Fri, 20 Feb 2015 10:07:00 CST — by: Geanina Fripp
Zanmi Kafe (Partners in Coffee) represents a collaborative effort between Sewanee, the NGOs Partners in Health and Partners in Agriculture, and farmers to establish diverse and more sustainable tree-based agroecosystems in the deforested central plateau region of Haiti through the reintroduction of shade-grown coffee. During the summer of 2014, Sewanee students Elizabeth Sega, C'15, Geanina Fripp, C'16, Scott Summers, C'16, and Duncan Pearce, C'17, helped distribute the first round of coffee and multipurpose tree seedlings from a nursery in the mountain village of Bois Jolie to farmers.
After distributing the coffee seedlings, the students along with four Haitian agronomy students began sampling farms in the village of Bois Jolie for baseline biodiversity (beetles, ants, birds and butterflies) and continued the socioeconomic survey. Upon returning to Sewanee, students began the process of ant identification, the most successful biodiversity study of the summer. Along with the help of Sean McKenzie, C'11 studying the chemical ecology of ants, and Dr. David Lubertazzi, a Dominican ant expert at Harvard, Geanina and Scott were able to identify the ants and learn how to identify ants on their own. After Sewanee students left Haiti in June, the four Haitian agronomy students continued sampling biodiversity in order to achieve a thesis under the guidance of Sewanee Biology Professor Deborah McGrath.
At left: Elizabeth Sega, Brooke Irvine, and Geanina Fripp hiking to the village of Bois Jolie, Haiti. January, 2015. [photo:Pradip Malde]
In January 2015, Sewanee students returned to Haiti to help the Haitian agronomy students with their biodiversity sampling and identification methods. The team returned to Bois Jolie to visit with the farmers and check on the newly planted seedlings. Scott and Geanina both identified a new coffee pest, scale, as well as ants farming the scale. This new find allowed Geanina and Scott to focus their upcoming summer research on interactions among coffee pests and their predators and prey. Crucial to the summer research will be data on the extent and the severity of the scale (and other pests) across all farms in Bois Jolie.
This data will be gathered by Sewanee students on the spring break outreach trip in March 2015. Twenty-two Sewanee students led by Elizabeth and Duncan will inventory tree survival, growth and health. In addition to pest management, this data will allow the farmers to receive their first carbon sequestration payment, incentivizing farmers to plant and maintain more diverse and resilient agroecosystems. We also hiked to a new village, Morne Michelle, where we met with farmers interested in starting a coffee nursery. There, we found a disappearing variety of old coffee trees full of flowers and berries but free of diseases. This variety is important for us to study as it may be better adapted to the conditions and less vulnerable to pests.
Most importantly, the continued collaboration and follow up is key to the success of this project. It's easy to plant, but the struggle lies in protecting the young trees from competing land uses and pests until they grow into productive income-generating agroecosystems. Both Sewanee and Haitian students are enthusiastic about the long-term collaborative engagement and seeing this project thrive.
More of Pradip Malde's photographs and ongoing projects in Haiti can be found here.