SOIL Celebrates May Day at the Annual Limbé Festival
May Day, or Agriculture and Labor Day here in Haiti, is celebrated as a national public holiday. One may wonder about the state of agricultural production here in Haiti after many decades of deforestation and environmental degradation. What is there to celebrate when Haiti is losing over 30 million metric tons of top soil every year and has to import the majority of its food?
Haiti used to be known as the “Pearl of the Antilles,” producing so much that it exported the majority of its food. At SOIL, we believe that it’s important to celebrate all the work that local communities are doing to improve agriculture systems and support the dream of reaching agricultural abundance once again. Every tree that is planted, every student who earns an agronomy degree, every field restored with healthy soil, and every person who learns more about SOIL’s work and composting is a reason to celebrate.
We took all of our reasons to celebrate, along with a toilet model, bag of compost, and a few SOIL staff members to the annual May Day festival at the Université Chrétienne du Nord d’Haïti (UNCH) in Limbé. We presented our work on stage in front of a large audience of interested onlookers. Emmanuel Antoine, our Sanitation Director, gave a compelling speech about how Ecological Sanitation connects sanitation to agricultural systems and environmental health.
SOIL’s presentation was a compelling follow-up to the keynote speech on this year’s theme, “The role of agricultural systems in response to climate change.” Indeed, research is starting to highlight how sustainable agricultural practices can be a driving force in addressing climate change. For example, compost can help the soil hold onto larger amounts of carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere. It also improves water retention, better protecting the soil against droughts and floods that can result from climate change. SOIL is proud that our compost can help to play a small part in helping Haitian communities deal with the challenges of a changing climate.
After answering questions and engaging with participants both on and off stage, we took to the festival center and enjoyed some of Haiti’s agricultural food specialties like “pen patat” (sweet potato bread pudding), and “diri ak lalo” (rice with jute leaves). To add to the many reasons to love May Day, it reminded us that there is already much to celebrate about Haitian agriculture – from the farmers who tend their land to the delicious food it produces!