The Agronomy Committee works to improve the daily lives of impoverished families living in Gros Morne and area reforestation efforts through its support of the Grepen Agronomy Center (more formally known as the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center), the principal site for MFOH-supported agronomy programs. The Grepen Center is a collaboration of the agronomy team of Caritas of the parish of Gros Morne, the Montfortian Priests and the Religious of Jesus and Mary. A team of agronomists and agronomy technicians assist farmers, their families and local peasant organizations in addressing food insecurity issues and work to support reforestation in the community.
The many programs that the Grepen Center supports include:
In past years, the mountains of Gros Morne were stripped of trees, which led to mudslides and avalanches during the annual heavy rainy seasons. The agronomy program has already planted well over 200,000 saplings on the mountains. The agronomists continue to guide large crews of Haitians and other volunteers to plant saplings throughout the area. The tree nursery at Grepen Center supports this endeavor which produces approximately 60,000 trees each year.
A widespread effort is underway to teach families how to plant and maintain productive vegetable gardens for family food and marketable income. The Grepen team provides individual and group education to support families in this effort. The climate—alternating between seasons that are very dry and then marked by heavy rains—necessitates instruction in water collection systems and management. At present, many families have vegetable gardens in the yards of their small huts. These gardens, and those at the Fon Ibo Primary School and Maison Bon Samaritain, are acquiring sustainable productivity.
At Grepen Center’s seed bank, bulk purchases of good quality, biodiverse seed are made when seeds are cheaper and then distributed to farmers, who then return a certain quantity to the seed bank after they harvest their crop. The seed bank has been a significant source of support for farmers in difficult situations, such as drought.
|Sweet Potato Weevil Eradication
The Grepen Center agronomists work with farmers on techniques for growing hearty crops. One of their goals has been to bring sweet potato production back to the high levels attained before weevils began damaging crops. Sweet Potatoes are an especially important crop as they are a staple in the diet of most Haitians. The agronomists provide participating farmers with weevil-free shoots for the sweet potatoes, pheromone traps, and training to boost productivity.
|Family Enterprise Program
Grepen Center works side by side families in Gros Morne who want to improve their lives through initiatives such as chicken and goat breeding. This helps provide the family with a source for food and income. The Grepen team provides extensive training to the family in breeding, care and shelter of the animals. In return, families give back some of the new animals that are born to distribute to the next series of families.
Keeping the animals healthy is an important part of the Grepen Center program, so a mobile vet clinic was established, and regular visits are made by Grepen Center’s vet technicians who provide vaccination and treatment services and also teach the families preventative animal-care practices.