June Newsletter

The Molas Agroforestry Program

In mid-April, Two Mules applied for an Episcopal Care of Creation (2021) grant to fund a multi-year agroforestry program in the L’Acul region of Haiti. The Molas Agroforestry Program (MAP) is designed to address the critical problem of deforestation, severe erosion and agricultural shortages among Haitian farming families in the western Artibonite. The program will assist local Haitian farmers in planting thousands of tree seedlings to replace the severely depleted natural forests with a program that integrates the reforestation effort into the existing agricultural system. Plantings will include a selection of indigenous trees for fuel (firewood) and fruit, and understory crops such as coffee, as well as garden vegetables. The goal is to design and introduce an agricultural system that will create a sustainable source of fuel, reduce soil erosion, restore depleted organic content to the soil, and encourage composting and regenerative farming practices. Partnering with Two Mules on this project are the Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, NC (https://holyfamilych.org/), the Vassar Haiti Project, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY (https://thehaitiproject.org/), the Haiti Reforestation Partnership, Charlottesville, VA (https://haitireforest.org/), and the Community of the Franciscan Way, Little Way Farm (https://littlewayfarmsilercity.com/).

Impact of the program on the Haitian community and partners

The Bon Samaritain Episcopal Parish, in the L’Acul Communal Section of the Gros-Morne Arrondissement, includes four communities that have Episcopal churches and schools (Beauvois, Fiervil, Molas and Cher Maitre). The Parish is home to about 500 farming families who are descended from enslaved Africans brought to San Domingue (Haiti) in the colonial period to work in the French sugar cane plantations. Following one of the most extraordinary revolutions in modern history, the sovereign nation of Haiti was established in 1804 and became a beacon of hope and inspiration for enslaved and colonized people throughout the New World. However, despite innumerable recent development programs, government support is practically nonexistent for rural farming communities. Although the peasant farmers are politically disempowered, desperately poor, and face extreme challenges, they remain strongly bonded to one another and to the land they farm.

The deforestation of Haiti’s land began with aggressive efforts during the colonial era to extract from it as much wealth as possible.
Environmental degradation is now carried on as desperate ecocide by families struggling to satisfy their need for fuel for cooking, timber for building, and cash for food, medical care, and education. A recent study by the World
Bank indicates that 93 percent of people in Haiti (2.2 million households) cook with solid fuels (firewood or charcoal). Recent estimates indicate that at least 70 percent of Haiti is deforested as a result of the extraction of wood for fuel, and this has led to massive soil erosion and topsoil depletion.

The Molas Agricultural Program will form partnerships between Haitian farmers, trained agronomists, and supporting partners in the US. Two Mules will work with local teachers to develop instructional modules for primary and secondary schools and will support women’s groups to foster adult education programs using existing Episcopal Church schools in the area as focal points for community organization. Please reach out to us if you have an interest in partnering in this program and support us as you are able.

Outline of Program Goals

• Organize local community groups to create awareness and provide a better understanding of the benefits of reforestation and regenerative farming methods necessary to develop self-managed, sustainable forest resources.
• Develop training programs within local schools for youth, women’s groups, and adult laborers to learn about soil conservation and composting, nursery and seedling management, agroforestry planting methods and forest management.
• Collect and provide seed stock for timber and fruit trees, coffee, and food plants.
• Set up nurseries and start seedlings in transplantable containers.
• Transplant approximately 21,000 forest trees and 15,000 coffee seedlings over a 3-year period, with appropriate native species being used.
• Provide access to a locally managed lending institution providing microloans for agroforestry-related expenses (such as land purchases, farm leases, and hiring labor).

Microfinancing program

In March and April 2021, board members of Two Mules developed a proposal to capitalize and set up a microfinance program to serve rural farming communities in the L’Acul Communal Section of Haiti. This would function in conjunction with a reforestation and regenerative farming initiative, the Molas Agroforestry Program. The microfinance and the agroforestry programs will engage a number of partner organizations, including the Fondasyon Melina (a local Haitian nonprofit), the Haiti Vassar Project, and the Haiti Reforestation Partnership. The microfinancing program will operate under the direction of the Fondasyon Mélina, an NGO operating in Artibonite Department. A committee composed of Fondasyon Melina’s board members will administer the program under the direction of Rev. Andre Wildaine, Episcopal priest and Two Mules board member. This committee will be charged with identifying, selecting and approving loans to local community members to sustain their farming needs and support small business start-ups. A local bank, KDAG, will provide the appropriate loan documents, pay out the loans to the borrowers, and monitor and track repayments in order to ensure that the capital is replenished. Seventy loans, each averaging $200 dollars, are expected be repaid within a year from the date of receipt. Forbearance will of course be extended if conditions, such as severe weather events, make repayment impossible. A small interest payment will be charged to each borrower that will be used to pay bank fees and offset losses resulting from defaulted loans. Even with only a modest interest charge, there is hope that this resource will
provide a critical asset for many generations. Although the St. Luke’s Episcopal Foundation elected not to fund this project in 2021, the Grant Committee expressed interest, and we intend to follow up with future proposals. We also plan submit applications to other grant-making agencies. If you would like to partner with Two Mules in this program, please email  (twomulesforhaiti@gmail.com) or make a donation online.

UNC Graduate Student Practicum in Global Public Health

Two Mules’ mission is to link rural Haitian communities with partner organizations and individuals to improve education, healthcare, agriculture and reforestation, has just taken a giant step forward. Ms. Lunide Sylne, graduate student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill, and native of Les Cayes, Haiti, is a candidate for a Master of Science in Public Health. Lunide’s ambition is to work in the public health sector in Haiti, and she has agreed to intern with Two Mules in a summer practicum to develop a proposal for a pilot sanitation project for the L’Acul region. The internship will entail the preparation of a grant proposal that will be used to solicit funding support for a largescale sanitation project to improve conditions in several rural communities. The project will assess community needs, collaborate on designing appropriate systems, promote education, and assist in improving sanitation in homes and schools. Ms. Sylne’s expertise will be invaluable in designing a program proposal to develop and implement culturally and technologically appropriate systems, and with your help Two Mules will support her in this initiative.

Spring-fed water point at Molas.

This is an excellent opportunity to improve health conditions for hundreds of farming families in Haiti, while simultaneously supporting Ms. Sylne in furthering her education. To cover expenses during the practicum, which starts this month, we urgently request your help. Please consider making a donation today.