Solèy La Fè Manje
The project takes place in the municipality of Anse-à-Pitres in the southeast corner of Haiti, around 140 km from Port-au-Prince, the capital of the country. Anse-à-Pitres is comprised of six villages with over 25,000 inhabitants.
As a whole, Haiti is extensively deforested (only 3.6% of forest cover), which leads to erosion, desertification and resource depletion. Initially as a result of the colonial regime’s export-oriented agricultural land use, deforestation in the country is mainly driven by the charcoal industry.
Furthermore, most of the country’s inhabitants live very precarious lives under the poverty line and the lack of access to basic resources such as adequate food, water and shelter hinders a balanced health and educational attainment. Four million people in Haiti suffer daily from food insecurity, while an additional one million have poor economic access to food. Meanwhile, domestic food production only covers 50% of Haiti’s food needs.
Despite being rich in natural resources such as solar energy and dry tropical plants, limited access to capital prevents Anse-à-Pitres residents to harness the economic potential of their region, resulting in a massive underutilisation of local resources, a dependency to the destructive charcoal industry and severe malnutrition. Over 90% of the region’s population is unemployed and lack the financial resources to buy sufficient quantities of food and good quality products. As a consequence, over the years, many locals have migrated to the urban centres of Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.
OneAction and Sadhana Forest Haiti wish to diversify the local economy and foster food security in Anse-à-Pitres through the installation of a solar-powered flour mill to transform indigenous, nutrient-dense nuts from the Maya Nut tree (Brosimum alicastrum). Processing the Maya nuts into flour through solar energy will address the nutrition and ecological needs of rural Anse-à-Pitres while creating sustainable economic development based on the creation of healthy secondary goods.
Solèy La Fè Manje is a project initiated by Erica Mazerolle-Castillo, a former student from the Geneva-based Graduate Institute and a former volunteer at Sadhana Forest India and Sadhana Forest Haiti. OneAction is accompanying her in the execution of this project in partnership with Sadhana Forest Haiti. This local NGO has been tackling desertification in the Anse-à-Pitres region since April 2010 by planting tens of thousands of Maya Nut trees, a food-providing species indigenous to the region but that had been lost to deforestation. For the past five years, community residents have been invited to participate in Sadhana Forest Haiti’s reforestation efforts, and those interested have been provided with their own young trees. Experience has shown that individual ownership of Maya Nut trees ensures their protection and care while fostering long-term thinking and ecological awareness.
Moreover, agroforestry and permaculture workshops are periodically offered to the community, and a network of long-term relationships between Anse-à-Pitres residents and Sadhana Forest Haiti volunteers has already been established around the themes of reforestation and food security. Harvests of the Maya Nut trees have already started, however, little access to machinery means tree-owners have to travel to transform their produce, which incurs inconvenient costs and deters entrepreneurial innovation.
This project is expected to have the following impact:
– Economic development: The solar-powered flour mill will enable its users to create secondary goods from locally sourced Maya Nut trees such as bread, cookies, drinks, sauces, etc., permitting the development of income-generating activities.
– Food security: Maya Nut trees produce 75-200 kg of highly nutritious nuts per year, but the lack of machinery to ground them into flour prevents Anse-à-Pitres community members to fully benefit from this precious food source. Thanks to the mill, they will be able to benefit from the nuts’ nutritious value.
– Land restoration and biodiversity increase thanks to reforestation: This project will encourage participants to plant their own Maya nut trees around their homes. Furthermore, by offering an alternative to the damaging charcoal industry and creating value around trees, resource depletion will gradually cease to be considered as a necessity for development, instead promoting the sustainable use of local resources.
Installing a communal solar-powered mill will bolster the conditions for a collective shift to sustainable land use practices and develop income-generating activities, while not only fostering local autonomy and increasing food security, but also restoring the local ecological balance. By addressing the root cause of socio-economic problems, we create the conditions for peaceful and harmonious relationships both between people and with their environment.