She led me straight up the mountain on foot from one little farm to another. When we got to hers, you could see the ocean and feel the wind. Her sons were disassembling a large smoldering dirt pile. They were harvesting the charcoal they’d made and next week
would be selling it. There were only a few trees left and cows tugged at threadbare sod. Not her cows, she could never afford one. They belong to a man in the city, who pays her a little to keep them.
We talked. She told me she loves this land, that it came to her through generations going back to when people like her threw off the slavers and broke up the land into little farms to support themselves, and that this land is her legacy to her children. It begged a question, “Why harm it with charcoal and cows?”
Jabbing her finger at me she replied, "I’m doing the best I can with what I have, where I am right now to keep my family going and I’m not letting up.” And I’m thinking neither is the erosion that is taking her land down to the rock on this dying mountain. I believe she knows that too. It is a tragedy of poverty that by doing what is necessary to care for your family kills the land’s capacity to sustain them.
To keep that from happening we are helping her plant fifteen hundred trees on her land to protect the soil and grow a woodlot she can selectively harvest for income.The cows will be replaced by cashew trees, which will earn more than the pittance she ever got from them, and yams will grow a supply of nutritious food she can count on. By Christmas, her family will begin reaping benefits. And maybe up on that mountain feeling the wind on her face, she’ll feel some peace, knowing the legacy to her children has been reclaimed and the promise of the slave revolution reaffirmed.
Her little farm is on top of this dying mountain. She owns two hectares 500’ above sea level. She and her family live in a village and each day hike to the farm to work. More than eighty percent of Haiti’s farms are in rugged terrain.
On the plane heading home the gift of her words stuck in my head, “I’m doing the best I can with what I have, where I am right now”. And I thought, am I?
Take care and thank you for your interest and concern.
Partner for People and Place