We have determined (and thanks to Tim Brand at Many Hands For Haiti for his consultation on this issue) that in order to develop a sustainable model, we will need to create training centers where folks can learn the basic skills of hydroponic farming in a somewhat controlled environment. In his fourth installment from in-country, Field Scientist, Nate Heiden, describes the first steps in this direction:
This was another eventful week. We worked a great deal off campus again. We replaced the plastic and added shade cloth to two other off-campus systems. I spent a lot of time organizing our data in the evenings and have been able to come to some conclusions about which fertilizers and set-ups have worked the best here. Kely and I have also been fending off an invasion of aphids. The pesky little creatures have been largely defeated by a mixture of detergent and water.
I held an on-campus training session on Tuesday. The community members who have our systems attended it. I think that it will provide a good training base for them going forward. I went over the basics of the theory behind the systems and how to maintain them properly. Claudin translated for me as I went through the lesson and answered questions. There were a lot of questions! This, of course, shows how needed this training was and helped me to tailor this training and future trainings towards the areas of maintenance that generated the most questions. Kely did a lot of the teaching as well and he did a great job. He demonstrated how to test the pH and temperature and how to pump the systems. He is clearly a natural teacher and was very engaging. I also had all of the people being trained practice testing the pH and pumping the systems to make sure that they understood.
This weekend I toured a nearby organization called UCI. It has a preschool, elementary school, middle school, and a college. It was really impressive to learn about how they started with so little and have grown into such a massive operation with over a thousand students.
I saw some more of the country this week. The natural landscape is really incredibly beautiful here. With swaying palm trees and imposing mountains, one can almost forget about all the poverty for a couple minutes. The sunsets and sunrises here are really awe-inspiring. I climbed the mountain again on Saturday, much more quickly this time! We got up to the top in time for the sunrise and it was really something special.