Spring Newsletter, 2024

From our perspective here in the states, we can only imagine how difficult things are in Haiti. Conditions haven’t improved much since our fall newsletter. Gang violence in Port au Prince is raging and the effects are felt in towns and rural settlements throughout the country. Our Board members in Gonaives (about three hours, 140 km, from the capital) report that fuel is scarce and very expensive. Although markets are open, everything is in short supply. Schools were closed in January but tentatively reopened in April. Teachers and administrators whose salaries were suspended for many months are thankful to be back to work, but all facets of public and family life have been affected. In the countryside things are a little better; schools have remained open, and Two Mules has continued to engage with folks who are eager to be part of our programs. Although many NGOs have left Haiti, Two Mules are still pulling together.

Community Organizing

We have long understood that community participation is a key element in Two Mules’ programs. To paraphrase Marie-Rose Romain-Murphy, Founder, ESPWA, “Building sustainable solutions to deeply rooted structural socio-economic problems takes more than program delivery capacity building, it requires that we connect with stakeholders in a meaningful manner to transform communities into an aligned and effective ecosystem of actors and initiatives.” And how is an effective ecosystem best nurtured? Our colleague Betsy Wall (FIDA) often points out that the twin demons of fear and mistrust are the main obstacles to changing attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions. This is where our work begins.

In November, Two Mules Executive Director, Wildaine Andre, organized a series of meetings with leaders and members of community organizations from several settlements. The purpose was twofold; to present

information about Two Mules, and to engage community members in considering their goals and objectives. In a report submitted to the board, Wildaine put it this way, “A fundamental part of Two Mules’ mission is that our programs reflect the needs of communities and the people living in them. Our philosophy is to address these needs in an intelligent way to protect our donors’ investments in ways that create a sustainable environment and a stable economy for families. Our approach is to see that the people for whom our programs are created participate in the development of the plan and in decision-making. Two Mules role is not to say what is good for people and their community, but to encourage communities to express their needs and participate in all decisions.”  

In a day-long workshop, Wildaine laid out Two Mules’ goals for education, agriculture, microfinance, and healthcare as outlined in a five-year strategic plan approved by the board in January. Our programs and prospective projects were presented, and participants were asked to respond and identify their most important issues. Participants responded passionately and whole-heartedly about each program area with their experiences, concerns, and ideas.

Education. In balance, the consensus was that education is critically important. Respondents noted the importance of Two Mules’ scholarship program for grade-school students and asked if might be possible to expand this to support high schoolers, and those hoping to attend university. Jeanne Saintilus (Mrs. Anicet) expressed her gratitude to Two Mules for the work done through education and said that in her community she motivates parents to help children study and do homework. She explained how work in education shapes the community keeps it alive. She added that because some parents have been able to support their children’s education with scholarships, communities now have doctors, nurses, agronomists, priests, accountants, engineers, lawyers, teachers, and many others.

There was also considerable interest in forming an adult literacy program as well as technical training in agriculture and other vocational subjects.

Agroforestry.Agriculture and reforestation were the next most important areas of concern. Communities are ready and willing to construct nurseries for fruit and fuel-producing trees and are prepared to mobilize existing community organizations in the reforestation effort. They are enthusiastic about exploring better ways to obtain seeds and expand markets and are eager to receive technical training.

They understand the potential for developing coffee plantations in the higher elevations and are keen to work on this. Daniel Alfrenat said that the objectives of Two Mules are close to those of other NGOs that worked in the region before the violence began. He went on to say that by supporting peasants and building community infrastructure we can work together to overcome the current challenges of deforestation and the problem of seeds for farmers. Pastor Mareus Avantout proposed that we “go towards” the environment because the life of all the families in the community is supported by agriculture.

He spoke of the need to revive reforestation and support farmers. The other participants supported him, saying that their entire focus was on agriculture and the trade derived from agriculture.

Microloans. Access to low-interest loans is another area of concern. Mrs. Joana said: “While we are talking about all these important projects, waiting to implement them or during the implementation, the women who are the pillars of the families will need to feed the houses. They need to have a little money in their hands (pou vire men yo) to do activities that can create profits to take care of children, houses.” She described the Tipa-Tipa (step-by-step, or little-by-little) concept for cooperatives that women run to strengthen their capacity to provide for their families, and participants proposed the following.

  1. Strengthen cooperatives to get more money into women’s hands, as women are always at the forefront of community development programs.
  2. Assist local organizations by creating management and leadership training programs.
  3. Help find solutions for storing agricultural products to protect farmers’ investments.
  4. Create an agricultural credit source because all families make a living from agriculture.


