Journey to Haiti

It’s been several weeks since I returned from Haiti and I’m still processing.  I could write a book on what I’ve absorbed since starting this journey in January, but I’d rather just do something about it.  I will try to get a few articles up in the next few weeks about what occurred, what we saw, what the future holds.

The main thing I’d like to share right now is our plans to bring some people from the SE division of the Ministry of the Environment to Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota to get training on Keyline Design and other permaculture techniques and principles.  They are very interested in using permaculture to revitilize their economy and rehabilitate the eroded and denuded hillsides and mountaintops of Haiti.

There are many differences between Pine Ridge and Haiti – they are two very different worlds culturally.  But the similarities are haunting, especially in the sufferings of poverty and oppressions, so much so, that when the idea arose, it made perfect sense to bring this contingent to Pine Ridge to see the permaculture “revitilization” program ongoing there.  Many elements of that program would also work in Haiti, and some of them are already being implemented under this Ministry.

While you may have heard negative things about the Haitian government and no doubt some of them are true, they are most definitely not true 100% of the time, in 100% of the government.  There are sincere, competent, and passionate people working in the government who are in a position to do something about their country and we feel the people we are working with in the Ministry fall into that category.  They have recently created a vermicomposting program, they are researching sustainable polycropping, agroforestry, they gave full back up and support to our permaculture team, providing an office and connections which enabled them to “teach the teachers” in their limited time there, and have continued to provide support to those of us still involved.

In turn, we’d like to bring them to Pine Ridge to give them the knowledge of keyline design. This is a highly appropriate technology to remediate the denuded hills of Haiti, and it will dovetail with a program the government is already running, teaching women to run heavy machinery like tractors, doing earth moving.  There are many ways in which keyline design can dovetail with ongoing energies and create really positive results.

If you’d like to assist us to bring this to fruition, please contact us via our site.   Please also let others know that participation in our keyline class or other classes at the rez will help fund this project as well as the Pine Ridge project.


Haiti – Donate Now…




AND/OR Purchase Books and Products. Portions of the proceeds allows us to reach out to communities such as these.
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What do we base our course pricing on?

Hillside in Haiti

Hillside in Haiti

A few people have asked what we base our fees on for our courses. Some believe that permaculture education should be very inexpensive or free so that it is accessible to as many people as possible.  There are many viewpoints about this, and we believe that multiple viewpoints on this topic, like any other, are healthy for the system and there is room for all of them.

This is how we view the subject for ourselves and why:

Our work is focused on assisting some of the highest poverty and most oppressed areas on the planet, which are also very culturally rich with much to offer.  We focus on projects that regenerate degraded lands and devastated economies so these communities can become self-sufficient and experience resilient abundance.  Our methods are focused on connecting resources and knowledge and putting them in the hands of the people at grass roots level so they can create their own destinies within their own cultural context.

Post earthquake camp, Cite Soliel, Haiti

Post earthquake camp, Cite Soliel, Haiti

We offer our courses and services for free to individuals from those impoverished areas and also bring resources into those environments to assist in the process of regeneration.

We invite students from outside those communities to participate, and charge them rates comparable to similar courses in order to help fund our work in those areas.  We feel this is a better way to do it than grant monies, where possible, as it gives us more freedom to remain maximally flexible and responsive to the needs and resources of the communities.  Please see our blogs in this section for descriptions of some of the work we are engaged in, particularly at Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and Haiti, post earthquake.

Pine Ridge reservation public housing

Pine Ridge reservation public housing

Our instructors are some of the most knowledgeable and respected available and often charge top consultant rates for teaching. They are worth it because they can impart knowledge far more deeply, quickly and accurately than someone with less knowledge and experience could do.

We provide a number of extras with our courses that many organizations do not provide, such as rich cultural experiences, apprenticeship opportunities, community building, web promotion for graduates, etc.

Our courses are well worth the fees from a purely practical investment viewpoint, because the knowledge and experience gained should save you far more than the course fee within a few weeks or months if you apply it to your life.

