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Matenwa Community Learning Center

MATÈNWA COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER ~ Lagonav, Haiti

Feedback of the 8-week project ( May-July 2011) “Gardens For 10 Families” facilitating water access for Matènwa, Haiti’s Home Gardens provided by:

Christine W. Low
Executive Director
Friends of Matènwa, Inc.
Co-Founder LKMPD  (Matènwa Community Learning Center)

Abner Sauveur
Director of Agriculture and Educational Trainings
Lekòl Kominotè Matènwa Pou Devlopman (LKMPD)
Co-founder LKMPD (Matènwa Community Learning Center)
011-509-2513-0217

This was a project we felt we needed to do, considering how much we have been encouraging families to make home vegetable gardens. Matènwa has about 100 families. We started with 10 families that were committed to making this project a success. We began a dialogue with them to hear how they felt about the project and if they were ready to fully engage in it. We laid out our goals, objectives, and timeline. We then brainstormed together what it would take as a team to assure success. Each family received 2 water drums, 2 gutters with installation, kandelam plants for live fencing of a 10 square meter space, and wire fencing to keep out goats and chickens until the live fencing grows to a secure height and width. All gardens are already in place. This project has required the gardeners to meet each week, allowing them the time to sit and talk together to deepen each other’s knowledge. For example, they share their understanding of how to conserve water by reusing dishwater and bathing water. This project has permitted them to reduce the amount of money used to buy vegetables in the market. The realization of these gardens has ignited a desire in others to be part of this movement. We hope all 100 families will eventually have home vegetable gardens, because almost all families cannot afford to eat properly. The community recognizes that working together on these gardens will diminish malnutrition in Matènwa.

OUR STRATEGY is to empower our parents rather than make them dependent on us. We help them gain confidence in their own capacities, their strength, their personal experiences and volunteerism.  Many times people in need appear to those helping them as people who don’t think about what is best for them. The person or organization that is helping doesn’t give the people the chance to express themselves. They do not allow them to put their own ideas into the project.  They are treated as if hungry people, people in need, are not full human beings. They are talked at, not with. LKMPD believes in self-determination as the road to dignity and success.

LIVE FENCING: People cannot make successful vegetable gardens if they cannot secure them from animals. Kandelam is an excellent plant to fence out all kinds of animals, such as chickens, goats, and cows.  Here families are setting up their live fences.  When there is a drought some children let their goats escape as a strategy for their survival. The goats will eat what they can find, wandering into people’s gardens until they are caught and tethered

WATER DRUMS AND GUTTERS: People were very happy to get water drums and gutters on their homes. When the rains finally do come the water comes off their roofs with such force and in high quantities that it often washes away gardens and top soil.  Holland Riviere cut metal roofing to fashion the gutters, made the wooden gutter supports and then installed them. Drums could not be found for sale on Lagonav in such quantity so we had to go all the way to Port Au Prince to buy them.

VEGETABLE BEDS: Families helped each other to make their vegetable beds. First they measured them and staked them. Then they prepared them by digging out the rocky limestone beds and putting in donkey poop they had collected in the fields and other compostable material. After that they covered this layer with topsoil dirt that they had sifted to get all the rocks out.

WIRE FENCING: It took longer than expected to get wire fencing because we had to go all the way to Port Au Prince to buy it. Our port town of Ansagale did not have it in stock. Families were happy to receive it. They put it up as soon as it arrived. Now their gardens are secure. Once the kandelam grows into a full-fledged fence, they can move this fencing to enlarge their vegetable garden or use it to protect newly planted fruit trees from hungry goats.  The gardens seem to be growing even faster now that they are fenced in and it is raining regularly enough to keep the ground moist and the barrels full for regular watering.

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LUISINE SPEAKS ABOUT THE PROJECT: I have already benefitted from my garden. We have eaten from it and sold from it. I live close to the water pump so even though the rains were not coming I walked to the pump and carried buckets of water to my home each day. When I got the drums I could store the water there. This is how I was able to get my garden to flourish. It is tiring to pump the water and then to have to carry it [on your head] uphill to your house. I will go help some of the other families in their gardens so they can also be successful. If one of us in the group doesn’t succeed then we all lose out.

SUMMARY: All 10 families are content with the progress they have made so far on their gardens. They are confident that their gardens will bear lots of good food, helping their households in several ways. They will be able to eat healthier meals, which will make them stronger and reduce hospital bills. They will be able to sell vegetables inorder to pay for school fees and other needs. They will be eating organic produce. They will have more access to water not only for their garden, but for washing, reducing the number of hours spent fetching water. More water access means ability to clean one’s body, one’s dishes and one’s clothes.

AUGUST 2011 UPDATE: Abner Sauveur, Co-founder LKMPD (Matènwa Community Learning Center) writes:

Good afternoon all supporters of vegetable gardens on Lagonav. It is a pleasure to show you how the gardens are reaching several corners of Lagonav. We thank you for how you have helped us with seed and money and visits to learn from other gardeners. Families are now harvesting tomatoes, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach and a variety of other legumes. One family sold 400 gouds worth of carrots in one day. Many people are especially motivated to make vegetable gardens this year. We believe it is thanks to your support that we are progressing with so many people on the island.
Thank you for your help.

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