This week, the San Francisco-based Goldman Foundation announced that Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, founder and director of Grassroots’ partner, the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP), was among the 2005 winners of the prestigious Goldman Prize for Environmentalism.
We were fortunate enough to spend time with Chavannes when we visited Papaye two weeks ago, and to see firsthand the results of the work that the MPP has done in Haiti’s parched Central Plateau. While most of the landscape is brown and dusty, the MPP has built a few oases of green, using captured rain water and solar powered pumps for irrigation. Their concept of silva-culture embraces the idea that a community of farmers must work in harmony with the land, with the trees, with the environment in order to build a sustainable livelihood. On one co-op we visited, the peasants were harvesting sugar cane in a little damp spot that was sheltered by trees that were planted a few years ago. They pressed the cane using an oxen-powered mill and boiled the molasses using the dried husks of already-milled cane. The oxen, and a small herd of cows, were feeding on the leaves of the cane in a nearby field, while other men and women were preparing potting soil to hold the next generation of tree seedlings that were germinating in the co-op’s shaded nursery. In addition to shade, erosion control, and moisture retention, the trees they are planting will provide fruit and nuts to sell and to eat and oil to lubricate machines, and once a few more trees mature, to provide fuel for bio-diesel vehicles.
Chavannes told us that his vision includes three key pieces: watershed management, alternative energy, and agro-silviculture. On this one co-op, we saw all three of them in action.
We’re excited that Chavannes has won the Goldman prize, and we are proud to be partners with the MPP as they make this vision a reality, one oasis at a time.