As a young girl, Margareth Divers (´12, Haiti) would see women from her community, Musseau, laden down by fruits and vegetables, as they made their way towards the marketplace. Their children trailed along behind, perhaps glancing longingly at the school building as they walked by. These children might have been Margareth´s classmates had they not needed to help transport and sell produce day after day. Now, poised to graduate from EARTH University, Margareth is brimming with ideas to help improve the lives of these small producers and their families in Haiti.
Last year, instead of travelling to a new country for her internship, Margareth decided to return to Haiti. There, she worked alongside laborers on a vegetable farm in Mangnan Basin in Gonaïves. She was curious to see how agricultural workers were handling production and the methods they were using.
While working on the farm was valuable, what Margareth enjoyed most was her volunteer service in the community. On Saturdays, those interested would gather to hear her share information about running a small business. It was during this experience that Margareth learned that the farmers there do not know how to make their own fertilizer, instead spending a good 40 percent of their income on agricultural chemicals.
Back on EARTH’s campus for her fourth and final year of study, she has been completing her Professional Experience and Graduation Project on EARTH´s Integrated Organic Farm, hoping to find alternatives for farmers back in Haiti. She is responsible for producing the organic fertilizer used on the farm, and supplies her fellow classmates with fertilizer they may need for their projects. She also produces worm compost, or lombricompost, and another fertilizer known as bioles (biofertilizer). “I chose the Organic Farm because I want to be able to share information with [farmers in Haiti] when I return, because I feel that they have a thirst to learn. They do not know about organic farming, or how to make fertilizer with the resources they have.”
Margareth also realizes that while the farmers in Haiti grow a lot of vegetables, the produce seldom meets the required conditions for supermarkets to sell. As a result a lot of produce is lost. Without understanding what steps to take postharvest, the produce does not last long enough to even make it to the supermarket. “They can harvest lettuce today at five in the morning, and already by two in the afternoon the lettuce has gone to waste,” says Margareth.
After graduation this December, Margareth plans to return to Haiti where she hopes to unite the small producers in Sourçaille into a cooperative and build a packing plant. She will teach the farmers in the cooperative what measures to take before, during, and after harvest in order to yield quality products. Her time at EARTH has taught her the importance of working in a team. She believes a cooperative can find the solution to issues that are often too great to solve on one´s own. In addition, a packing plant will help the small producers package their vegetables aesthetically in order to find a place for them in the market.
With the constant support and encouragement from her family, Margareth is ready to return to Haiti. “My mother is delighted and my father too…in agronomy, one doesn´t have to wait to begin working. My mother is very grateful with God, and with the University, because for her, this is the best education I could be receiving. It´s what she has always wanted for me.”
On EARTH’s academic farms, young leaders like Margareth learn ecological knowledge and entrepreneurial skills hands-on. With your generosity to our experiential learning program, EARTH can continue sparking students’ curiosity and inspiring them to share their love of learning with their home communities.
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