Please know that your course fees are what allow us to continue with our work in devastated areas, and that we strive to make your investment well worth your while by trying to go above and beyond in delivering not just information, but rich life experience that you will always remember.

Teaching students to compost, Port Au Prince, Haiti

Teaching students to compost, Port Au Prince, Haiti

Building a root cellar for food security, Pine Ridge

Building a root cellar for food security, Pine Ridge

Pine Ridge statistics

adam and childThese statistics and the photo piece are tough to look at – they are why we are there.  We and you can make a difference. We welcome your assistance, it is rewarding work.  There are many cultural revitilization activities on the rez and some amazing and beautiful people.  Please see the photos in our gallery after you read this to see some of the positive that is happening!  But it is also important to understand the overall state of the rez because it becomes apparent how much of a difference a combination of permaculture and cultural revitalization can make.

Pine Ridge photo story

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/behind-22/

* 97% of of the population at Pine Ridge Reservation live below federal poverty line.

* The unemployment rate vacillates from 85% to 95% on the Reservation.

* Death due to Heart Disease: Twice the national average.

* The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300% higher than the U.S. national average.

* Elderly die each winter from hypothermia (freezing).

* Recent reports point out that the median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 to $3,500 per year.

* At least 60% of the homes are severely substandard, without water, electricity, adequate insulation, and sewage systems.

* Recent reports state the average life expectancy is 45 years old while others state that it is 48 years old for men and 52 years old for women. With either set of figures, that’s the shortest life expectancy for any community in the Western Hemisphere outside Haiti, according to The Wall Street Journal.

* The 11,000-square mile (over 2 million acres) Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation is the second-largest Native American Reservation within the United States. It is roughly the size of the State of Connecticut.

* There is no industry, technology, or commercial infrastructure on the Reservation to provide employment.

* The nearest town of size (which provides some jobs for those few persons able to travel the distance) is Rapid City, South Dakota with approximately 57,000 residents. It is located approximately 120 miles from the Reservation. The nearest large city to Pine Ridge is Denver, Colorado located about 350 miles away.


* Teenage suicide rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 150% higher than the U.S. national average for this age group.

* The topography of the Pine Ridge Reservation includes badlands, rolling grassland hills, dryland prairie, and areas dotted with pine trees.

* According to the 1998 Bureau of Indian Affairs Census, the Pine Ridge Reservation is home to approximately 40,000 persons, 35% of which are under the age of 16. Approximately half the residents of the Reservation are registered tribal members of the Oglala Lakota Nation.

* The population is steadily rising, despite the severe conditions on the Reservation, as more and more Oglala Lakota return home from far-away cities in order to live within their societal values, be with their families, and assist with the revitalization of their culture and their Nation.


* More than half the Reservation’s adults battle addiction and disease. Alcoholism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and malnutrition are rampant.

* The rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than the U.S. national average.

* Recent reports indicate that almost 50% of the adults on the Reservation over the age of 40 have diabetes. Over 37% of population is diabetic.

* As a result of the high rate of diabetes on the Reservation, diabetic-related blindness, amputations, and kidney failure are common.

* The tuberculosis rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately 800% higher than the U.S. national average.

* Cervical cancer is 500% higher than the U.S. national average.

* It is reported that at least 60% of the homes, many of them government housing, on the Pine Ridge Reservation are infested with Black Mold, Stachybotrys. This infestation causes an often-fatal condition with infants, children, elderly, those with damaged immune systems, and those with lung and pulmonary conditions at the highest risk. Exposure to this mold can cause hemorrhaging of the lungs and brain as well as cancer.

* Many Reservation residents live without health care due to vast travel distances involved in accessing that care. Additional factors include under-funded, under-staffed medical facilities and outdated or non-existent medical equipment. There is little hope for increased funding for Indian health care.

* School drop-out rate is over 70%.

* According to a Bureau of Indian Affairs report, the Pine Ridge Reservation schools are in the bottom 10% of school funding by U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

* Teacher turnover is 800% that of the U.S. national average

* The small Tribal Housing Authority homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation are so overcrowded and scarce that many homeless families often use tents or cars for shelter. Many families live in shacks, old trailers, or dilapidated mobile homes.

