Care for God’s Creation
By Joe Mischka and Linda Noll
“Whenever a stranger comes into a foreign land needing assistance, the first thing that person should do is listen to the people in need. By understanding what they see as their problems and learning what they have tried in the past to solve those problems, we can orient our thinking to helping them find additional solutions.
The farmers of Haiti have inherited a terrible legacy of deforested and exhausted mountainside land, barely able to sustain scanty plantings of beans, maize, sweet potatoes, cassava, okra, and a few other vegetables. Men and women of Belle Fontaine, Haiti, learn their farming techniques at the side of their parents who learned from their ancestors. Most clear a plot of land, turning over the soil by swinging a heavy mattock, and plant their crops in rows before the rainy seasons of March and October. The wind scours the land, blowing away what little dirt and organic matter is there and when the rains come in earnest, they can wash away the soil, seed and sprouting plants down the mountain.
A few farmers have come up with better ways. Two of them—both in Ducrabon—are applying gardening techniques that not only preserve the soil but enhance its fertility. Brother André has been managing the gardens of the Little Brothers of Saint Therese in Ducrabon for over seven years and has made substantial positive change on the farmland there. He practices companion planting, erosion control, crop rotation and composting. His gardens look unkempt and wild, but walking with him through them, one is amazed at the bounty being grown. The soil is being preserved and improved and his harvests are bountiful.
Another farmer is Monsieur Sauvier Louis Jean who has many gardens around Ducrabon where he plants a wide variety of vegetables. When he works on a new piece of land, he first plants plantain and banana trees to create shade above and spread roots below. He then applies composted animal manure to the land before planting vegetables such as maize, poi congo beans and cassava. Brother André, Monsieur Sauvier does not worry about clearing a seedbed for his crops. Instead, he plants among the existing grasses and broadleaf plants already growing there. The soil is protected, moisture is retained through the canopy of leaves, and the new plants grow among the “weeds” there.
Both men work hard to teach their fellow farmers how they might be more productive if they change their methods. We have been providing them with resources they need to accomplish that. We have brought thousands of packages of open-pollinated (non-hybrid) vegetable seeds and a variety of gardening implements including grafting tools and tape. When Monsieur Sauvier wished to purchase a cow and bull from another part of Haiti to improve the breeding stock of the cattle there, we raised money to help him purchase the animals and transport them to Ducrabon. And when Father Eddy wanted to create an agricultural development project to help villagers acquire hogs and chickens, we launched a separated fundraising campaign to help pay for it.”
While not part of the Lenten Alms for Haiti funding, it does show how we are learning and supporting our brother and sister Haitian farmers. They can learn from us as well. As the Catholic Social Teaching: Care for God’s Creation says, “We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. (Whether in Haiti or the U.S.), we are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.”
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Renmen Bondye, Sèvi Lòt Moun, Fòm Disip
Love God, Serve Others, Form Disciples.