Friday, February 25, 2011

From Haiti With Love

As most of you know, I have been fortunate to travel quite a lot in my time at the University of Georgia. As a Masters student I was involved in a project in Costa Rica, and currently for my assistantship as a Doctoral candidate, I am involved in a project based in Haiti.

Partners-In-Health Logo
As a graduate assistant, I currently work in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Office of Global Programs. In general, our office is responsible for all CAES study abroad programs, international visitors and researchers and establishing relationships with international organizations and universities. In response to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, a group of individuals from the College of Ag, related programs, and League of Hope (an Atlanta-based non-profit), travelled to Haiti the following March. During their trip they explored the country and spoke with local Haitians, seeking to find a way in which they could help a desperate country. Upon their return to Georgia, it was agreed that their expertise could be provided in the form of a “virtual extension system”.

Evidence Of Extreme Soil Erosion Due To Deforestation
Currently Georgia has a system called Distance Diagnostics through Digital Imaging (DDDI), in which Cooperative Extension agents can submit questions and samples for evaluation by UGA specialists through an online system. Questions can cover a broad spectrum of ideas (from how to take care of an orchid to what disease is killing my corn crop). The overall idea of the system is that anyone across the state of Georgia can bring in a plant, picture, or question to a local county extension agent, the extension agent would collect information from the individual about their request, fill out a form in the online system, and then submit the sample/question. Once submitted, the system would route the submission to the appropriate specialist who would then evaluate the sample, and ultimately send their answered submission back to the extension agent. The basic premise of this system is that anyone in the state can take advantage of the knowledge and expertise at UGA through Cooperative Extension and the DDDI system.

The Church Banner At Partners-In-Health

A Private Concert From Local Children

In February 2011, a team (including myself) traveled to Haiti. The overarching goal of the trip was to set up the first-ever DDDI system in Haiti and train local agronomists how to use the system. The first system was set up in Cange, Haiti at the Partners-In-Health compound (the same one as mentioned in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains). The trip was overwhelmingly successful and we are very excited to see what will come out of this adventure. Ideally the system will provide an opportunity for local farmers to increase their crop yields, thus increasing their profit, and in the long-term allow Haiti to become a country that will be able to meet the basic need of providing food for its people, rather than relying on foreign aid.

Partners-In-Health's Farm  

Another View Of The Farm Run By Local Haitian Farmers

A Man Waters His Horse Down By The River

Although I would consider myself a fairly well-traveled individual in Latin American and the Caribbean, my eyes have never before seen the amount of poverty that exists in Haiti. Most individuals live on less than a dollar a day, and struggle to meet their own basic needs. In a country that cries out so desperately for stability and self sufficience, I can only hope that the system we established during our trip will be received well by the locals, and used effectively to help meet some of their needs.

Locals Traveling to the Market

Locals Visit the River to Carry Water Back to Their Home
In the coming months our team hopes to establish two additional DDDI sites in Haiti. We hope that funding, planning, and travel dates will align soon to help us continue the work that we have started. I will try and keep everyone updated on our progress!

All My Love,