* There is a large homeless population on the Reservation, but most families never turn away a relative no matter how distant the blood relation. Consequently, many homes have large numbers of people living in them.

* There is an estimated average of 17 people living in each family home (a home which may only have two to three rooms). Some homes, built for 6 to 8 people, have up to 30 people living in them.

* 60% of Reservation families have no telephone.

* Over 33% of the Reservation homes lack basic water and sewage systems as well as electricity.

* Many residents must carry (often contaminated) water from the local rivers daily for their personal needs.

* 39% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation have no electricity.

* 59% of the Reservation homes are substandard.

* It is reported that at least 60% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation need to be burned to the ground and replaced with new housing due to infestation of the potentially-fatal Black Mold, Stachybotrys. There is no insurance or government program to assist families in replacing their homes.

* Many Reservation homes lack adequate insulation. Even more homes lack central heating.

* Without basic insulation or central heating in their homes, many residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation use their ovens to heat their homes.

* Many Reservation homes lack stoves, refrigerators, beds, and/or basic furniture.

* Most Reservation families live in rural and often isolated areas.

* The largest town on the Reservation is the town of Pine Ridge which has a population of approximately 5,720 people and is the administrative center for the Reservation.

* There are few improved roads on the Reservation and many of the homes are inaccessible during times of heavy snow or rain.

* Weather is extreme on the Reservation. Severe winds are always a factor. Traditionally, summer temperatures reach well over 110*F and winters bring bitter cold with temperatures that can reach -50*F below zero or worse. Flooding, tornados, or wildfires are always a risk.

* Many of the wells and much of the water and land on the Reservation is contaminated with pesticides and other poisons from farming, mining, open dumps, and commercial and governmental mining operations outside the Reservation. A further source of contamination is buried ordnance and hazardous materials from closed U.S. military bombing ranges on the Reservation.

* The Pine Ridge Reservation still has no banks, motels, discount stores, or movie theaters. It has only one grocery store of any moderate size and it is located in the town of Pine Ridge on the Reservation.

* Several of the banks and lending institutions nearest to the Reservation were recently targeted for investigation of fraudulent or predatory lending practices, with the citizens of the Pine Ridge Reservation as their victims.

* There are no public libraries except one at the Oglala Lakota College of the reservation.

* There is no public transportation available on the Reservation.

* Ownership of operable automobiles by residents of the Reservation is highly limited.

* Predominate form of travel for all ages on the Reservation is walking or hitchhiking.

* There is one radio station on the Pine Ridge Reservation. KILI 90.1FM is located near the town of Porcupine on the Reservation.

* Alcoholism affects eight out of ten families on the Reservation.

* The death rate from alcohol-related problems on the Reservation is 300% higher than the remaining US population.

* The Oglala Lakota Nation has prohibited the sale and possession of alcohol on the Pine Ridge Reservation since the early 1970’s. However, the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska (which sits 400 yards off the Reservation border in a contested “buffer” zone) has approximately 14 residents and four liquor stores which sell over 4.1 million cans of beer each year resulting in a $3million annual trade. Unlike other Nebraska communities, Whiteclay exists only to sell liquor and make money. It has no schools, no churches, no civic organizations, no parks, no benches, no public bathrooms, no fire service and no law enforcement. Tribal officials have repeatedly pleaded with the State of Nebraska to close these liquor stores or enforce the State laws regulating liquor stores but have been consistently refused.

* Scientific studies show that the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer which begins underneath the Pine Ridge Reservation is predicted to run dry within the next thirty years, possibly as early as the year 2005, due to commercial interest use and dryland farming in numerous states south of the Reservation. This critical North American underground water resource is not renewable at anything near the present consumption rate. The recent years of drought have simply accelerated the problem.

* Scientific studies show that much of the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer has been contaminated with farming pesticides and commercial, factory, mining, and industrial contaminants in the States of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

* The Tribal nations are considered to have sovereign governmental status and have a government to government relationship with the United States. The Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribal government operates under a constitution consistent with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and approved by the Tribal membership and Tribal Council of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. The Tribe is governed by an elected body consisting of a 5 member Executive Committee and an 18 member Tribal Council, all of whom serve a four year term.


