Once again, Haiti has been hit by a natural disaster. Matthew, a Category 4 hurricane has completely ravaged the southern peninsula, one of the most beautiful parts of the island, the region the original indigenous Taino people considered their paradise. The storm’s aftermath has left traumatized and homeless populations, often with no access to potable water or food, without jobs, and with up to 90% of their crops and forests devastated. Among the most decimated communities are places like Beaumont, a principal town for coffee production, Port-Salut and Saint-Louis du Sud, known for their coconuts, Dame-Marie, producer of the best cacao on the island, and Chardonnières, which grows vines, all located in the Parc Macaya area. Villages like Seguin and Belle Fontaine, in the Parc La Visite area, which are the main vegetable production towns in the west, have also been severely damaged. The roads to many of the affected communities are slowly being unblocked, and the first estimates are that 80% of the trees are down in those areas known to be the bread baskets of the country, with the ministry of Agriculture (MARNDR) estimating that nearly 180,000 metric tons of agricultural production (primarily food) have been destroyed by hurricane Matthew, providing just a glimpse of the possible extent of damages that are already estimated at more than USD $1 billion and almost guaranteeing an imminent humanitarian crisis..
There is great concern for the immediate livelihoods of these populations which creates an opportunity for both an immediate response to disaster as well as mid- to long-term informed action, and the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based solutions in order to create innovative and sustainable ways to build new, stronger communities with renewed orchards, crops, and forests that would be ready and able to withstand such natural disasters in the future. We believe that in order to do this we need to empower the local authorities and the local agricultural organizations to do the work themselves, engage in the dreaming and reviving of their communities based on their true local potential, and be the main actors of their own progress, while also being the key promoters of a more sustainable future. Using innovative solutions like GIS, we need to support the local farmers so that they can start replanting immediately and the municipalities can perform a thorough assessment of their needs and resources. We need to Feed the Seeds for Change. Indeed, we literally need to feed the earth and restore the vitality of these formerly vibrant agricultural areas with organic seeds to reforest and plant new crops, but we also need to feed the bodies, minds, and spirits of the affected populations by nurturing the seeds for sustainable development, self determination and community building which will ensure that citizens thrive rather than simply survive the inevitable challenges to come. Thus, Feed the Seeds for Change will work on parallel levels; one facet of the program will address local farmers, facilitating the acquisition of non GMO seeds and their landscaping and planting needs, the second layer of the program will feed the minds of vulnerable communities by working with municipalities, civil society and youth communities to provide capacity building and technical assistance in order to build better more resilient and prosperous towns. Finally, we will feed the spirit by encouraging “collective spaces” intended for community dialogues, concerts and cultural “gestalt” activities that honor our ancient and inherent need to connect with each other, share our stories and together, imagine a new and positive future scenario for Haiti. Conceived as a consortium led by Fondation Espoir , the Feed the Seeds for Change program speaks to the universal truth that we are all connected. If we are to build sustainable communities, local government must enable itself and its citizens to work in concert as a safeguard to ensure economic and social resilience in the face of future shocks. .