"The Beauty Above Comes From The Science Below"

Building Soils and Relationships in LaGonave, Part I

We shipped our Biochar and VITAL Blend to LaGonave

American BioChar Company intends to help improve LaGonave’s impoverished soils and increase their food production. We followed our shipment to the island recently (end of October) and arrived for the very first time on LaGonave to start a project that I believe will be changing Mark and I forever, in our hearts and minds.

About Haiti and it’s largest Island, LaGonave

The Republic of Haiti is part of a bigger Caribbean island called Hispaniola which includes the Dominican Republic on the eastern side.  LaGonave is Haiti’s largest coastal island and was a long-ago pirate’s hangout. Despite Haiti being called “La Perle des Antilles” (The Pearl of the Antilles) in the past, it suffers from deforestation and very poor soil conditions.

The island’s historical and geographical story does not support a thriving, green island but the myth perpetuated that its deforestation is entirely due to unchecked charcoal production is misleading and unproductive.(1)  Historically, Haiti and its islands have seen forced removal of virgin forests for sugar cane plantations and later mahogany and other precious hard woods by the French in the 17th and 18th centuries.(2)  Later U.S. influences cleared more forests to grow rubber trees for WWII.  More recent increases in population and economic needs have exacerbated the already struggling landscape.

Revitalizing LaGonave’s Soils

Seedlings ready to be planted

Mark and I want to start small and work with the Starfysh organization to provide demonstration planting areas and composting sites on LaGonave.(3)  We believe in our tagline, the Beauty Above comes from the Science Below, and that means creating healthier soils through improved agricultural practices. VITAL Blend soil amendment was sent down, along with our BioChar, to help kick start the plantings.  We are confident that incorporating our pure biochar into their composting regimen and working the biochar-compost-manure blend into the soil repeatedly will, over a period of time, produce a resurgence of microbial growth and soil re-formation.

Some of our Short-term Goals

It is hard not to run ahead and make big plans. Instead we are focusing on helping by teaching many small-scale farmers and large urban gardeners on LaGonave. Some of our short-term goals are to:

  • initiate an improved composting method and create more compost production sites
  • modify seedling transplanting practices by improving potting soil composition
  • demonstrate that improving soil preparation at planting creates better crop survivability and yield

This agricultural project will be on-going and I intend to keep you up-to-date on its story of change.  It is being assisted by many people including all the individuals who donate regularly to Starfysh, by the many volunteers who helped prep the material before it was sent, by the support from Carl and Rhonda at Jackson Nursery in Greensburg, Indiana, and additional help from Waste to Energy’s Don Murphy.  Part II of this on-going blog will describe our first visit’s experiences on the island and what we specifically did at the two garden campuses.


(1)  Tarter, Andrew. 2015. “Adaptive Arboreal Practices: Haitian Farmer Responses to Ongoing Deforestation.” PhD dissertation, University of Florida.

(2) Lucile Maertens & Adrienne Stork, “The Real Story of Haiti’s Forests. Changing the narrative around deforestation and charcoal in Haiti,” Books and Ideas, 9 October 2017. ISSN : 2105-3030.  http://www.booksandideas.net/The-Real-Story-of-Haiti-s-Forests.html

(3)  Agricultural Projects, Project #3, Biochar: Restoring Haiti’s Damaged Soil.   http://starfysh.org/our-work/agriculture-projects/