Today I’m on my way to visit communities in the mountains above the town of Fonds Verrettes in the southern border region of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This will be my third opportunity to visit. Why this place? Plant With Purpose chose to begin work here in 2004 after devastating floods swept down the Soliette River valley, killing hundreds of people in Fonds Verrettes, and several thousand more in the neighboring Dominican city of Jimani.
Fonds Verrettes under water, 2004- tomorrow we’ll be driving though this valley
Some times people ask me why we work where we do. Often there is a personal relationship that has been built and an invitation that has been given, but there is also an objective set of measurements that we use to identify the neediest countries (see chart below), and beyond that we look for the neediest areas, in terms of human development, deforestation and environmental decline, within those countries:
Plant With Purpose Needs Index
Fonds Verrettes suffered greatly in 2004 and again in the hurricane season of 2008. 2012 was also not a good year for this area, as hurricane Sandy caused extensive severe flooding, damaging the main road, such as it is, and destroying homes and farms. Still, many lives were saved as a result of the work that had been done. Truthfully, our local team and of course the farmers themselves, are doing some amazing work in the midst of extremely challenging conditions. Thankfully, they are seeing the benefit of their work.
One woman we partner with in the village of Wotefwad is named Charicia Exalus, 68, a mother of two who also helps to care for her grandchildren. She says she has “learned a lot” thanks to Plant With Purpose. “Sometimes, I think it’s like a university for famers, people whose living was very difficult.”
Charicia says she has been able to use the techniques she is learning. Before, she says, there was land that was like rock. “It is far upstream, there were no trees, and there was no point in me doing anything to prevent it from being stripped [by erosion]. But following the techniques I learned, I decided to change the situation. … Today, I am able to give fruit (oranges and avocadoes) to anyone who wants them. I am a widow. I live with little, but in truth we always have something to eat that comes from my home.”
Last year alone local communities in Fonds Verrettes grew and planted over 60,000 trees to control erosion and provide much needed fruit and wood products. In total Plant With Purpose has worked with 70 communities to grow and plant 1.9 million trees in Haiti, but there is so much more that needs to be done.
So I’ll posting some pictures and updates over the next week or so. I’ll actually be travelling up and down the mountain twice with two different groups. The first will be with some of our board members, friends and partners from San Diego and Houston. The second half of my trip I’ll be travelling back up the hill with a video crew including world famous surf photographer Aaron Chang, (seriously, click the link take a look at his amazing site!) as well our good friends and organic fruit growers from Sundance Organics. It’s going to be a great trip!