Pine Ridge – Donate Now…




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Source: http://4aihf.org/id40.html

New energy arriving in Haiti

One of our team members who spent several weeks in Haiti as a first responder, Andrew Larsen, has put together a contingent of experts to return to Haiti on May 9 in order to expand the delivery of sustainable sanitation solutions.  He will be returning with Joe Jenkins, author of “Humanure” and a leading expert on composting human waste, and another sanitation expert from Australia to work with the Give Love project (givelove.org) and expand on the work Rodrigo Silva continues to do in the sanitation arena.  Andrew has continued to work with his university to bring interest to the Haiti project.

Cory Brennan of Grow Permaculture (formerly Permaculture Guild) will be traveling with the group and additionally will be touring with a representative from the Ministry of the Environment to give recommendations on remediation of erosion and  other environmental degradation.  We will be solidifying relationships with local NGOs and educational organizations created earlier and planning future projects.  Paule Jacque, a Grow Permaculture (formerly Permaculture Guild) PDC graduate from Miami and Haitian, will meet the group in Haiti to help coordinate expansion activities via her connections.  Paule has been working with another graduate, Linda McGlathery, to create economic opportunities in Haiti in the form of cooperative business models.

Our intention is to create the conditions for rapid growth and expansion of sustainable solutions in the core devastated areas – the pieces are gradually coming together, and like an ecosystem, we are finding the beneficial connections we need to flourish with balance and sustainably – stay tuned for more news as the story unfolds.   There are so many worthy projects with heart occurring in Haiti – we would like to assist and facilitate all of them,  and we feel we can do so by observing the system thoughtfully, creating connections where they will do the most good, and utilizing energy wisely.

Keeping Heart in Pine Ridge, Part II

pine ridge kenny cow

Many good things came from the Permaculture Design Course we held last September in Pine Ridge Lakota reservation.  Our project is on target to be self-sustaining within three years and has moved beyond that in a number of ways.

Bryan Deans and OLCERI (Oglala-Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative), who hosted the course, decided to focus on the economics side of permaculture,  the benefits of which would move far beyond Bryan’s own self-sufficient ranch project and throughout the entire reservation.

Almost immediately after the course, Bryan began teaching a farmer/rancher program on the rez, incorporating permaculture principles such as microlending.  Ranchers are lent five cows which calf, thereby giving them a small herd which they can build up. They can give back the cows, or younger ones, once the herd is established.   Farmers are given seed and loaned equipment as needed as well.  A cooperative is in its formative stages which will allow the farmers and ranchers to share equipment, buy in bulk and market more effectively.

This is a true community effort that, if translated to other industries as well, could spread throughout the entire reservation and reverse the long term cycle of poverty which has continued to make this county the poorest in the US.  It will also set an example for industry throughout the US.

Other potential economic engines and cooperatives include sustainable logging and milling, biodiesel, manufacture of high efficiency rocket/sawdust type stoves and water heaters, natural home building, traditional Lakota crafts such as leatherwork and beadwork, and the raising of other types of animals including horses and buffalo.

Medicine Hat horse, prized amongst the Lakota

Medicine Hat horse, prized amongst the Lakota

These cooperatives can be woven into the lives of the People and their ancient ways. The successes of the Mondragon cooperative, which was created by the Basque tribe in Spain and now includes dozens of profitable enterprises, are an inspiration – the Lakota will bring their unique traditions and wisdom to the council fires.  Bryan’s vision is to focus on industries that complement and support one another, and are environmentally and culturally sustainable or regenerative.

