Responsive means Flexibility

Responsive means Flexibility

Responding to change is often difficult but necessary in all aspects of our personal and work lives. Changing social and economic patterns in Haiti require us to constantly be aware of the micro and macro levels in which we operate and respond in this country’s environment. Communicating with our community partners and associates and maintaining an awareness of recent political developments is part of the perpetual role of discerning our presence as a research and student participatory, liberal arts university from the U.S. How does a volatile economy and political unrest in Haiti effect remote farmers and the agencies that assist them? How is our partnership effected in this climate?

On our recent visit to Haiti, May 19-23, 2019, we were acutely aware of how some things quickly change and others change over time.

Evaluating Zamni Kafe

Zanmi Kafe’ began in 2013 when the farmers of the remote zone of Bois Joli wanted to grow coffee, a crop their ancestors raised successfully. With the assistance of Sewanee’s faculty member Dr. Deborah McGrath and the Outreach Program administered by S. Dixon Myers, a long-lasting and meaningful relationship developed with this community. Providing detailed supervision, students of the university and students from the Haitian school CFFL (Center for Formation Fritz LaFontant located at Zanmi Agrikol) have helped build two nurseries, measured thousands of farmer’s plants, provided agro-forestry research and begun a carbon sequestration program linked to successful re-forestation practices.

Six years of data collection show unexpected but hopeful results. Some farms are better suited for coffee and others show gains with other species. “My intuition and experience told me it was not solely about the coffee, although it was the emphasized crop,” said McGrath. “Coffee is a finicky plant, it requires proper canopy, rainfall, elevation, slope, soil; a lot of variables go into making it grow.” “The farmers realize this and have made adaptations to other crops, a sign that our mutual respect of knowledge is working,” accentuated McGrath.

Recent data shows that of the surviving plants within the forty-four farm co-operative, typica coffee variety is down overall, but other species have greatly increased.

Surviving trees planted (9% more Acajou & Ced)-

            2014                2018

            6114                6661               

Number of Acajou & Ced trees planted (up 500%)-

            2014                2018

            168                  1135               

            285                  1031

Dresser being manufactured at Zanmi Agrikol. Acajou is a furniture grade wood similar to Honduran Mahogany.

Farmer Jean Nelson standing next to a Ced tree. Their straight and sturdy form make them useful as supports in concrete construction.

Micro change represented in Bois Joli means responding with research and new ideas-

*Carbon sequestration payments are curtailing tree-cutting in Bois Joli, but trees will continue to be cut in the country for charcoal use. Are some farms best suited for charcoal species trees, cut for that purpose?

*What is the demand for Acajou in furniture manufacturing?

*What is the future for subsistence farming versus cash crops?

*One hundred Maya nut seedlings were planted. What is the market for this product?

Maya nut seedling. Seeds supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service seed bank in Miami.

May 2019- seedlings in the nursery include: Cacao, Acajou, Ced, Papaya, Inga, Coffee, and Breadfruit.

Diversity in the Bois Joli nursery shows that coffee is not the dominant species as dictated by the farmers.

Understanding Zamni Agrikol’s re-organization

Zanmi Agrikol was established in 2013 with the purpose of ending malnutrition by teaching Haitians excellent agricultural practices and equipping them with the tools they need to thrive.

Founded by Gillaine and Charles Warne of Greenville, South Carolina, the administration of the facility is under the direction of Reginald Cean of Haiti. Reginald holds an MBA from The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University with a concentration on Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Management. He was selected to be a recipient of the Latin American and Caribbean Social Leadership Scholarship Program sponsored by Kellogg Foundation. He holds a B.A. in Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources from EARTH University in Costa Rica. Prior to his MBA, he served as the director of the agriculture program at Zanmi Agrikol. He also taught courses on tropical agriculture and soil conservation using a hands-on ‘’learn by doing” approach. In addition to these endeavors, he worked as consultant for MercyCorps FONKOZE and RACADAMA in Haiti. He has worked in a number of research projects with Virginia Tech on soil conservation, Rhizobium inoculation with the University of Puerto Rico and peanut production.

Under his guidance, a re-vitalized Mission Statement and Core Value outline have been established.


Zanmi Agrikol works to enable human development through education and community outreach programs, applied agricultural research, food security, and entrepreneurship.


Science and Technology




Social and Moral Responsibility

The director’s emphasis on ethics and social and moral responsibility is an effort to instill these values within the culture of the school as foundational qualities for all disciplines. He says in Haiti, the one percent at the top of the socio-economic ladder are not giving of their services to the greater good, and that must change. We must teach our youth how to give back.

Zanmi Agrikol is divided into two basic departments, the CFFL school and the FAP, (Farmer Assistance Program). Director Cean notes that Sewanee’s Bois Jolis program is a model for agroforestry monitoring and research and wants to replicate this and build on the success of this partnership.Teaching these techniques has been part of Sewanee’s summer student intern program.

FAP has historically supplied farmers with animals, tools and seeds. With assistance from Sewanee he wants to add trees to this program. He also wants to add two hundred farmers to FAP, twenty in Bois Joli and twenty in the zone of Morne Michel, a location Sewanee has been marginally associated.

Additional ideas to be considered are a “farmer to farmer” training program and species selection development. Some farmers have displayed highly skilled farming techniques that can be taught to other growers in the zone. Director Cean said “people can be eating all day long and still suffer from malnutrition, we can provide help in crop selection.” These are two very valuable considerations for the future.

Zanmi Agrikol staff meet with Dr. Deborah McGrath, graduated Sewanee student Cal Oakley and S. Dixon Myers.

Student participation- Sewanee & CFFL

Sewanee was unable to send student researchers to Haiti this summer due to political uncertainty. The reliability on CFFL students and their training then becomes much more critical. In May, Cal Oakley, class of 2019, accompanied Dr. McGrath, Dixon Myers and Pradip Malde to Haiti. Because of his past experience as a summer intern and Spring Break participant in Haiti, Cal was able to conduct a one-day GPS (global positioning system) learning session with six CFFL students.

Sewanee graduate ’19 Cal Oakley teaches how to use GPS devices to CFFL students, May 2019.

CFFL and Sewanee students at nursery in March 2018.

Sewanee’s student participation will suffer a short-term setback because the cycle of recruitment from Spring Break participants to summer internships did not occur this year. That being said, interest and enthusiasm in Haitian coffee production and Caribbean development work still exists among students who participated in the Jamaica experience. This was documented in the Haiti blog post, ‘Coffee in the Caribbean.” Several students, including Crystal Ngo (Jamaica ’19, Haiti ’17, Haiti summer intern ’18, and Panama study abroad ’18) will be interested in Haiti leadership opportunities for 2019-20 which will add to her increasing body of work in this field.

Haiti’s political and economic challenges

An earthquake, periodic hurricane damage and political uncertainty have plagued Haiti on a macro level. Changing relationships with different organizations and personnel, as well as programmatic re-focusing has marked the micro operational participation over Sewanee’s fifteen-year tenure in the country. Ups and downs on both levels translates to being flexible and responding to change. The future of the Haiti Institute in Sewanee will be judged by its perseverance in maintaining strong relationships with its community partners, farmers and students.

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