December 21, 2012 7:12 pm

Seeds of hope

A grassroots gardening project in Haiti is one of a number seeking help from the Global Fund for Children
Pierre Cheler’s gardening project in Cyvadier, Haiti©Charlie Bibby

Pierre Cheler’s gardening project in Cyvadier, Haiti

Pierre Chel’s gardening project in the Haitian village of Cyvadier may be small but he hopes that, one day, it will offer some defence against the hurricanes that regularly devastate lives, crops and homes in this corner of the Caribbean.

Deforestation on mountains in the region means flood waters can build quickly and hurricanes wreak havoc. So each week, as part of Rebwaze Ayiti (Reforest Haiti), the 31-year-old agronomist teaches local children to plant and nurture trees and vegetables, a message he hopes they will take back to their communities.

“It is important for the environment and safety to keep planting,” he says. “At the same time, the population is growing and this has a big impact on the environment. We realise we have to do something.”

If Cheler’s ambitions are to be realised, he needs funding for expansion, something he hopes to receive from the Global Fund for Children, which backs grassroots projects that work with vulnerable children and is the Financial Times’ partner in its seasonal appeal. The GFC, which currently has projects in 78 countries, invests cash – grants range from $5,000 to $25,000 – and offers training to local organisations for between five and seven years. This cash can escalate the pace of expansion and increase the profile of budding social entrepreneurs.

With a regular turnover of partners, the GFC is always looking to find new ones. Its eight programme officers scout for grassroots partners with budgets of less than $200,000. Of the 2,500 inquiries or referrals it receives each year, up to 200 receive a site visit; of those, between 50 and 60 new projects are taken on. The GFC says that with greater resources, this number could rise to more than 80.

When the GFC visits Cyvadier, Cheler shows its scout, Sandra Macias del Villar, the nursery. Del Villar notes that the programme is locally rooted and driven – all big pluses for GFC. Still, she has questions about how the children benefit. “How are the children changing?” she asks. This will be among issues discussed with her colleagues in Washington before a board meeting next May, when new partners come up for approval.

Cheler, who turned down a job with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to work on this project with two colleagues, says he will stick with it whatever the outcome of this meeting. His goal is simple: to “prevent people from dying”. It is his responsibility, he says, “because I am from here”.

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