It's hard to find Desarmes correctly on a map. As a millennial, it's kind of mind blowing to be in an area where Google don't really know where you are. (This is the world we live in). Moreover, as someone who struggles with anxiety (especially travel anxiety), I worked really hard on this trip to really appreciate things in the moment. (I have this horrible habit of only appreciating great experiences in retrospect). Hiking around Mon Sejour was definitely one of those times in Haiti that I had to work hard on appreciating in the moment. Okay, I know I sound ungrateful but hear me out. Even though it was hot (oh my gosh it was SO HOT), and I was sweating through my dress, and I was hiking up and down steep inclines in very worn toms, and I was quite worried that the older members of my group were going to fall (and being so far from any real medical care was a thing), I was able to hang on to a sense of gratitude to MCC for taking me to far remote places on the world that I would never, ever go otherwise. It was actually pretty incredible.
The Haitian mountains used to have trees. Or maybe it was the trees used to have mountains. Because of the legacy of exploitation in Haiti, deforestation is a big concern. When the rains come (or Hurricane Matthew) vulnerable communities become even more vulnerable without roots keeping the soil on the mountain tops. Without trees, lush topical forests dissolve into dessert-like landscapes.
But in the Artibonite Valley, this is changing (and has changed), thanks to MCC's work in Desarmes.
The reason we were hiking around this mountain in heat of the day was to visit an Agro-forestry project. (A hike, I should say, is one that many Haitians do every single day, no matter the state of their shoes).
If there is any part of you that somehow believes Haitians aren't smart because they are "poor" or don't have the same kind of access to education as Americans or whatever you rationality may be, forget that way of thinking. Immediately.
This Agro-Forestry project on Mon Sejour is beyond brilliant in every sense of the way. There is a tree nursery that has a goal of planing 50,000 trees each year. However, they have a earth day in June and they (thanks to the help of the community) planted 50,000 in one day. The complexity of growing different types of trees in between cycles of beans and corn and so many other crops so that there is always something to eat and always something to sell is unbelievable. In order to do this type of work in the States I am sure you would have to have a Masters in some kind of farm tech management degree. It's amazing.
You can see this brilliance growing on the mountainside. For real. Look at the following photos. The bald mountains is what this area used to look like. The trees are part of MCC support Agro-Forestry project. At least some of them are. The cool thing about MCC is since it supports community partners and leaders that means that there is significant community buy in. Since this project started on Mon Sejour, there have been "copy-cat" projects popping up around it as other farmers see the benefits of this type of work. And the forest continues to go and the spring on this mountain is starting to get stronger and stronger. Birds have returned. There is a deep sense of taking care of the earth and of one another.
“The country is not poor, but sometimes we’ve lacked vision," Paulisme Francklin., MCC Agro-forestry technician, told us during our tour the project. "But when we put our heads together and work together, there are amazing things we can do."
Isn't that the truth.
|This hike was no joke|
|Testing out different varieties of mangos to see what type grows best in this area. This one was the winner.|
|Francklin standing in a field (I think it was sweet potatoes)|
Photos by Tina Schrag and me