There we are, deep into the program, ready to go and make a difference in the community! The next part of our program consists in making St Vincent climate change ready. To do so, the plan is to help locals become independent from imports and more self-reliant. A very big problem in countries that are more and more often touched by strong weather patterns is that they solely depend on foreign aid in case of a hurricane or tropical storm… That doesn’t let them become stronger and it takes them very long to get back on their feet. By helping the locals to grow their own food, we give them the tools to their own growth and well being!
Our team decided to split into 3 groups to build 3 new home gardens in Chateaubelair, the village close to RVA. The grant that finances the home gardens is destined for female-headed households. We headed off to the village with our questionnaire and Selly, our local reference person who knows literally everyone and has many many relatives!! (“meet my cousin”, “this is my uncle”, “oh look, there is my sister”, and “here my nephew”… you get the idea!!). Finding families who have a little piece of land next to their house, who are interested in trying something different (organic/permaculture) and who are going to take good care of their garden for the next 15 years at least, is not the easiest thing!!!! One has plans to extend their house in the next couple of years, the other doesn’t own the land, this other one has a husband… Finally, after 2 aborted designs (including all the weeding and mapping out of the area!) we finally set out to build a garden for Laureena. She has a 12years old boy and doesn’t have a job, having a garden will allow her to enjoy outside workout, to eat more healthy, and hopefully make an extra income with the many vegetables that she will grow!
When we first visited the little plot of land next to Laureena’s house, we couldn’t imagine how nice it would look about 3 weeks later!! The garden was invaded with weeds up to our waist, every time we cleaned up one area, we found mounts of trash (FYI, the garbage collection only started in the 2000’s, and most of the trash created until then is still buried in people’s yards…), a huge pile of wood from a fallen tree was covered in weeds and everything was a mess!! So Sabrina, Viki, Laureena and I put on our gloves and working clothes and started cleaning up! During that first day we felt completely overwhelmed and even though we did a lot, it was barely visible! Because of our 2 previous aborted projects, we were running late compared to the other 2 teams, so we asked for a bonus on the second day, and the whole team, plus Martyn, Bongo and Winson (some of the school’s workers) came around to help us! It took us the whole day to make woodchips out of the huge pile and to weed almost all the garden! Then we could finally start to see the difference!!!
After this exhausting but very rewarding day, we could start to plan the design for the beds in the garden. Because the land was mostly flat, it made it possible to be creative and not to use only straight beds on contour. We wanted to do something original, and non-conventional! So we decided for a set of 4 triangles that form a square, 3 straight beds, a set of squares and triangles, a fruit forest, a banana circle, a swale to collect the rainwater from the roof and avoid soil erosion and a staples forest! I don’t know the size of the garden, but the more we weeded and removed whatever was in the way, the bigger it became!!!! The first part of the planning consisted in planting sticks in the ground and mark the shapes of the beds with yellow string! This technique allowed us to visualize, walk the future paths and see if it was convenient and beautiful!
Then Sabrina started digging the banana Circle, it is basically a big hole that will be used to throw all organic materials and bananas planted all around! Viki dug out holes for the banana plants and collected mulch to put on our future beds. And I set out on my special project to build a Herbs Spiral, which is basically a spiral built with rocks in which we planted a lot of different herbs!!! In the afternoon, we got some help from Sammy and the other workers to start building the first beds! Well let’s say that with the 3 girls we would probably have built one bed while they already finished 5!!! That gave us time to prepare the beds by mulching them (putting organic matter and manure on the beds to build a more fertile soil).
What a great surprise when we came back after three days to see that Martyn and Bongo had built the of the beds for us with bamboo!!!! What a difference!!!! We thought that we would only need to give the last touches, but… it took a bit more than that!!! We then planned the different plants for the beds, planted them, weeded more, dug more, weeded again… it took us about another 5 days to “finish” everything! Planted some ground cover in the fruit forest, built a vertical structure on the edge of the garden to grow passion fruits and Christophine, planted trees, Cassava and sweet potatoes… A lot of work indeed!
And in reference to the first image, we couldn’t have done it without the help of the workers who dug a lot for us, but also climbed the coconut tree to give us coconut water during our breaks 🙂 And thanks to Sammy for driving us back and forth and bringing us food for lunch and all the other help!!! I’m sure Laureena is going to do a great job keeping the garden growing!!! Can’t wait to see all the plants in full fruit!!!! 🙂
Next Step, checking on the gardens that were previously built and making sure that everyone is having a good time harvesting beautiful veggies and fruits!!!