Planting Swales, Finding Hope

Deep breath...  Changing cycles, changing flows...  On Wednesday, at another camp, we TRANSFORMED A SMALL PATCH OF MOUNTAINSIDE COVERED IN GARBAGE INTO A COMPOST AND VEGETABLE GARDEN IN ABOUT THREE HOURS. We were about 20-30 people. MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK! 

The digging team dug three trenches approximately on contour in under an hour (eyeballed it - didn't have time for an A-frame), and a fourth trench to receive water runoff from the camp above, to slow its flow, and to allow water to infiltrate back into the soil, instead of rushing down the mountain and taking precious top-soil away with it. The highest trench we filled with dried leaves and cardboard, encouraging the residents to bring their veggie and fruit scraps to bury underneath (to prevent odours and flies), which will eventually turn into compost. In the other two trenches, we put a layer of finished compost, then planted veggies (green onions, parsley, an amaranth that the locals call spinach, a few small carrots and small turnips - I wish we'd had more plants to plant!). On the mounds, we transplanted a few young nitrogen-fixing plants found on-site and sowed seeds from older plants (all leucaena), which the residents will be able to cut back and use for mulching on the spot ("chop and drop"); as these perennial plants grow, their roots will also help keep the soil in place and prevent erosion. In the trenches and lightly on the mounds, we spread a layer of mulch (leucaena and grass leaves) to help keep moisture in the soil and to build soil fertility (decomposing organic matter builds up the soil). 

Wow! What an incredibly inspiring, encouraging and uplifting afternoon! It sounded like most of the folks who attended the workshop were enthusiastic about continuing to garden together - there was already a gardening committee, so we encouraged folks to work together, be organised and to start slow and small. 

It was so heartening for me to see the seed of possibility in this garden shining like a small bright light - and realising that more people can and are doing this kind of work in more places with more people - making the dark of night seem more like pre-dawn. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to be there, to plant seeds, physically and energetically, and to build relationships. I think Haiti's future and our future on this planet is closely linked to how we, as individuals, communities and nations, choose to respond to the challenges of our times. 

The devastation of hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and the massive oil spill in the Gulf, which I've heard recently called a rude and crude awakening... And the hope and transformative potential I see in community mobilisation, environmental protection (actions and laws), youth leadership training, stress/trauma relief through simple breathing exercises, cultural and environmental stories and songs, community gardens, composting toilets and toilets where we plant trees afterwards, bio- and mycoremediation, basic health and sanitation education with children and communities, catching rainwater for drinking, forests that can feed us... It's all here and now. 

In the dark night, in the dead of winter, I caught a glimmer of light, a breath of spring, and I HAVE HOPE. Even when I RAIN and when SHE RAINS, I have hope IN MY HEART that HARMONY, RESILIENCE, TRANSFORMATION, PEACE, RESPECT AND WELL-BEING ARE POSSIBLE.


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