James Rhoads is MFK’s agriculture development specialist. He heads up the program to develop more and better peanuts in Haiti. This is James’ second post in a continuing series about MFK’s agriculture programs.
Working in the agriculture sector in Haiti makes me realize how thoughtful the leaders of our country were when they set up the land grant system in the US after the Civil War. I think the US population was more than 90% rural at the time and we were an essentially agrarian society. Haiti is around 70% rural, but it is also still an essentially agrarian society and yet, there has been very little investment in building real productive capacity. This lack of investment is the reason that our collaborators with the USAID Peanut Collaborative Research and Support Program (CRSP) partner with MFK, a social enterprise, rather than the non-functioning, barely-existing state agricultural programs. Since 2008, MFK has been the in-country collaborator for the peanut specialists from the Universities of Georgia, Oklahoma State and North Carolina State, as well as their extended network of peanut industry experts and even the USDA peanut research lab.
Pictured above: Dr. Chad Godsey working with an ag technician from an Oxfam funded peanut project in one of our target grower areas.
MFK recently had two visits from people in this network, including a special visit by a group from the UGA School of Agriculture and other people from the peanut industry. They were looking into how they could offer more assistance in Haiti following the earthquake and visited several projects across the country, but also checked in on our activities. One member of this group was Sally Wells, a representative of Birdsong Peanuts who has arranged several donations for MFK, including 4000 lbs of high yielding spanish peanut seed that I have been distributing for testing among our grower areas. I think the shorter growing period for spanish peanuts (~100 days vs. ~130 days for runner peanuts) will improve profitability for growers and possibly reduce the aflatoxin problem.
The other PCRSP visit was from our more regular visitors, Drs. John Damicone and Chad Godsey, plant pathologist and agronomist from Oklahoma State and Frank Nolin, a peanut processing expert from Georgia. John, Chad and I worked on laying out trials to test some the improved cultivars, as well as the potential impacts of minimal soil fertilization. As legumes, peanuts are good crop for Haitian soils that lack nitrogen, but could possibly greatly benefit from a small amount of potassium, phosphorus or other micronutrients. Like the children who receive Medika Mamba, many of the soils in Haiti are suffering from malnutrition.
Meds & Food for Kids saves the lives of Haiti's malnourished children by producing and distributing highly nutritious foods, including Medika Mamba, a Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food endorsed by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Because of its commitment to Haiti's long-term development, MFK produces Medika Mamba in Haiti, with Haitian labor, and with many Haitian raw materials.