In 1788 Haiti was responsible for half the worlds coffee supply.

Ants…

Effaizien Sorting Out AntsEffaizien Sorting Out Ants. Bois Jolie. 2015. [photo: Hunter Swenson]

Scott Summer Holding Ant Collection Tubes.dngScott Summer Holding Ant Collection Tubes. Bois Jolie, 2015. [photo: Hunter Swenson]

In 1788 Haiti was responsible for half the worlds coffee supply.

Yesterday at Bois Jolie, I spent the morning with the biodiversity team, one part of the Zamni Kafe team. It was extremely interesting. What they — Scott Summers and Gaenina Fripp — are doing is measuring what types of ants are present in a sample of farms and what type of bait they are attracted to. Now this may not seem so important, so I asked the very obvious question, “So what?”

Their answers were at first technical, which I did not follow nor would I be able to accurately repeat. However, the big picture of what this research can do for the coffee project is, quite simply, amazing. Every gardener knows that certain annoying bugs — aphids, scale insects, and leaf miners, talking to you — eat plants and can cause them to become unhealthy and often die. Some of the kafe plants are being attacked by these annoying bugs. So how do farmers protect against this? Insecticides. Insecticides however, are equivalent to a nuclear bomb — they do not discern the good from the bad. But what if that was not needed, what if nature — carnivores ants — could protect plants from the annoying bugs. This is a possible implicating from the biodiversity team’s data.

Of course this is pure speculation, as that would need control testing, and the biodiversity team is only in the data gathering stages right now; but what if? What if we could use ants to protect the kafe that is grown in Bois Jolie? There are also ants that can protect the kafe plants from rust, a nasty fungus present in Bois Jolie; for there are ants located in South America that do just that. All these what if’s all spring from one morning, just walking, talking, and collecting.

This study and the Zamni Foto and Zamni Kafe projects are like ants, appearing small and viewed as insignificant, but are, in reality, incredibly important. Zamni Foto is providing families with a way to document their lives and enrich communities via the discussion of photos. Zanmi Kafe is providing scientific data that can lead to a huge impact on the coffee growing process in Haiti. To give perspective to this, in a study done by Landell Mills Development Consultants showed that in 2008, Haiti produced 35,000 metric tons, or approximately 77,161,792 pounds of coffee. According to the same study, Haiti has increased it’s coffee production by 20.7% since 2004. Therefore, the Kafe project matters because, a) it is affecting how coffee is grown in Bios Jolie, and b) it has the potential to effect how coffee is grown throughout Haiti.

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