The tribe has received a substantial grant, part of which can be used toward rehabilitating the two million acres of prairie that the reservation encompasses.  The rez has been heavily damaged by overgrazing and other abuse to the point where the clay-silt soils are so impacted that succession has not moved beyond pioneer stage in many areas, and only short, tough buffalo grass survives in clumps – in contrast to the tall, diverse prairie grasses that grew thick and rich as far as one could see when the People managed it. Erosion is a huge problem, with dams blowing out regularly from the heavy force of water and canyons being cut deeper and deeper.  For generations, the plains were sustainably managed by the People who used controlled burns and buffalo to revitalize the fertile prairie grass system and keep it healthy.   Last year, Bryan and Warren Brush of Quail Springs, who taught the PDC then and will teach it again this August, created plans to use keyline and permaculture techniques to regenerate Bryan’s 8000 acre ranch, but since then the plans have gotten much bigger.

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Diverse prairie grass systems are one of the best carbon sequestering systems on the planet, even better than forests in some cases.  Pine Ridge reservation consists of two million acres that could be rehabbed, and Bryan has a plan that could leverage available  funding into a 10 year program to do it (via the economic cooperatives).  Not only will this create carbon sequestering on a huge scale, it will create substantial long term employment on a rez that experiences between 60-90% unemployment, and will revitalize natural resources and ecosystems for the tribe that will last for many generations.  This is OLCERI’s vision – and Warren will teach a Keyline course this summer to kick it off.   OLCERI is looking for donations for keyline plows as the grant money does not necessarily cover equipment like this.  The entire machine is not needed, but only the plow head, as tractors are available that can be used.  We would like teach the first crew of Lakota this July how to keyline design and plow and get them started on an historic 3000 acre watershed on tribal lands that OLCERI controls currently.

Last year’s course had some other great results. One student is doing a permaculture project at a different location on the rez and will be offering a number of courses this year including cob building and food forestry.

Two other students are currently working on an economic and water revitilization project with the Huichol Indians of Mexico, and another student has brought the 13 grandmothers into her network of sustainability in Northern California.

OLCERI, in tandem with Koreen Brennan with Grow Permaculture (formerly Permaculture Guild) will be holding four permaculture courses this year on the rez and is also offering internships and apprenticeships.  The courses will be:  Straw bale building (to complete a workshop on OLCERI’s site that will have multiple functions); Regenerative Skills – a unique course for young adults which will incorporate ancient Lakota skills such as hunting with bow and arrow, tracking, beadwork, medicinal herbs, etc, with permaculture design;  the Permaculture Design Certificate Course, and Keyline Design.  In addition, Koreen Brennan at Grow Permaculture (formerly Permaculture Guild) is partnering with Sustainable Homestead Designs (http://www.sustainablehomesteaddesigns.org/Sustainable_Homestead_Designs/Welcome.html , a project to create a fully self-sufficient off the grid demonstration homestead on the rez, to teach a food forestry course and plant a food forest at that location.

All of the courses will serve multiple functions – bringing new energy to the reservation via outside students, completing strategically key projects to move toward regenerative self-sufficiency, and creating economic engines that will move beyond OLCERI to positively impact the entire reservation and set a model and example for others.

The course for young adults flanks successful Lakota youth programs, such as Kiza and Running Strong, that focus on empowering youth at risk by providing cultural opportunities.  In addition, youth will learn the rudiments of marketable skill sets such as straw bale building and sustainable farming and ranching.

Kiza horse race at Pine Ridge

Kiza horse race at Pine Ridge

Because of the work we did last year, we are already getting strong interest in the courses for this year, so early enrollment is encouraged. Our goals to fund significant Lakota participation via paying students from outside the rez will be met with full enrollment.

Additional intern/apprentice projects at OLCERI this summer include:

Planting a kitchen garden

Planting a communal food forest in the riparian area of tribal lands

Planting wind breaks on the ranch for energy efficiency and to protect the animals and gardens

Creating water catchment and irrigation

Completing the wind power and biodiesel project so the ranch is fully off the grid energy wise

Building a straw bale workshop

We continue to seek funding for materials for the straw bale building, keyline plow, trees for the food forest, and heavy equipment needed for prairie rehabilitation.


