Ti Mango's Living Pantry: Growing Food Security in Kabay
Judiuc Lundi was born in Haiti in the mango season. His mother called him Ti Mango, or “little mango” in Creole, and the nickname stuck. Ti Mango proudly shows off his thriving garden in the agricultural community of Kabay, tucked into the rolling hills of Haiti’s Artibonite department.
Ti Mango’s plot of land extends down the slope of a hill into an unevenly formed valley, demonstrating the skill that rural farmers like him must possess to farm such tough mountainous terrain in Haiti. His garden is protected by a combination of barbed wire, individually cut posts, and planted trees meticulously crafted to keep free-grazing animals, like goats, from getting in. Hard work, planning, and knowledge went into his well-diversified, well-designed garden.
Although Ti Mango’s garden looks great now, it wasn’t always that way. As with many MCC project participants, a combination of drought, deforestation, and ineffective agricultural practices had gradually reduced the quality of his land. The resulting soil was nutrient-poor, susceptible to erosion and, subsequently, low crop yields. Typically, only one or two crops could be harvested each year; after that, the land sat unused until the following year. Without fencing, free-grazing goats left loose by community members to forage for food could enter his garden and eat his crops. Free-grazing animals, poor land management, risky planting practices, and nutrient-deficient soil all combine to create severe food insecurity for subsistence farmers. And small, hard-to-access communities like Kabay are among those most vulnerable.
Ti Mango's family is one of 208 participating in MCC’s work in the Kabay area. Through a Canadian Foodgrains Bank project, MCC has been working in Kabay and 21 other communities in the central Artibonite since April 2014. This large five-year project focuses on agroforestry, reforestation, seed banking, and kids’ clubs providing environmental and nutritional education.
Working with local staff and communities out of its rural office in Desarmes, MCC has worked with farmers to increase food security through trainings on improved agroforestry techniques. Ten days a year, participants come together to learn and practice new agricultural methods, which can be put into three broad categories: soil management (rotating crops, planting corn and sorghum to provide material for mulching, and composting organic materials), garden design (berms, terracing, fencing, water management), and plant choice (intercropping and crop diversity). One MCC staff member described the goal of the agroforestry techniques as creating a “food pantry,” the idea being that each farmer could go into their garden at any time throughout the year and pick something to eat, thus preventing malnutrition and hunger.
Although the implementation of the project varies from community to community, the basic practices are the same. In Ti Mango’s community, Kabay, MCC has implemented a community-wide approach designed to involve the entire population. Local community-run seed banks were established in the first year of the project and are now co-managed by a local MCC staff member and 15 elected community leaders. The bank allows members to save seed grains from their harvest and retrieve them throughout the following year as needed. This safe storage option effectively preserves the hard-earned value of their harvest. In the past, without any reliable storage options, crops generally had to be sold immediately at harvest (when prices were at their lowest) and repurchased for consumption and replanting at higher prices as needed. The model developed in Kabay consists of concentrating on a few of the poorest and most at-risk communities rather than individual at-risk people spread over dozens of communities, and includes seed banking and co-operative group formation training in addition to reforestation, kids clubs, and agroforestry work. This model proved such a strong success in terms of both impact and cost efficiency that this approach will be replicated over the next two years in the nearby mountain communities of Wopisa, Champyon, and Lepina.
Today, Ti Mango can go into his garden and cut down sugar cane to eat or sell; he can harvest moringa leaves to add vitamins and nutrients to the day’s meal, or he can choose from his living pantry of mangoes, okra, yams, plantains, and beans. Like Ti Mango, participants from the agroforestry project not only have nutritional diversity, they also have food security.
To read more about MCC's work in the community of Kabay, Haiti:
Adam Heisey is the Disaster Response and Agricultural Monitoring and Evaluations Coordinator for MCC Haiti. Originally from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, Adam studied Economics and Psychology at Messiah College and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali and Benin before taking on his role with MCC.