On this next trip to Haiti we have been busy working on health-based art projects. Composting, Waste Management, Sanitation and Cleanliness, Water Harvesting … just a few topics we would like to tackle.
One project that we’ve taken on in recent weeks deals with malnutrition. Artists Jenni Ward and Kathy Barbro are putting together an art project lesson plan, based on Jack and The Magic Beanstalk. Once we walk all the kids through the story of magic beans, we hope to give them each a few bean seedlings to take home and plant.
We have quite a few obstacles to overcome, namely safe, nutrient rich soils, thrivability in the intense tropical heat and knowledge to grow, harvest and collect bean seeds to make the art project sustainable once we are home in California.
It will be much easier to focus on acquiring vegetable-based proteins for children, pregnant women and the elderly than sourcing animal-based proteins. About 61 percent of the population of Haiti is classified as undernourished by the World Bank. Beans are relatively easy to grow and are easy to transport in seed form. One of our partners, Medishare is currently working on a protein rich project involving beans in the Thomonde community of Haiti’s Central Plateau, 41 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince.
Mineral deficiency can be reduced through bio-fortified staple foods like beans.
Malnutrition is a worry for young children, pregnant and lactating women, and older people. Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, which has resulted in pervasive malnutrition. Even prior to the earthquake in January 2010, one in three Haitian children under the age of five suffered from malnutrition. Today, thousands more are at risk of malnutrition as a result of the devastation from the earthquake. Malnourished children are five-to-eight times more likely to die from diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and measles than are well-nourished children.
There is much to learn about Haitian Food Customs as far as introducing more protein dense vegetables and fruits. Because Beans have 8-10 grams of protein per serving they are a great crop to introduce to gardens small and large. We are on the hunt to collect more and more information about specific bean varieties that will thrive in the humid, wet Haitian climate.