about 20 miles east of the capital and goes all the way to the border with the Dominican Republic. The overwhelming majority of the nearly 250,000 residents are smallholder farmers who live in extreme poverty on $2 a day; many are women who are sole providers. They are hardworking, resourceful and resilient individuals, eager for opportunities to build thriving and sustainable communities. This region has many underutilized assets and the potential of becoming a regional economic hub, which is our ultimate goal.
Building the Talia Farms Program
We built the Talia Farms program by listening to our local partners. We organized village meetings during which farmers discussed their needs, difficulties, and aspirations. All agreed on this:
- Unequivocally, they consider farming their calling, and attachment to their land as inseparable from their identity.
- They want training and support on an ongoing basis, not just sporadic interventions.
- They want to earn a living wage, have access to basic necessities such as food, water, healthcare, education and a chance to build a better future for their children.
Their choices became the building blocks of Ecoworks’ Talia Farms Program.
We combined farmers’ expressed needs and aspirations with our expertise and resources which resulted in projects that reflect our Talia Farms program integration of three key sectors: Economy, Community and Environment.
An effective solution to enable smallholder farmers to continue cultivating on their small plot of land while needing to increase their earning is the agricultural cooperative. A cooperative enables farmers to remain independent agricultural producers while also being members of a powerful entity which represents a large number of smallholder farmers who, together, form a large agricultural estate which can be effective and influential regionally and nationally.
Well managed cooperatives are solid structural entities that offer a full array of services from training, to seeds, tools, loans, crop insurance and new markets. Such a comprehensive program supports coop members through the entire production process and value chain. Cooperatives also give farmers significant bargaining power, and a powerful voice in decision-making at the regional and national level.
The five agricultural cooperatives planned by Talia Farms will each have 400 members, totaling 2,000 farming families, or 10,000 individuals. Altogether, they will produce annually 22,000 metric tons of organic vegetables which will be sold on the domestic and export markets.
The first Talia Farms Cooperative is slated to open in 2018.
Readiness Towards Self-Reliance
To join a cooperative, requires a certain level of readiness. To that end, EWI continues to offer farmers a long-term training preparation program that includes:
- Training in permaculture, a method which repairs the underground ecosystems, enriches the soil; uses less water; avoids the dangers of monoculture, and does not use dangerous chemicals. This practice costs less, requires less labor and increases crops’ yields and quality.
- Explaining the concept of the cooperative, rules and responsibilities, competitive advantages.
- Promoting concepts of market demand, organic agriculture, farm as a business, financial planning and management
- Progressively advancing farmers from working in isolation to working in small informal groups, then in larger groups and, eventually, in a cooperative.
EWI aims is to train 200 farmers by the end of 2018. At first, EWI will open and manage the cooperatives but, eventually, farmers will own and manage these cooperatives for their own benefit. This is a vital step towards their self-reliance.
Presently, most local residents not interested in agriculture have almost no choices; which is why supporting entrepreneurship is so important: it diversifies the economy making it stronger and more resilient to market fluctuations it keeps in the region talented individuals with a creative spirit who can build job creating enterprises.
EWI is starting by helping farmers create small, new ventures such as composting, or bee hives. As the program expands it will add ventures in technology, food processing, auto repair, tourism, and healthcare.
Lack of water is a devastating problem – especially in the mountains where there are no aquifers. EWI has designed a gravity-based, rainwater harvesting system which can store enough water to enable mountain-based farmers better farm during the rainy season with unpredictable rainfall, and to plant during the dry season which would double farmers’ annual income.
The next step is to commission technical drawings and specifications to make the design construction-ready.
EWI has secured an agreement with a major, up-market Haitian buyer to purchase coop members’ production. The next step is to improve the local production, set-up sales and deliveries and start generating higher income. Parts of profits earned by Talia Farms will be reinvest in the partner-communities.
Both the Ganthier health clinic and maternity are closed because the Ministry of Health has no funding. EWI has proposed to the Ministry an innovative solution to resolve this unacceptable and harmful situation.
In Haiti, the death rate of children under five years old, is 67 for 1,000 live births; in France it is 4, and in the U.S. 7; malnutrition is responsible for nearly half of those deaths. To intervene within the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, counting from the onset of the pregnancy and until the child is two years old, is to save that child’s life and prevent any permanent physical and mental developmental damage. The later the intervention occurs, the more permanent and severe physical and mental stunting.
Ecoworks is developing a malnutrition treatment and follow-up program to stem malnutrition in our region by conducting a wide information campaign to increase breastfeeding; establishing “Mothers’ Gardens” to grow more nutritious food for everyday use; sharing with women basics of good nutrition; providing nutritional paste to malnourished pregnant women and children to nurse them back to health.
Education: A Tool Against Poverty
Only 10% of all schools in Haiti are public, the rest are private with hugely uneven, and at times damaging, quality of education. Haitian parents value education and make enormous sacrifices to send their children to school. Still, more than 50% of children don’t attend school, or abandon school at the grade level, due to lack of money, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
In Ganthier, courageous teachers got together and with their own meager resources and donations from friends and families, built a community-based, non-sectarian school to provide excellent education to all children regardless of religious affiliation or ability to pay.
We contributed funding for the construction of the Patrice Lumumba School, and are now on its board and helping it to grow. Though the building is not entirely finished, the school already serves over 200 children, ages 6-14. It also accepts young adults (18-24) who have aged out of the system without completing basic education. This gives them a second chance at a better life.
The school’s needs are: finish classroom floors; reinforce the front steps; put a fence around its perimeter to safeguard children during recess; hire two more teachers, build-up its library, start a vegetable garden; and establish after-hours programs to generate revenues.
Literacy: Women’s Voices and Choices
The determination to improve one’s life is limitless among the Haitian people we work with. When we announced the one-year literacy course for rural women, we planned to offer it for 25 students. We had to accept 40, and still have a long waiting list. Participants’ age ranged from 18 to 75! All completed the course and received their diplomas.
Disaster Response – A Permanent Program
Less than six months after we began working in Haiti, the January 12th, 2010 earthquake devastated the country. Nearly 300,000 people died; over 300,000 were injured; 1.5 million became homeless.
Although now we know that we are located on top of the main fault line, this time we were spared, and decided to move to the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince where we were most needed. There, we provided daily meals to all patients, staff and their families; we renovated a wing of the hospital and established a physical rehabilitation center to help amputees and severely wounded regain their ability to function, and we brought medical teams and supplies from Israel, New York and Miami.
Since then, almost each year hurricanes, floods and landslides have caused enormous damage which led us to establish a permanent disaster relief program. Our last two interventions happened in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew, and in 2017 after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Click here to read more about EWI disaster relief and response.
Moved by the deafening silence inside the capital’s street camps where thousands of children lived after the earthquake – but traumatized, they no longer played or laughed – we invited Natasha Tsakos, a world-renowned performance artist, and actor Lucky Bruno to perform as clowns for children in street camps, hospitals and schools. They refused fees, so we only covered their expenses. Nothing was more beautiful than the laud children’s laughter resonating throughout the city.
Sustainable rural development is at the heart of the economic, social and environmental viability of Haiti. All our projects take into consideration their environmental impact and how to mitigate, remediate and improve local habitat, ecosystems, and biodiversity.
We chose to disseminate the permaculture method because it promotes sustainable agricultural practices . We promote the restoration of land and water-based ecosystems, and currently research the Lake Azueï’s nearly extinct habitat: no fish, no flamingo or caimans, and no birds because no trees. Since the lake is brackish, its continuous expansion floods arable land and surrounding villages further impoverishing the local population. No development can fully succeed without environmental remediation and stewardship.