Poverty is everywhere in Haiti. Rural children go barefoot and suffer from malnutrition. High unemployment, lack of infrastructure and political instability take their toll. In the mountains, the land lays barren, the soil is depleted. When Haitian plant food, the new plants wash away in the rains.
Mountain Majesty: The History of CODEP Haiti Where Sustainable Agricultural Development Works tells the story of an inspiring sustainable agricultural development project that began with the recognition by Jack Hanna that the solution to poverty in Haiti’s Cormier Valley region lay in addressing the entire watershed, not just a few local gardens. CODEP Haiti, during its 25-year history, has championed reforestation and soil erosion control along with creative solutions to engaging locals and, ultimately, converting a church subsidized development program into a self-sustaining, locally managed enterprise.
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Is it possible to change the world through sustainable agricultural development?
Mountain Majesty: The History of CODEP Haiti Where Sustainable Agricultural Development Works takes an in-depth look at a unique organization that has improved the lives of thousands of rural Haitians through sustainable agricultural development.
Together, Jack and Evelyn Hanna embarked on their dream retirement. They outfitted a boat to cruise the Caribbean islands and planned to do volunteer work where they could. But a chance encounter with a desperate Barbadian woman challenged their assumptions and ultimately changed the course of countless lives from another island in the region.
Rural Haitian kids often go hungry. They wear tattered clothing and have no shoes. Many people suffer from malnutrition and severe poverty. Hurricanes, floods, deforestation and soil erosion, coupled with political instability, high unemployment and a lack of infrastructure conspire to prevent them from being able to grow enough food to feed their families.
In Haiti’s Cormier Valley, Jack saw the terrain – “huge patches of completely barren land—no trees, huge gullies, no soil—incapable of sustaining life, plant or animal” – and recognized that the only way to help the people of the Cormier Valley was to address the whole watershed area through sustainable agriculture.
CODEP was brought to life by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), working with local Haitians and NGOs. They embarked on an ambitious reforestation and erosion control project to ultimately improve the economic conditions for rural Haitians in the Cormier Valley.
Sustainable agricultural development is challenging work, but locals saw first-hand just what it could do for their community. They dug ditches and bolstered mountainsides. They germinated, grew and planted trees. They overcame interference from goats, insects and embargos. They upgraded infrastructure and slowly secured additional land for planting.
CODEP has encouraged responsible ecological stewardship and reaping the benefits of long-term rewards. Their project solutions are more attractive than the common practice of cutting down trees for charcoal and some quick cash. As a result, CODEP is one of the more successful agricultural development projects in Haiti, and possibly in the world.
Nowadays, beautiful fruit trees grow in the forest shade and the people of Cormier Valley are healthier than ever before.
Mountain Majesty: The History of CODEP Haiti Where Sustainable Agricultural Development Works documents this fascinating change from environmental degradation to habitat redemption, where environmental rehabilitation led to the restoration of human dignity.
A deeply personal story, Mountain Majesty profiles leaders and participants like the Haitians Edvy and Nwèl and project architects Jack and Rodney, exploring their lives, motivations and actions.
It also addresses the management issues that non-profits and church mission projects often face.
- How can we really help the people we want to help?
- How do we secure more funding?
- How do we ensure stakeholder participation?
- How can we identify and develop local leaders?
- How do we adequately set goals and measure progress?
- How can we keep donors happy?
- How do we balance competing interests?
- How do we keep moving forward when the founder leaves?
- How do we ensure sustainability?
These are some of the questions that keep nonprofits awake at night, and some of the lessons offered by this book.
Mountain Majesty: A History of CODEP Haiti Where Sustainable Agricultural Development Works is a fascinating look at what it takes to change the world.