Archive for August, 2015

Growing for the Future

Goat Summit - milking demonstration

Goat Summit – milking demonstration

In the fall of 2014 we had two important conferences which spearheaded activities for 2015.  Both followed the same participatory model. First was the goat summit:  on the first day we had 12-15 staff and leaders who planned out four stations covering goat food, goat parks, goat wellness, and milking goats. On the next two days about 40 people participated and rotated among the four stations and drew up action plans.

The second conference was on the heath of the soil and included A) adding carbon and compost from SOIL (made from human waste), double digging, cultivating worms for their castings, along with other soil conservation techniques.
Participants in a training at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center

Participants in a training at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center

During the first half of 2015, there have been trainings for the four Caritas technicians on an average once a week at Grepin and there have been numerous formations “in Place”  out in the countryside where people live. There are at least 10 groups of ten families who after training received a female goat.  There is one improved male goat for each group of families.  This model of dispersed training allows us to have a much wider impact and reach many families who would not be able to travel to Grepin.  The same is true about the soil conservation which was the Caritas campaign.  More than 150 people have benefited directly and another 100 indirectly.

The other movement which has happened is that the parish Caritas agricultural program has moved from the small room in the rectory to the Fr. Jean Marie Vincent Formation center.  The technicians receive weekly formation and participate in workshops with the agronomists out in the country side.
Students receiving training in the nursery

Students receiving training in the nursery

On May 1, 2015 over five hundred students from Jean XXIII primary and high school participated in a training session on reforestation at the Center and on Tet Mon – the Jean Marie Vincent Forest. The training of students is some of the most important work we do. The children enjoy working in the nursery, planting trees and caring for the seedlings. This knowledge will have long lasting benefits for their communities.

srpatThank you to Sister Pat Dillon, RJM for this informative report on the work in Haiti! You are all doing amazing work there!


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New Trees in Haiti


Look at those papayas!

2015 has been a productive year for our partners in Haiti as they plant trees throughout the region of Gros Morne. In addition to planting in the model forest on Tet Mon, our partners distribute trees to families and schools for dispersed planting, improving the overall health of the soil. For the last several years, we have been encouraging the planting of fruit trees which have multiple benefits: shade and decreased soil erosion as well as increased access to nutrition from fruit and a source of income for families who sell excess fruit.


A Father Gerard papaya tree

In January 2015, we visited our partners at Hands Together where Father Gerard has been cultivating papaya trees. We were all amazed at not only the size but the quantity of papayas growing on one tree.  Their agronomist said it was a combination of soil, watering and the seeds.  Marcel Garcon, director of the Peasant Movement of Gros Morne, picked the ripest papaya in the hope of harvesting seeds as well as fruit.  From those seeds we were able to grow 257 papaya saplings, 200 of which have been distributed to date.  This is an important part of the vocation of the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center-to acquire new or special varieties of crops, propagate them and work with farmers on what methods have proved successful to other farmer growing the same crops. Staff keep track of who is growing trial trees, fruits and vegetables so that adjustments can be made for future sharing success.


Papaya seedlings ready to plant

The rains normally come in March, but this year there was no rain until July which delayed planting. However, now that the rains have prepared the soil for planting, we have distributed the papayas as well as 2000 mango trees.  The Peasant Movement of Gros Morne has been encouraging members to plant mangos, which are the main cash crop of our area, because our mango trees are aging and so many have been lost. The baby papayas will be planted in the school yard–probably by the composting toilet.  Papayas need nitrogen which is found in urine.  Perhaps by Jan. 2016, these trees will be providing food for the students’ lunches.  When the papayas are green, they are cooked as a vegtable and put over rice or cornmeal.  When they ripen more to an orange color, they are eaten as a fruit. These trees will be a great asset to the students at our partner schools, as well as their families.

Our nurseries have also been producing Pine, Oak and Cedar trees to be planted in the forest and through distributed planting at homes and other sites. Through our training and education programs we are teaching residents about different types of trees, and encouraging use of these varieties as firewood so fruit trees can be spared. The pine, oak and cedar grow faster and are better suited for firewood. Our nurseries are full so we are praying for the rain to continue so we can distribute all the seedlings we have.


Sister Pat Dillon in Gros Morne, Haiti

Thanks to Sr. Pat Dillon for her contribution to this post.

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Oasis Project: Middle of the first growing season

An irrigation system

One of the irrigation systems, now operational

Last year the Quixote Center partnered with the Federation of Campesinos (Fedicamp) to construct irrigation systems for smallholder farmers in northern Nicaragua. Construction and training happened last winter, during the dusty dry season. Farmers were selected from among the communities who are members of the Federation, and focused on those families able to put multiple acres under cultivation, and who agreed to contribute seeds to Fedicamp’s growing network of organic community seed banks.

Elizabeth Sosa works with her family to cultivate onions. This family of seven lives in the municipality of San Juan de Limay.

Elizabeth Sosa works with her family to cultivate onions. This family of seven lives in the municipality of San Juan de Limay.

This year, those farmers were able to plant with confidence, even as the rain becomes less consistent. As global climate change continues, we expect greater variation in the arrival of rains for planting. Last year a prolonged drought nearly caused a famine in Nicaragua. The crisis was only averted through a costly government food import program. The key to success will increasingly be dependent on optimizing what water resources are available.

A drip irrigation setup

A drip irrigation setup

Each system is connected to a stream, well, or other reliable source of water. In the future, we may be able to construct cisterns for water storage on those farms which do not have access to these resources.

There are two types of systems that have been deployed. Drip irrigation systems are highly efficient and deliver water directly to the roots of the plant. They work well in all soil types and for a wide variety of crops and situations, from small patio gardens to farms and reforestation efforts. Currently, Fedicamp deploys these systems with two hundred liter barrels connected to a system of pipes and valves, powered by electricity. We hope to develop the use of solar PV systems to power these, though this method is currently cost-prohibitive.


Sprinkler systems require a well, and water is drawn through the use of a centrifugal pump. This electric pump pushes the water through a hose or pipe and past a sprinkler. The result is an even watering that effectively simulates the rain. Experience has shown that this type of system is effective for most crop types, and are more effective in densely cultivated areas.

A young corn crop

The young corn crop of Jose Francisco Gonzales, in the municipality of Yalaguina

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Growing strong, thanks to a consistent water supply.

Each of these systems allows families to cultivate their land with confidence, knowing that even if a drought occurs, their food will still grow. It also allows them to achieve greater efficiency of production, requiring less effort for each row of plants. The effects on the community are multiplied as the organic seed banks are made stronger through increased seed reserves and community participation.

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)