JÉRÉMIE, HAITI – The many farmers in the Grand’Anse department of southwestern Haiti have not stopped working. But some have quit farming to go to Port-au-Prince, the capital, in hopes of escaping the unforgiving, often backbreaking labor of the land, says Elenord Florestal, a farmer in the Grand’Anse.
"They go to Port-au-Prince to work in people's houses or start small street businesses where they sell things on the street,” Florestal says. “Life is not really much better, but they do make a little money from time to time, so they can send their children to school."
But Florestal, who lives in Twaktwa, an area south of Jérémie, the capital of the Grand’Anse, continues to farm, as he has done for as long as he can remember.
“It is by working the land that I make money to cover my various expenses, like buying seeds and other products, tools, sending my kids to school and to the university,” he says. “It allows me to put food on my table and cover unforeseen expenses, like medical bills.”
Florestal plants his crops himself. In one parcel of his land, he plants corn. When he has harvested the corn, he plants beans there. In another parcel, he plants plantains. It’s a demanding process, one he says could improve if he had access to proper infrastructure and equipment.
“For us farmers in the Grand’Anse, we suffer a lot of difficulties to harvest what we plant,” Florestal says. “We depend on rain for our planting. When the rain does not come, it is not good for us. The problem is not that there is not enough water, but there is no structure in place that could help capture the water so that we can irrigate the fields.”
Florestal says that his crops also aren’t secure because animals like chicken and goats roam freely in the area.
“When we plant, the animals come into the fields,” he says. “The chickens eat the corn, and the goats eat the young plants.”
Even though farming has the potential to produce income and food security under the necessary circumstances, it is the hardships and problems associated with planting that cause farmers in Haiti to look elsewhere for work, Florestal says. This mean cutting down trees for charcoal, which requires fewer tools but contributes to forest degradation, or heading to the capital.
With all the setbacks farmers currently face, Florestal wonders when the farming industry will get the support it needs from the local or national government.
“What are our elected officials doing to help get agriculture to the level it is supposed to be?” he asks.
Filling this void, an organization called Konbit Peyizan Grand’Anse, which operates in Roseaux, one of the dozen communes in the Grand’Anse, aims to reduce social inequality and improve the farmers’ standard of living.
As a member of Konbit Peyizan Grand’Anse, Florestal pays a small amount to benefit from technical trainings, facilities and other services, such as seed distribution.
Government officials recognize that although