According to Mareus Avantout, for a strong community and a sustainable economy, we need to combine agriculture and microfinance to support small businesses, women and farmers. These activities will allow families to continue educating the next generation of citizens and will make our programs more sustainable.

WaSH. Water and sanitation hygiene were also of concern to all participants. Rev. Andre characterized the sentiment this way, “for everyone, water is considered life; no life without water.” Many community water supply systems have been maintained by DINEPA, a government agency. With no government support, most of those systems are in disrepair and many springs have dried up. Almost every community represented at the meeting reported water shortages and broken supply systems. As for sanitation and hygiene, teachers and school leaders expressed their gratitude for Two Mules’ latest WaSH training at St. Michel, St. Paul, and Notre Dame schools. They believe it will help prevent disease as it assists schools in strengthening sanitation and hygiene training for children who can help to inform their families.

Health Care. Wildaine reported that the representatives who spoke most about health care were women.

They expressed the importance of the Saint Michel Medical Clinic in Fiervil (funded by the Haiti Project), which is very supportive of the community by providing free medicines, quality care, and training. They encouraged the completion of the solar lab that is under construction at the clinic, so that medication can be available for patients who currently need to go to Tricotte or Gros Morne for treatment. All agreed that it would be helpful to create a vaccination station and a delivery room at the clinic, and to add health workers to the staff.

Thus, Two Mules’ programs were introduced, evaluated, and embraced. Community leaders from several settlements broke into small groups to discuss issues and challenges they hold in common, and then, said Wildiane, the community organizational meeting “ended with the greatest joy and camaraderie.”

Education

In the first year of the WaSH program, we focused on assessing and documenting conditions. We analyzed water quality at several commonly used drinking water sources and conducted a survey of residents to gather information about their routine practices and beliefs about water and sanitation. This year we are focusing on education and the installation of water purification systems at four schools in the Bon Samaritain Episcopal Parish school system. Charles Provins, Two Mules Program Manager, is the heading up this initiative, which he calls Ti Koze Sou WaSH (a little talk about Water and Sanitation Hygiene).

Ti Koze sou WaSH is a water and sanitation training program designed for children, teachers, and adults. Two Mules Program Manager, Charles Provins has written training manuals for teachers and each age group after obtaining online training from CAWST and reviewing resources on the web. He has introduced Kreyol versions of Ti Koze sou WaSH manuals to teachers, high school students, and primary school students and to adults in community meetings.

In February Charlie began working with community leaders from Fiervil, Chermaitre, and Molas, organizing training sessions with teachers at St. Michel, St. Paul, and Notre Dame Episcopal schools. Open community sessions raise awareness about Two Mules’ WaSH program and provide important information about water quality, sanitation, and hygiene. Teacher training introduces a new WaSH curriculum using the Ti Koze sou WaSH manuals. People from Fiervil and several nearby settlements attended the first training session, among them two Community health workers. Charlie is an enthusiastic teacher, and he engages his audience using a participatory method including drawing a WaSH-related image, writing a WaSH-related play for their kids to perform, and including grade-appropriate information for each topic.


On International Women’s Day (March 8), Charlie was honored to be invited to be the keynote speaker at the Womens Association of Fiervil annual event. Here’s how he described it:
“On this occasion I had the opportunity to meet with a wonderful group of people living in and around Fiervil, including 150 women and countless men and boys who attended the celebration. The room was filled with a festive atmosphere and my topic, Ti Koze sou WaSH, was warmly received. Several activities were realized, among them my talk on WaSH and Women. Traditionally, women and girls are responsible for the collection and management of water in the household.

So, they should be the first people to be trained on water (re)contamination, treatment, and storage. It was an opportunity to establish the relationship between the actual situation of the country, and the importance of disease prevention thanks to WaSH practices. Currently, it’s quite impossible to get medicines and medical supplies to the Fiervil area due to roadblocks. It was a crucial opportunity to emphasize the importance of establishing good management practices in order to meet their basic needs and for sustainable development. It was a wonderful experience, and I am looking forward to working with other community women’s groups in the future.”

International Women’s Day celebration of the Fiervil Women’s Association.

over the past several months Charlie has made many trips to the area for WaSH training sessions with teachers and students in several community schools. Grade-appropriate WaSH training manuals are provided for all students and the Ti Koze sou WaSH program is off to a great start!