Pine Ridge – Donate Now…

For more information contact Koreen@growpermaculture.com

Sustainable solutions for Haiti

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Currently, our team of permaculture experts in Haiti have expanded to implement sustainable solutions to food and water supply, sanitation, and shelter. The focus is on using locally available, inexpensive, low-tech resources to create water catchment and filtration, earthquake and hurricane resistant shelter from renewable materials, sustainable sanitation, particularly for human waste, and food forests and other high production/low maintanence food techniques.

The team is connected up with the Ministers of Environment and Agriculture in the Haitian government and have coordinated on what is most badly needed in the areas they are working. They are “teaching the teachers” at a number of local NGOs in Port Au Prince and other areas how to implement these techniques.  These organizations have been chosen because they focus on teaching, so will be able to continue to spread this knowledge. This has been determined the fastest way of implementing real, doable, and sustainable solutions to some of the major problems that existed prior to the earthquake and have deteriorated, as well as addressing the immediate emergency situation. They are seeking funding for instructors, materials and lodging for students.

There will be15-50 students per class. Each group being taught is selected because they are either already sharing or plan to be distributing knowledge in the form of classes, workdays, or workshops.

Budget which includes transport, food, lodging for students and wages for instructors and others is $5000

Ideal outcomes would include a strong base of interested groups that future projects could follow up with. Also the development of a permaculture basics in Creole.

To donate, go to http://earth-learning.org/index.php?option=content&Itemid=77&task=view&id=60

This is our partner non-profit organization that is accepting funds for our projects exclusively, via their Haiti fund.

AND/OR Purchase Books and Products. Portions of the proceeds allows us to reach out to communities such as these.
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For more information about this program, please contact Cory Brennan at cory@permacultureguild.us

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News from the ground in Haiti

From Nicole Klaesener-Metzner in Haiti:

Feb 8: We´re finished with our work at the hospital in Port-au-Prince. I will be in the States on Thursday. More later!

Jan 27: Tomorrow we meet in Petionville at the WASH Cluster meeting which is most important meeting for water and sanitation. I called Andy Bastable on his cell phone (Head of water and sanitation for OXFAM) directly, and he gave me the information. It should give us a lot of direction. We´re quite free to do what we think needs to be done, which is good for getting things done

Aside from the smell of diesel, the hum of generators and military vehicles, the whole place reminds me of Telluride on steroids–only there´s a lot less music and a lot more helicopters. Planes of every description come and go all day and night. I live in a tent with five other people and the Volunteer Ministries, who are responsible for everything, are very nice. We all work together to make our camp livable.

I live at the airport–and I mean literally. I can walk out of my tent and across a field and right onto the tarmac. You can probably see our yellow tents (Google Earth) on the south side of the runway, toward the eastern edge. There are tents and gear everywhere–over an area of probably 40 acres or more. The whole complex is secured by the UN.

We are organizing Haitian volunteers to help with the physical work. It´s extremely hot here, and yes, I am staying well hydrated! The other day Wycliff Jean walked right down the street (in a huge crowd), and yesterday someone in our group saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN, looking a bit bedraggled, so I´m told.

There is potable water at the hospital compound, but sanitation has a long ways to go. The solid waste we have been removing (which included me going out on the streets on PAP and, with a local, flagging a guy down with a truck and hiring him to move medical waste), is pretty scary stuff but we´re careful. It´s getting better.

We have volunteers delivering water to the patients often. It is sad to see these people in such a state but volunteers are doing a good job with what they can. The streets in the hospital compound are free from bodies but I have been shown where they were literally stacked up, not that many days ago. It´s horrifying

I am working at the University Hospital in PAP, we´re doing solid waste and sanitation for the hospital complex, which is serving 750-1500 people. It is secured by the US military and so it is safe. My team consists of me, Rodrigo Silva, and Nicole Klaesner, and we are meeting with the head of the hospital, as well as with Dr. Paul Auerbach, of International Medical Corps.

Jan 27, Rodrigo Silva: is working on Sanitation Relief Team at the Hopital de L’Universite D’Etat D’Haiti Hospital in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Planning Sanitation for an orphanage. Thanks for all the support and good vibes.

