Sometimes, a partnership opportunity comes along that is the exact right thing at the right time: a collaboration to address food insecurity, the root cause of malnutrition.
The problem: HUFH runs lifesaving health care programs that treat malnutrition in children and in expectant and nursing mothers, and that promote breast feeding and other healthy behaviors. When children and mothers graduate from our programs, however, they are faced with the same issue that put them in the programs in the first place: food insecurity. Haiti has long had the highest level of food insecurity in the Western Hemisphere, with over 40% of the population living in daily hunger, putting them at risk of malnutrition, stunting, infection and death.
The solution: A serendipitous introduction led us to OneSparrowDC (“OS”), a nonprofit organization that focuses on two pillars, agriculture and community health education. OS already runs a community farm in the Cap Haitien area where children and their families learn how to farm and how to take their produce to market. Together, HUFH and OS are bringing farming to the families in the communities we serve.
Our collaboration has already begun: Hovard, OS’s chief agronomist, together with Thermitus, HUFH’s in-country executive director, and HUFH’s malnutrition program staff, met with the families enrolled in our malnutrition program in Limonade, the site of the pilot program. In an effort to empower families facing the challenges of hunger, OS and HUFH are providing the seeds, tools, and skills education to enable our families to turn their small plots into farms to cultivate and grow nutritious foods.
Accompanied by our TSKs (community health workers), Hovard has been visiting the families’ homes to pick garden sites and make sure there is water nearby for irrigation (thankfully, HUFH has built multiple clean water wells that will help in this effort). Families are choosing the crops they want to raise. The weekly skills training sessions include lessons on how to plant, cultivate, use, and sell their crops. This instruction will supplement the education sessions we already run at our healthcare program sites, which address the basics of good nutrition, the importance of breastfeeding, meal planning, and the importance of water sanitation and proper hygiene.
The future: Eventually, our individual family farms will combine to form co-ops which will share the harvest, with the goal of creating a CSA (community supported agriculture), increasing access to healthy food, combating malnutrition, and creating new opportunities for job development, all leading towards better health for the entire community. We expect to implement the program in all of the communities that we serve, and invite people in all of our programs to participate: an empowering and inclusive approach to wholesome nutrition for the whole community.
This exciting new partnership between HUFH and OS is aspirational: to create an environment where children and their families can do more than just survive, but can truly thrive!