The Q&A Archives: Vegetables for Haiti

Question: A group of us are going to Haiti next Feb. on a missionary trip and we would like to bring some vegetable seeds along that can be grown there. First, are there any NGA members that might have done this, and second, I am looking for recommendations of what to bring that would have a chance of growing in a very warm climate with little water and poor soil conditions.

Answer: I'm always a little cautious when it comes to recommending plants for a foreign country. Usually, the people living there know what grows best and --and what there is a market for. They also know their pest problems. I'm always concerned about recommending a "foreign" plant. Is there any way you can contact someone there for their advice? As far as bringing in seeds--I'd also check on that too. It's probably illegal to bring plants in, but seeds may or may not be included in that law. I'd check just to be sure.

Few plants will survive in the conditions you describe--poor soil and little water and high temperatures. Most common crop plants grown here would require some kind of irrigation--likely not a good use of water if there is a shortage. I would suggest you look into ways to help them improve their soils, so that they can make the most of whatever water they do have. Adding compost and aged animal manures, cover cropping, low- or no-tillage methods, judicious use of soluble fertilizers, adjustment of pH if necessary, and an integrated approach to pest management will all serve to improve soil conditions. Is there any way you could arrange to have soil tests done? This might be a big help, since something as simple as adding lime can go a long way toward improving cropping.

As far as NGA people who've done something like this...I don't know of any way to check this. Perhaps you could write a letter to the editor of our magazine (you can e-mail to me and I'll forward it to our editor-in-chief) and they might be able to publish it in the magazine.

Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

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