As this is my first time working with Zanmi Agrikol in Haiti, I have experienced a lot of firsts in the last two and a half weeks. One such first has been conducting farm surveys in Bois Jolie and Morne Michel. This past Tuesday, Conner and I were tasked with surveying one of the far-away farms in Bois Jolie that had not been surveyed in the spring. We were greeted warmly by the elderly woman to whom the farm belonged and with no time to waste, she hastened through the landscape. After about twenty minutes of struggling to keep up with her on the slick terrain, the woman looked back at us with a sly smile and pointed off in the distance, indicating to us the location of her farm, which appeared to be two ridge lines away.
To say the least, I was relieved when we finally made it to the farmer’s house and were able to begin working on her farm. However, I was quickly taken aback when we began surveying the trees. Although there was an abundance of large ced and akajou canopy trees, the farmer’s coffee trees were in rough shape, ravaged by scale, a coffee pest. Although I didn’t have time to get to know the elderly farmer well, my brief, but pleasant interactions with her made me think of my own grandmother. I imagined her working on a farm day after day, only to yield an unprofitable harvest. My heart ached for the woman and if I’m being honest, I grew discouraged after performing only my second farm survey ever.
Back at Calusa, our home in Haiti, I shared some of my feelings with the rest of the Sewanee team. They helped view this experience in a more positive light and reminded me that this story is exactly why the work we’re doing here is important. By performing farm surveys, we gain knowledge that will aid farmers, such as the elderly woman in my story, in growing economically viable crops. I’m reminded that success doesn’t happen overnight and there is still much to be gained from the losses. With this mantra in mind, I’m happy to be continuing with the farm surveys in the coming weeks and contributing my part to the long-term success of this project.