Agroforestry

Our agroforestry program is also moving ahead. In the first year of the program, the Molas Pwogram Agrikol (MPA), Two Mules sponsored two internships in the Institute for the Environment Eco-Studio program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Student interns were selected for their experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and their semester-long research project used GIS to analyze environmental conditions in the L’Acul-Molas region and map the specific locations within the area having the highest probability of reforestation success. The L’Acul-Molas region is mostly mountainous and environmental conditions such as altitude, slope, aspect (or slope orientation), soil moisture, and soil type, vary significantly and have critical influence on the survivability of tree seedlings. Open-source geospatial data for Haiti, derived from satellite imagery, was used to examine factors having the greatest effect on seedling survival.

This research resulted in the creation of a GIS database including the relevant environmental variables along with other very useful geospatial data such as the locations of roads, rivers and streams, flood zones, administrative boundaries, and point data for communities, schools, and spring-water sources. The details of the analytical methods and results of this study are included in a technical report (Hargrove and Cronin, 2023) provided to Two Mules, which is available upon request.

The program area, Artibonite and Nord Departments, Gros-Morne and Borgne Arrondissements.
DGDFHLocation of project settlements in the L’Acul and Molas Communes.

The creation of a GIS database that maps key resources is a very useful tool for planning and executing projects. As this map shows, access roads are practically nonexistent in the L’Acul and Molas Communal Districts. The four settlements shown on this map are but a few that exist in these communes and as we continue to work in the area, additional settlement locations can be added along with schools, health clinics, spring water sources, orchards and reforestation tracts.

Hargrove and Cronin (2023) utilized several different geospatial data sources including Landsat 8 OLI Level 2 imagery from USGS Earth Explorer, used to create surface temperature and soil moisture data.  Elevation, slope, roughness, and aspect data were obtained from the Centre National de L’Information Geo-Spatiale (CNIGS).  Sentinel-2 Copernicus data were used for land cover classifications. Data for surface temperature, soil moisture, and roughness were processed in a variety of ways, then data for each of seven environmental conditions were reclassified into classes related to suitability for sapling survival. Suitability classes for surface temperature, soil moisture, surface roughness, slope, elevation, aspect, and land cover were created. These variables were then weighted according to the degree of impact on sapling survival. For example, roughness does not influence tree survivability to the same degree as aspect or slope, which have a greater effect on water stress. Slope affects rainwater runoff rates that control how much water is available to the tree. Aspect affects the amount of direct sunlight and radiation the sapling will be exposed to, which affects the opening and closing of their stomata. In comparison, roughness is mostly considered in the model as an “ease of access” proxy, and therefore it is weighted lower than slope and aspect in the ultimate model.

Elevation suitability model.

As an example, the elevation suitability model shown here depicts the raster image of elevation divided
into three classes of suitability. This classification was based on multiple studies of the effects of altitude
on Pinus occidentalis, or Hispaniola Pine, a species native to Haiti. Hispaniola Pine has been shown to
grow best at elevations below 500m. High suitability elevations are between 0-500m, medium suitability
elevation is between 500-800m, and low suitability elevation is between 800-1200m. Using this suitability
map, and with an iPad, a technician in the field could identify the locations on the landscape with the
highest probability of survival for pine tree saplings.
When these seven environmental variables are combined, the result is a model of the overall suitability of
reforestation transplanting in specific areas. The following is the weighted equation used to factor
environmental variables into habitat suitability:
HSM = Aspect + Soil Moisture + Temperature ( 0.5) + (0.8) Land Cover + Slope + ( 0.5) Elevation +
(0.5)Roughness.
The goal of the data processing has been to produce maps that can aid in determining the best areas in
which to focus planting. This may be tailored to individual tree species according to their habitat
preferences, and specific locations based on micro-environmental conditions, increasing the probability
that the resources put into planting will pay off with tree survival.

Two Mules reforestation suitability model based on seven environmental conditions.

If you’ve enjoyed this newsletter and the opportunity to learn a little more about the Haitian families with whom we work, then please forward this to family and friends. In a remarkable way, the violent overthrow of the government in Port au Prince is reflected in the villages and communes as an unprecedented motivation and renewal of determination. Men and women are mobilizing to equip themselves with the knowledge and resources to provide for their families, and your participation, in whatever way, does make a difference. There are many ways to support this work: make a one-time online donation or set up a monthly contribution from our website, snail mail a check, make a charitable gift through your investment firm, or arrange for some part of your RMD to be contributed to Two Mules. If you are interested in sponsoring a Haitian family in a more personal way, please drop us a line to ask about supporting a student through high school. You are the life of Two Mules; we can’t do it without you!