Elson-n Auquel, Agri-venture Savanette

Youth Environmental Team Member, Louino Robillard is committed to helping communities in Haiti reconnect to the land and thus their ability to feed themselves sustainably. A passionate advocate for the local production of food, he tells us that in rural Haiti food production is not very diversified and is in decline. In the face of economic hardship, many farmers must produce as much money as possible from their land, and so plant only one crop such as rice, corn, or plantains. Due to these same pressures there is also little time to allow the land to lie fallow, and it is common to cut down trees in order to maximize the available land for crop farming.

These unsustainable practices have negative implications for community health due to the lack of diverse food sources as well as for the health of the land itself. Witnessing the poor harvests and the grueling hardship involved in growing crops, young people in the community often see farming as an arduous activity with little reward, and so have become disconnected from the land and their ability to sustainably and healthily feed themselves and their community. Understandably, many young people farm only to raise enough money to leave rural communities for the city as soon as they are able, and thus have little concern for the long term health of the soil which provides for their communities.

After spending time living in the big city Port au Prince, Elson-n Auquel, a native of the rural town of Savanette, returned to his home community with the goal of showing young people that agriculture can offer a rewarding and sustainable future. Recognizing that the negative image of farming is preventing young people from opening the potential of Haiti’s fertile soil, Elson-n and team run WHYFARM, an interactive, innovative, and fun 2 month ‘agri-venture’ camp for 30 young people. Participants will take part in a series of workshops after school and on the weekends to learn why vegetable gardens are important to the ecosystem, how to build them, and, most importantly, how gardening can be fun and cool. Using fun, hands-on activities, they are taught ecological perspectives and learn sustainable agriculture techniques such as composting and water preservation.

This flow fund will go a long way in helping to cultivate student curiosity and exploration, showing young people the power they have to transform the health of themselves and their communities. Funding will allow WHYFARM to present at least five fruit and vegetable school gardens at the Haiti National Agricultural Day.