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One Finger Alone Can’t Eat Okra

April 2005

This morning we visited Kopa Koladè, the Koladè cooperative outside of Hinche. It was an amazing example of what a small group of people can accomplish if they work together.

The MPP is focusing its agricultural development work on three themes: agro-silvaculture (an integrated approach to farming, re-forestation and resource management), water and alternative energy. The three are all essential components of a sustainable rural development platform. Without trees, it is hard to capture rain water for crops or drinking and precious topsoil is washed away. Without water, you can’t grow trees or crops. Without alternative energy, you can’t prevent peasants from cutting down trees for fuel.

Working with an MPP agronomist and irrigation technician, the 48 members of Kopa Koladè have built a solar-powered well that provides water to irrigate an astonishingly verdant dry-season vegetable garden and gives castor bean trees an essential head start until the rains come.

The young trees already produce oil that can be used as a high-quality mechanical lubricant or as a fuel for lamps, and someday soon hopefully the trees will be a source of bio-diesel to fuel the motorcycles and trucks of the MPP. Meanwhile, in a low-lying, slightly moister section in the next field, the co-op members cultivate sugar cane. They use an oxen-powered mill to press the cane (as opposed to a gasoline-fired mill) and fire the stoves that cook the cane juice into molasses with bagasse, the waste from the processed cane. The leaves from the cane are used to feed a small herd of 24 cows.

The drip irrigated fields and the sugar cane planting are some of the very few green spots for miles in any direction and some of the neighbors have taken to letting their goats and chickens in to the coops fields. This challenge is a sign of the co-op’s relative success.

But there are things that a co-op, or even a movement of co-ops and peasants like the MPP, can’t do on its own: they can’t provide potable water for the whole community, they can’t repair the roads that would enable them to get mangos to market before they rot, they can’t stop inflation that has doubled the cost of gasoline here in the last few months. Those kinds of things require a state that has the will and the means to provide basic services to its people and that, sadly, is something Haiti does not have.

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