City: Turpin

14 pre-med and science students from Evangel University joined Convoy of Hope's Agriculture Initiative in Haiti to help provide education to local Haitian farmers. 14 pre-med and science students from Evangel University joined Convoy of Hope's Agriculture Initiative in Haiti to help provide education to local Haitian farmers.

What does education carry?

When we stepped into the church building in Turpin on a mild morning, 55 men and women were already seated on the narrow wooden benches, ready to learn. This particular Convoy of Hope Agriculture training session was one of four that we conducted in Haiti that week. We had a group of 14 pre-med and science students from Evangel University with us. Each of them had prepared to teach topics, ranging from basic plant nutrition to pest control methods, to new farmers in our ongoing seed program. It was an invaluable opportunity for everyone involved.

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When I look back on this week, a few things stand out to me that highlighted the significance of this trip, and of education.

I can picture the eagerness in the eyes of the Haitian farmers as they drank in the information that we gave them about how to make their crops grow well, so that they can provide for their families.

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I can see the kids filling up the doorways on either side of the church building, their curiosity getting the best of them as they passed by.

I also see the initial hesitancy on the faces of the university students as they stepped outside of their comfort zones and became the teachers, and then the way that their enthusiasm blossomed as the trainings progressed. There is a special joy that comes from having the opportunity to teach something meaningful, that you’ve learned, to others.

As a recent college graduate and someone who loves learning, these feelings are all familiar to me. I know, first hand, the worth of a good education. It is something that many people do not have access to all over the world. It is something that people are willing to pay a great price for, whether that is taking out thousands of dollars in loans or making the lengthy journey on foot to get to a place of learning. An education is something that these 14 university students from southwest Missouri now have in common with just over 3,400 farmers in the mountains of Haiti and beyond through our Agricultural Initiatives—and that number keeps growing.

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Our Agriculture program at Convoy of Hope provides many tangible resources to our farmers in Haiti but what I am most passionate about is that we are able to provide expertise in agriculture that has all but disappeared from the country. I believe that this education is the irreplaceable tool that we can place in their hands to create sustainable change. Although the resources that we can provide eventually reach a limit, education carries immeasurable potential. It is a long-term investment that can carry over from generation to generation, continuing to provide meals and lift people out of poverty for years to come.

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Agriculture / Program Updates
Haitian bean farmers partnering in the bean experiment. Haitian bean farmers partnering in the bean experiment.

A 5-year bean experiment

As I walked through bean fields in Turpin and Zoranje during Haiti’s last rainy season I realized the crops had contracted a virus. Unfortunately, there is no cure for these plants once infected and this particular infection came in the seed. Think of when you go to the Dr. you get, “sorry, this one’s a nasty virus, you’re just going to have to ride it out.” So, who do I call, what do I do? Standing there I realized that as Convoy of Hope’s director of agriculture initiatives, I could either take on this task or hope that another scientist with the same training at another organization happened to walk in this field and discover the same virus.

Fastforward, we went with option A. Through traditional breeding programs scientists have found virus resistant varieties of black beans. We are now experimenting to see if these varieties can grow in Haiti where food-security is a leading cause and symptom of poverty.

I just got back from Haiti where Convoy of Hope initiated a 5-year experiment and partnership with a team of USDA-ARS scientists and bean breeders. We’re testing 28 varieties of beans so experimental that most of them only have numbers for names. Their promising traits span from higher nutrient value to drought resistance. Over the next 75-80 days we will observe factors like survival, growth and disease-resistance all to determine which variety to breed next. In the end we’ll also evaluate taste, color, market and farmer acceptance, and nutritional value. The ideal is to arrive at a bean that will grow with optimal yield, nutritional make-up and market value.

This little piece of science has the potential to make long-lasting generational change in Haiti, score one for the nerds!

Note: For scientists that just have to know, this is a 5-year experiment set up in a corn/bean rotation as a complete randomized block design with 4 treatments and 3 full replicates.  

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Agriculture / Program Updates