Friday Chris, I and Liz hiked up a mountain just east of Mount Roi (about 10 miles south of Pierre Payen). The target was a large natural spring about halfway to the top. Chris drove one of the mission trucks about 4 miles up the mountain on the usual appalling road. We parked it and started walking. After a while we followed the irrigation system to the source. The path next to the free flowing 4 foot wide stream was very narrow – in one place we walked about 500 yards on top of a 5 inch wide stone wall. Every 2 minutes we’d meet a family going down carrying goods to market. At this point it was about a 2 hour walk, some of them had donkies(on the nearby road) but most just carried what they could on their heads. Imagine spending all day transporting and selling a regime (about 10 hands) of bananas in the nearest market.
The Haitian irrigation systems are curious to North American eyes. On this hike we saw parts of a formal planned and constructed waterway with informal systems branching off at every cultivated field. These informal systems had 3 to 6 inch high mud walls with numerous branches regulated by the simple means of a rock or piece of mud placed at the base of the branch. On my walks around Pierre Payen I didn’t see anyone adjusting the water flow but on the backward part of the wlk I’d often see a completely different pattern of irrigation. How all the farmers kept track of who got what I don’t know. This the dry season – it hasn’t rained since November – so water is not without limit.
Here is a partial list of what we saw growing. Avacados, Breadfruit, Coconuts, Watercress, Bananas and Mangoes. Transportation precludes the farmers making any kind of money out of their crops. We only went perhaps 20% of the way into the back country served by this “road”. Everything grew well, lots of water, lots of sun, thousands of people but almost no cash income.
I was curious about Breadfruit. This the plant Captain Blye tried to introduce to Tahiti when he was subject to the famous mutiny. I had read that it is very nutrious, easy to grow and a cheap way to establish adequate food for a large population. It can be cooked and eaten by simply throwing it into an open fire. Captain Blye apparently succeeded in introducing Breadfruit to Jamaica as ideal slave food. Unfortunately, because of that history it is not a preferred food. We ate it at supper here one night. It tasted very similar to potato.
This is Yoness. She is lady who hand roasts the coffee bought in the Pierre Payen Market and we take back to Vancouver WA to sell to help support the mission. The beans are top quality Aribica beans that can only be grown at higher altitudes rather than the more common Robusto beans. The odor of 70# of coffee roasting is something else for an addict like me.
Leslie has kept you all up to date with Olivia walking, dinner at Club Indigo, being subjected to about 20 Haitians clustering around us taking photos etc so will I stop here. Back to the USA Tuesday with luxury and lack of everyday surprise!