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17444: Casey: Re: 17392: Lucien: Looking for organization doing sustainable development (fwd)

From: Lekol Kominote Matenwa <Matenwa@turbonet.com>

  I'm writing from Matenwa on Lagonav.  I've just arrived for a second
school year of working with the children in the Lekol Kominote Matenwa in
gardening and environmental projects.  I was here last year from Jan to May.
The garden we made was successful in two respects.  First, people ate a lot
of vegetables--tomatoes, eggplant, cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, cantaloupe,
green beans, pak choi, and zucchini were the most productive.  The last two
were unfamiliar but the people who tried them want more.  Secondly, and most
important, is that in sitting down with the kids this year to talk about
what they did last year and what happened while I was gone (I left before
anything was big enough to harvest) I was moved and excited about how much
they knew about the process of making a vegetable garden--from planning to

So this year, there's a student committe directing the garden, planning the
work, etc.  Of course some kids are more motivated than others, but their
competence thrills me.

I don't know how familiar you are with Lagonav, but practially all the
produce consumed here comes from the Haitian mainland.  An arduous trip for
the women who move the food.  Plus, food prices fluctuate--mostly
upward--with the price of petroleum.  And, the only vegetables available in
the market have endured the truck/boat/truck ride it takes to get here.  So
there's lots of motivation for vegetable gardens.  Local produce is so much
better quality.  Someone who can raise vegetables can earn money.  I could
rattle on and on.  I've learned so much in my few months here.  What these
kids have done, though, is astounding.  I feel so lucky to be a part of it.

The garden, by the way, was possible because the school has a cistern.
Families who have to carry all their water can't risk the space and energy
to devote it to a garden that might come up when in rains, only to die if it
doesn't rain again for a couple more weeks.  Also, Lagonav has had more rain
this season than in years, which also worked in our favor.

Any kids who prepared a small plot at home we gave a few plants to--a couple
of cabbages and a tomato.  Quite a few of them were successful.  Others were
eaten by bugs or chickens, or perhaps died of neglect.

It was really moving for me to be involved in a situation where kids were
coming home from school with food they'd produced.  The pride and excitement
were enormous.

There's also a youth group in a neighboring community (Nankafe) enthused
about planting trees.  They've started a tree nursery, have had some
setbacks with goat-break-ins.  I'm not too plugged in with their work.
Trees, sadly, are harder for kids than veggies because the vegetable garden
is at least concentrated in one spot and therefore easier to care for an

I haven't updated my website since the garden was just getting started, but
there are some photos of the initial work--carrying rocks and carrying rocks
and carrying rocks--as well as some info about the Matenwa community.  The
address is: http://personal.palouse.net/Nancy

Nancy Casey