The Intersection of Farming and Environmental Degradation
MFK’s agricultural extension program teaches Haitian smallholder farmers to improve the quantity and quality of peanut crops. MFK’s agricultural activities are focused in the Northeast Department of Haiti, especially in Ouanaminthe. The MFK Agricultural Extension team develops training sessions around a specific environmental theme.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday, MFK agronomists go to the demonstration sites (Savane-au-Lait and Gens-de-Nantes) to provide farmer training based on research conducted by Cornell University and the universities of Florida and Georgia.
It is not enough to show peanut growers the importance of technology and good agricultural practices by teaching and demonstrating these techniques; it is also critical to tell them about the possible detrimental impacts of farming, such as erosion, pollution, and harm to health. These activities can impact not only the environment and the success of their farming efforts, but the farmers and their families as well.
To accomplish this, our agronomists use the farmer field school approach. Last week, our topic was, “The harm caused by plastics on the environment and on health.” The proliferation of plastic bags in the market, to facilitate carrying goods, has emerged as a major cause of land pollution. Women doing the family shopping in the market do not use the traditional market bag any longer because everything is sold in a plastic bag. These types of plastic bags are available at a low price to market vendors. The plastic bags are so ubiquitous that they are even used as a food preparation tool by the women, and often are discarded afterward and end up in the ground. The discarded bags cause environmental degradation, including the worsening of erosion and pollution, and human and animal health is threatened.
Because of our training, these smallholder farmers in Gens-de-Nantes and Savane-au-Lait are well aware of the environmental degradation and its consequences to future peanut production as well as to the health of their families and their animal stock. This pollution is well within their control, if only they are made aware of it.