In a just a few short hours in October 2016, over 200,000 people’s lives were drastically changed in the Nippes Region of Haiti. A community that already struggles to use its assets to stay above the proverbial water watched those assets submerged and destroyed by Hurricane Matthew.
Supporters of the Colorado Haiti Project poured forth their hearts and financial support after Hurricane Matthew last fall. The response was overwhelming. And then began the critical task of deciding how we could best support the community of Petit Trou de Nippes.
The Colorado Haiti Project is not a relief organization. We knew it was not our role to come in and distribute food and clothing. Fortunately, many aid organizations and companies like Food for the Poor and Episcopal Relief and Development fulfilled that role. We are there for the long process of rebuilding and recovery.
Many minds and empathetic hearts worked tirelessly in Colorado and in Haiti to design a project that would serve the families in the most effective way. Community meetings were held with the elected officials, spiritual leaders, health advocates and local agricultural associations of the area. Since the Petit Trou region is an agrarian section of Haiti, the greatest loss to their livelihoods from the hurricane was loss of crops and seeds for replanting.
Rather than being able to use their own seed, struggling farmers now had to pay for transport to travel and buy new seed. However, due to the hurricane, these farmers did not have money from selling their crop. This made it impossible to travel a long distance and buy new seed. Local agricultural associations, along with the leaders of the community, asked for our support in opening a Bank Agrikol or a seed bank. This is essentially a seed store to help the farmers with the first replanting after the hurricane.
The Seed Bank brings a much needed resource directly to the community, helping to reestablish livelihood and prevent famine. An important aspect of the Seed Bank is that it is a community led project. Members of the community are responsible for running the bank and driving its success. This is an opportunity for the people of Petit Trou to have something of their own, as opposed to having an outside organization decide what should be done. This project is about fulfilling a need while also mobilizing the community to respond to the hurricane together.
With the team of local leaders, local agricultural associations and consultants, we have been working on the seed bank since early December. And on February 9, the seed bank opened!
We are happy to report that the hurricane response donations raised since Hurricane Matthew funded 100% of the initial seed at the Seed Bank for the first planting. The Seed Bank will charge 1/3 the normal price for the first planning instead of giving the seed away. This allows the Seed Bank to purchase what it will need for the second round of planting for the community. We will partially supplement the second round and hopefully the community will be paying full price by the third harvest.
The future of the Seed Bank will depend on the community. If they feel like this project is beneficial, even when they will have to pay full price, the Bank will stay open. There has already been requests for additional products like tools such as hoes and machetes and different varieties of seeds that could be sold at the Bank. There are many possibilities and it will be a community project as it continues.
Since opening day, the seed bank has served over 1200 families which is over a quarter of our final goal. The bank has taken in over $2700 and we’ve seen people come together and do what it takes to make this project happen. The seed bank appears to have the potential to be so much more for the community. It could be a distribution point for buying and selling and a resource in case of emergencies such as Hurricane Matthew.
Thank you for standing with our Haitian partners. As we heard from the teachers in the school, they feel like they have a family in far-off Colorado who cares about them.