Haiti Highlights: Making Natural Pesticide in Yati

Written by Kenzie Leas on August 9, 2016 in General, Haiti


This week our Marketing Coordinator Becky Rosaler and HR & Intern Coordinator Kenzie Leas will be taking over our blog and social media, sharing their recent adventures of visiting Plant With Purpose’s team in Fonds-Verrettes, Haiti with a group of Plant With Purpose volunteers and intern alumni.

Pictured above are Plant With Purpose staff including Becky, Ketty (agricultural supervisor), Jean Emmanuel (regional coordinator), Kenzie, and Guy (country director). 

Stick around to hear more! And follow us on Instagram (@plantwpurpose) for additional posts!


When I think about our food, I rarely think about the processes involved in getting a carrot into my curry. My default turns to getting in and out of the grocery store as if it’s an Olympic event, preparing dinners in between work and workouts, where I rarely pause to think about the farmer, the communal knowledge, or the technical methods that went into cultivating my produce.


During our recent visit to Haiti, a bit of that changed for me as we bore witness to several agricultural techniques that partnering farmers and communities employ like grafting, composting, and constructing soil conservation barriers. After a day of farm visits, we were primed for a morning spent in the local market, where farmers within a 30-mile mountain radius travel by foot, moto, and donkey to sell their weekly harvest. This market experience overwhelmed my senses in a way that was different from my weekly trips to Trader Joe’s. It allowed insight into the complex process of getting produce and goods ready for market.

With the vision of the market—farmers and determined businesswomen seared into our mind—we headed up the mountain to the community of Yati, a Plant With Purpose partner since 2014. We were warmly welcomed by 75 community members who were carrying bundles of branches with leaves tickling the ground and firm grips on hand-held plastic containers. In the center of the circle, a growing pile of leaves was ready to be milled into a pulp. The community eagerly waited to learn the process of hand-making natural pesticide.


Plant With Purpose’s local Agricultural Supervisor, Ketty Alexandre (pictured above), explained that chemical pesticides spiked in price in 2010, leaving many rural farmers vulnerable to pest invasion and ultimately losing crops because they simply could not afford the chemicals to ward off pesky invaders. I realized that something as seemingly small as a caterpillar could ruin a family’s source of income for an entire season. Fortunately, Plant With Purpose Haiti responded by introducing a recipe for natural pesticide, which communities could make together with bitter leaves collected from the plants around their farms. After a few days of brewing, the solution would be good for two weeks and just as potent and capable of warding off unwanted pests as the chemical pesticide, not to mention, less harmful for the watershed’s surrounding streams where many people collect their daily drinking water.

28446889290_92ddcc6bc2_oYati community member, Ms. Jean Paul Ilenlinde (pictured), shared, “The benefits of natural pesticides are many. Chemical pesticides are very expensive and I could loose my farm for not having the money to pay for chemical pesticides. But this is free! I’ve spent less money for the same effect. I thank God for sending Plant With Purpose.”

As the community began to work together to mill the bitter leaves—sunflowers, peach trees, tobacco, and peppers—and mix with water, soap, and garlic, they began to sing a song written for Floresta, the name of Plant With Purpose’s program in Haiti. Tears flooded my eyes threatening to spill and group members smiled with a look of absolute contentment and wonder. The song translates to: “Floresta is our friend. If we put our hands together, we will reach our goals. If we work together, we can make change.”

Yati is working together to make change. We were privileged enough to sit amongst this circle of neighbors and friends as they spent the afternoon singing and creating a resource that will help them to reach their goals.

(Check out Instagram to view the video).

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Community is not a new concept; it is not uniquely American but uniquely human. Our individual experience of community can be incredibly powerful for learning and sharing knowledge, resulting in a more abundant future. This is precisely what we witnessed in Yati—a true experience of Haitian community—milling, mixing, and sharing over natural pesticide a vitally important product that contributes to the health of their produce and the health of their community.

Next time I visit my local market, I’ll take a moment to remember the farmers in Haiti, like Ilenlinde and the men and women from Yati, who inspire a true spirit of community through sharing their knowledge, their time, and what they have learned from Plant With Purpose.

One Comment

  1. Beautifully written.

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