Jan 22: I am on my way to Haiti with a group working under the Red Cross doing water and sanitation. I’m leaving this morning. We don’t know how long we’ll be there but I will try to post anything I can if we have any kind of internet access (not very likely). I am glad to be able to go and I have good people with me. I’ll write when I can. Ciao!

Haiti teams

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We’re finally getting reports back from our intrepid team on the ground at Haiti.

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When the sanitation team of Andrew Larsen, Rodrigo Silva and Nicole Klaesener-Metzner arrived a few weeks ago, it was very chaotic.  Sanitation was a major problem which was threatening the lives of many individuals, including the rescue workers. There were almost no sewage systems even before the earthquake and the ones that existed were often compromised by the earthquake.

The team was asked to help with the general hospital in Port Au Prince.  Waste was everywhere, human feces mixed with body parts, syringes, medical waste of all kinds, spoiled food, packaging, etc. Piles of garbage surrounded the hospital. The lavoratories were completely filthy and unusable.

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The team immediately got to work and were able to hire some Haitians to help them clean up the garbage, find trash cans, and create a place where different types of garbage could go.  The hospital and rescue organizations did not want to use compost toilets – it was felt that it was too complex to safely store the waste at that time, and the need for immediate sanitation solutions was so great, that they focused on getting portapotties delivered fast. But they did educate people about composting human waste in the process. The clean up was done with almost no materials available.  They used crushed urbanite to line floors and ground areas around the hospital and keep it clean; they found materials here and there to create areas to contain the garbage.

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24236_10150089159060542_700145541_11183639_309766_nThey cleared out areas piled with garbage so that sanitary hospital tents could be erected to house and treat patients. Patients were dying or losing limbs from wound infections that could be prevented with basic sanitation, so this action saved lives.

It was quite a challenge to find a truck or any equipment to get things done and when they were waiting, they helped distribute  food and clean water to thousands of displaced people from Port Au Prince.  The situation is becoming less chaotic but when they first arrived, they helped wherever they could to prevent deaths – the need to distribute basic food, water and medical supplies and set up ways to keep them clean was vital.

After the hospital project, they did an inspection and found no garbage lying around anywhere in the vicinity. They then started working on creating latrines for one of the camps where Haitians were staying. It was again a challenge to find any building materials but they made do. They taught the Haitians they were working with how to build compost toilet systems that would be safe and sanitary, so that this could be replicated in other camps.

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They continue to install sanitation system and are now doing assessments and planning creation of full sanitation systems for several orphanages and other buildings in the area.  They are hoping that their plans of sustainable compost toilet systems will be approved by the major rescue organizations working on this project.  Our team has connected up and is working with with local NGOs, such as SOIL (oursoil.org), which specializes in compost toilet systems.

The intrepid water team led by Mark Illian from Nature Helping Nature has been harder to reach but they have continued to teach Haitians to filter their own water safely throughout the damaged cities and camps. This is vital work as locally available water supplies continue to be compromised by human waste and garbage on the streets of the city and in the camps.

Our newest arrival, Hunter Haeivilin, is a tropical food specialist and is assessing growing methods and the food supply in the area , and seeing where his expertise could best be utilized, as well as helping the sanitation and water teams where needed.

Andrew has returned to the states and is in the process of doing an analysis of what he learned at this disaster site, which may help future Permaculture Relief Corps first responders be even more prepared and effective at getting sustainable systems implemented. It is a design challenge to arrive in such a chaotic situation and make strategical design decisions.  There is no doubt the teams saved lives by choosing to arrive as first responders.  The need was huge, and they were in significant demand for their low tech expertise which was essential in that situation.  They are now moving into the second phase of disaster handling, where more long term planning can be done.

We are continuing to support the work of and coordinate with other groups, such as a permaculture team working in Limbe, a rural area, to grow food (http://noramise.org), and two builder’s groups planning sustainable, inexpensive, low tech and fast building techniques for the area.

Donations all go directly to the teams on the ground in Haiti for supplies and equipment – we are all volunteering our time on this project.  Please go to permacultureguild.org/donations to contribute (note this is our partner non-profit for this project).

