Helping Farms and Forests Flourish in Haiti

In 2009, the Open Society Scholarship Programs awarded EARTH University a grant to support promising undergraduate scholars from Haiti and Mozambique.  The following post is part of our blog series featuring their voices.

Marie Santa Auguste: In Haiti, my mother sells food items and sets out sacks of rice and beans in a special section of the house. My father is a construction engineer. He builds houses. I have two brothers, one older, one younger. I told them EARTH University is perfect. I told them they would not believe it. Something…wow. I did not exaggerate.

I had never left Haiti before coming to EARTH. I knew it would be a big change, a chance to learn something new, a chance to learn a different way of life. I am very happy here, but sad at the same time. I know I will go back to Haiti once I finish four years at EARTH.

No matter where I went in Haiti there was always something that did not work. It is a survival struggle. There are so many people who live on less than a dollar per day. They are not dying, but they are starving. The principal economic activity is agriculture. I want to go back and help farmers, especially small farmers, to increase their food production.

I grew up in the city, and before coming to EARTH, I had only worked in a village during school vacations. In Caye, they raise vetiver, a grass native to India that they sell as a cash crop to companies that process it into perfumes and oils. The farmers do not use animal manure. Biodigesters—a sealed plastic tube where animal waste fermenting in water produces both methane gas and liquid fertilizer to spread on fields—are practically unknown to them, and the first time I saw one was here at EARTH.

In Haiti, people use only charcoal to cook. To produce charcoal, they cut down trees. This is why so much of Haiti is deforested. If we increase the number of biodigesters, they will have another source of energy and will not have to cut down so many trees to make charcoal. I want to sell biodigesters in the community. They are not expensive. I won’t be able to establish a company as soon as I arrive at home. It will take time.

As told to Chuck Sudetic.

Add your voice