In the valley of Nan Carré in the north-west department of Haiti, water flows rapidly through concrete channels and can be quickly diverted into adjacent plots. Everywhere the eye travels, healthy plants are pushing up in neat rows. Here Derelus Clercilien farms a small plot of about an eighth of a hectare and helps run the association that manages the new irrigation system. His enthusiasm is contagious. "Once the irrigation system was in place I planted carrots," he says. "The project staff kept telling me to keep watering. I made 10,000 gourdes (about US$236). I had never seen that much money before, I had never even seen 5,000 gourdes."
"Before we would plant and if there wasn't enough rain – which was often – we lost everything," explains fellow-farmer Oltin Saint Filet. "Now water is plentiful year-round. The project taught us new production techniques and how to prepare soils, and has encouraged us to try cash crops," he says.
"I planted two plots with onions and when the time came to sell, I realized I had achieved the impossible. Even after I gave away some of my harvest, I made 7,500 gourdes . I also made 2,500 gourdes with a few carrots and 1,500 gourdes with tomatoes."
For Saint Filet, Clercilien and other farmers in Nan Carré, the sudden increase in productivity and income has been almost unimaginable. Having started with 15 test plantations a year and a half ago in 2011, 150 farmers have now joined the association. With the right inputs, they can produce three or even four harvests a year.
"We are just now realizing how hard our lives were," says Clercilien. "Before the irrigation system was installed, we would often plant one marmite of seeds (about 2.5 kilograms) and reap less or barely the same amount at harvest."