Reflections from Haiti by Our Field Scientist

This is the third installment from our field scientist reflecting on his current visit to Haiti.  Nate Heiden first visited Pignon in 2016, when still an undergraduate.  Today, he is on site at the Many Hands For Haiti location, helping Levo establish a process for training local residents in hydroponic farming while he sets up data collection protocols.

This was a busy week! We spent time prepping and sealing two systems in the community. We then planted 32 peppers in those two systems. So far, they are doing really well! We have also added shade cloth to those systems as they are in a very sunny location. In addition, we have begun to prepare two other systems in the community for planting, once seedlings are ready to transplant. Kely has been doing a really great job in staying on top of the data collection and on maintaining systems. I have become very confident that he will do a good job training other people to run these systems.

On campus, the plants have been doing admirably overall. We have had continued success with some of the Haitian-sourced fertilizer, especially in growing peppers. I have begun to run a side-by-side trial to see how the growth of the plants on this new fertilizer compares to that of plants grown with the traditional hydroponic fertilizer. If we find that there is not a great deal of separation, which definitely seems like a potential outcome currently, then that would be great news for simplifying the fertilizer supply logistics.

I have had the chance to drive a Kawasaki Mule Four-Wheeler around town a lot lately. It is a perfect vehicle for the rough dirt roads, but I am still getting used to navigating the busy roads. They don’t have any lanes and in order to communicate your intentions and location to other vehicles (everything from motorcycles to donkeys) honking is used strategically and adeptly by Haitian drivers. I am still used to seeing an angry face when I hear someone lay on the horn, but, unlike in the U.S. the horn is used for good reason almost all of the time in Haiti. Kely has been coaching me on when I should honk and usually that is more often than my natural tendency.

I had the chance to take part in the 3rd Annual Many Hands for Haiti Color Run on Saturday, which was a really awesome event! 200 kids from Pignon participated in the big run which went a few miles, including a really big hill, all the way from downtown to the Many Hands campus. The kids were really impressive, that was a long way to go! I got to help spray the kids with paint as they ran. That was a lot of fun! I could tell that the vast majority were having a blast and so were all of the volunteers. They got breakfast before the race and after the race they had lunch and listened to presentations from different teachers and preachers. It was really interesting and engaging.

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