Update on Haiti

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Another plane will be leaving from Miami in the next few days for Haiti. Needed are medical personnel, sanitation experts and water experts.

Our sanitation team is working near a main hospital, installing much needed sanitation systems in that area.  Last we heard, our water team was headed to Leogane, which is almost totally destroyed, to teach people to filter their own water with a number of low tech methods. One of these is the Sodis method, using a plastic bottle and sunlight to kill pathogens; another is a sand filter, also effective at ridding water of pathogens.  Solar ovens also kill pathogens. Combinations can be very effective.  The major risk right now is from human waste or toxins entering the water supply.

The sanitation team is building compost toilets which separate liquid and solid human waste.  The solid waste will decompose much faster when separated, and once all pathogens are eliminated, it can be used as fertilizer for fruit trees and similar food sources, which keeps the system as a closed loop and eliminates the waste stream.  Urine can be used immediately to fertilize plants – it is sterile, and when diluted with water, becomes an excellent source of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous.  By using this waste stream to grow food, we protect sensitive ecosystems and human systems from pollution and we can accelerate the growth of a future food supply.   These systems can be safely built with available materials – they are low tech systems and can be fairly rapidly replicated all over the cities and camps.

We have received some generous donations which enable us to fly a number of individuals to Haiti, so please pass this on to anyone who may be interested.

Haiti update

haiti kidsWe now have two low tech water specialists (from naturehealingnature.org) and three sanitation experts on the ground in Haiti. They came from Texas, Utah, Austria and Portugal and flew out of planes leaving from NY and LA, provided by Church of Scientology Volunteer Ministers (disaster first responders, who chartered planes to send volunteer ministers, medical personnel and water and sanitation experts to Haiti).  The sanitation experts took enough materials with them to build a demonstration sustainable latrine which will service 1000 people per day.  The human waste will be safely and securely composted and will eventually become fertilizer for food and fuel crops.    The water experts specialize in filtering water with found materials, like sand, plastic bottles, etc.  They’ve done this in villages in Senegal, Peru and other countries and are very resourceful.  We haven’t heard from them yet but we will update again as soon as we do. Your donations helped make this occur – thank you!

Twelve more permaculturists are interested in traveling to Haiti as soon as another plane becomes available.    We’ve also been contacted by a couple of midwives who would like to go as well as other medical personnel.  Some of our permaculturists also have medical training – they are very much needed there.  The city of Jacmel was wiped out 80% and they badly need sanitiation, water, and medical treatment there.

We are currently in negotiations to send equipment on several possible boats leaving from Florida for Haiti over the next 3-4 weeks. We’d like to stock the boats with equipment to build more compost latrines, water catchment systems, seeds for crops, and even possibly earthmoving equipment to create swale systems in badly eroded farmland.  Hundreds of thousands of people are leaving Port Au Prince to return to the country.  This is a good thing, because they can become self-sufficient via farming in the country (which is how things used to be), but because farmland has been strip mined and otherwise abused, it is essential that permaculture techniques such as keyline and swale systems be implemented, if reforestation and rehabilitation of farmland is to be successful.

Eventually, the people of Haiti will want to rebuild, and we hope they will use more sustainable building techniques, like quincha mejorada homes in Central and South America, which have withstood earthquakes well in Chile. These houses are made mainly from bamboo and earth, things that are readily available or could grow very quickly in Haiti (bamboo can grow up to 24 inches per day in some cases).

Quincha mejorada:

http://www.solucionespracticas.org.pe/publicaciones/pdf/CONSTRUYAMOSCONQUINCHAMEJORADA.pdf

Bamboo in Haiti:

http://www.oreworld.org/bamboo.htm

We are creating a number of partnerships with organizations already working in Haiti and have contacted an official in the Haitian government and briefed him on what we are doing.  Our long term plan is to provide education via already existing organizations that will assist in sustainable rebuilding efforts.

We are now partnering with non-profit Permaculture Guild in New Mexico so your donations will be tax deductible.  All donations are going directly to getting people on the ground in Haiti, we are all volunteering our time to make this happen.  More info soon!

Cory

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