18 Feb Our Mantra: Diversity is A key to sustainability by gordon clark, Board member and horticultural advisor
Our Mantra: Diversity Is A Key to Sustainability
Growing a diverse set of crops is important as PHF moves towards the goal of self-sustainability. It’s a modern version of “Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket”. This issue came home to roost (so to speak) last year when there was a crop failure of plantain on two farms: one by flooding, the other one by over-mature plantain plants. This is not just a problem in developing countries; the same issue effects North American farmers whose wheat, soybean or even apples may get destroyed in a few minutes by a hail storm. Fortunately, for farmers in the USA, there is the option of buying crop insurance. Not so in Haiti.
A crop rotation plan being developed by PHF and H4H will help protect income from crop failure, a glut of a crop in the markets and will improve the soil.
As most readers know, fruit trees are planted on the farms; limes, mangos, and soursops (which are better than the name implies) and native breadfruit to be gleaned. Between the rows of the young trees, vegetable and legume crops can be grown as a cash crop and in the case of legumes to feed the soil.
A history lesson from my family: My grandfather (who was born in 1881) was a farmer who grew mostly onions, potatoes, and asparagus. The produce would be sent to Boston by train. A pattern developed that most of the farmers would concentrate on one crop; say potatoes. So, everyone would grow potatoes and the price would drop. When the next planting season came around, they would plant onions because they didn’t make any money from potatoes: you can guess the outcome, onion prices dropped. My grandfather was smarter than that; he would grow onions when everyone was growing potatoes and vice versa. These same dynamics work in Haiti and other developing countries. I’ve seen cabbage crops in Kenya that all mature at the same time. If the crop had matured 10 days earlier, the farmer would have gotten 5x the price than he got when his crop matured.
Another way PHF will move to sustainability, will be to preserve crops by making breadfruit into flour, peanuts into peanut butter, drying moringa seeds to make moringa powder, and drying mangos. Besides extending income flow, they will get the benefit of value-added crops. Just think, in the near future people will be eating locally ground breadfruit biscuits fortified with moringa, slathered with peanut butter, served with lime juice and a side of mango and soursop…yummy (and nutritious ).