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Breadfruit cultivation yields results for Haitian women

Members of the Haitian Women’s Federation hold up a breadfruit sapling.

February 7, 2022

By Janice Biehn

Breadfruit ready for harvest.

During the pandemic, PWRDF supported several COVID emergency responses in Haiti. One was with Rayjon Share Care Haiti (RSCH), a Sarnia, Ont.-based charity. The partnership has since grown to support a food security project cultivating breadfruit to be milled into flour, which was featured on the cover of the 2021 World of Gifts guide. Breadfruit flour is high in carbohydrates and a good source of energy, protein and dietary fibre. It is used to make bread and other baking.

Working with the Haitian Women’s Federation, RSCH aims to increase food security for families of the 4th and 6th sections of rural Haut de St. Marc, to train and support leaders within the Haitian Women’s Federation and to combat the negative effects of deforestation and climate change through sustainable agriculture. PWRDF is supporting the project with $20,000.

Cooking with breadfruit flour.

Project lead Renaud Thomas has been working with RSCH since September 2018. He is a qualified agronomist with a specialization in the cultivation of breadfruit. The project included restoring and securing mills that had been used for rice and corn. There have also been many, many trips up the rocky mountain path to deliver construction supplies to build two cement cisterns. These will serve as reservoirs to both supply the mills’ equipment with a constant supply of water, as well as irrigate the tree nursery.

Thomas reports that a key part of the success has been empowering the women from the Haitian Women’s Federation. For example, in April 2021, 36 participants received preliminary financial training. This training needed to be extended into the federation, because it was essential that leaders from each zone knew how to manage project funds, track and report expenses, and create their own plans for financial management within their respective organizations. The leaders were very motivated to train the other women, but it was a new experience for many of them, so they needed additional preparation to teach others. Thomas and his staff saw this as an opportunity to strengthen the leadership of the federation for the long-term. By the end of June 2021, the training had been extended to all seven member associations in the seven different villages.                                                                             

In September 2021, the tree nursery foundation was constructed, along with a shade covering. In November 2021, women with specialized training in harvesting collected the roots and stems that are used to cultivate breadfruit saplings.

Thomas trained 14 members of the women’s federation and 11 additional community members. Together they planted one complete bed. (By June 2022, they plan to have 1,000 saplings.) Ready to apply their new skills the women surprised Thomas by planting another bed on their own.

The women also applied chicken manure from a nearby farm to fertilize the breadfruit nursery. Local volunteers also supported the project by digging a latrine. This was no easy feat, as the terrain is solid rock and the volunteers dug by hand with only a pickax! As Rayjon Share Care noted, “they are supportive friends of the women’s federation leaders, believing in what they are doing and proud to be part of this initiative they know will help their whole community.”  

Remaining work includes building a perimeter fence to keep livestock out, and to ensure a plan is in place for the long-term. Eventually the saplings will be transplanted from the tree nursery and into local fields owned by farmers who are collaborating with the federation.

This story first appeared in the February 2022 Under the Sun newsletter.

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For media requests please contact Communications Coordinator Janice Biehn at (416) 924-9199;366.

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