Relationships Built to Cultivate Change

Geoff Bishop is a Delegate Speaker at the One Young World Environment Summit. Geoff is also Director of International Relations at Harvest Craft which empowers communities in developing countries through sustainable food production systems.

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There is something about the cycle of life that has been lost that we must find. Humans have taken the environment and set it aside from our everyday life. We have created urban food deserts leading to increased material poverty. Wildlife is going extinct at rates beyond imagination. Deforestation is happening at rates faster than one can picture. All for what? All for money? All for a material gain that is finite. Leading to material loss in communities and creating a cycle of material poverty. Lives have been changed forever for capital gain.

Yet, what is being done about this loss of precious land we call home? Deforestation rates are still rising, sea levels are still rising, CO2 emissions are still rising, material poverty is still rising. Can we say that human selflessness is rising? What are we going to do about forests being cut down at staggering rates? When all the topsoil is gone what are we going to do? We cannot eat money.

As my plane from Los Angeles reached Haiti, I looked down and thought I was still flying over a Mediterranean climate. Looking out the window, there were very few trees in sight. Yet, I was in the Caribbean, a place that is supposed to be tropical. It was hard to believe that only 2% of Haiti’s forests are left. Native species are gone. Climate has been changed. Evapotranspiration has been changed. Soil has been changed. Nutrients have been lost. But what were the people of Haiti experiencing with this environmental devastation? I needed to find out.

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After arriving at the home of our in-country Director, Daniel, I was able to start experiencing the community of southern Haiti.  Knowing very small amounts of Creole, and traveling through the country flagging down motorcycles with backpacks and my good friend/coworker, we found ourselves in situations that forced us to understand the culture very quickly. We saw a common theme of lack of resources yet passion to change the community. Harvest Craft has already helped locals construct two large scale aquaponic systems at two orphanages in southern Haiti. These two large scale aquaponic systems provide job training and healthy food for the orphanage community where resources like water are scarce. As the Director of International Relations for Harvest Craft, I enjoy seeing these projects come to fruition and work toward our mission of empowering communities through sustainable food production systems.

But, we knew we could cultivate more change. We met with community members all across the south. We trekked up hillsides and mountains. Entering communities where foreign aid has not been provided, yet help was needed. Going from urban communities to rural, we noticed there was opportunity to empower change. Notice, change is not uniform. Change is creative, thought out, and cultivated in the mind, heart, and on the ground. We surveyed the land and talked with locals to find the best agriculture method to implement. We know sustainability is a term that has lost its meaning. Sustainably is not just one aspect of life, it is all, from the environment, to economics, to education to housing.

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This is why Harvest Craft is going beyond agriculture and reaching out to business empowerment. We are providing jobs for women in these communities though our program CHEF (Culinary Health Empowerment for the Future), which equips women not only with culinary training, but micro-business training. The goal of this program is to start small street food vending businesses all across Haiti to empower women towards employment and healthy sustainable cooking techniques. In unison with our “Without Walls” community projects where each community we visited builds a sustainable farm that employs 7 locals and supplies food to the local market. Where our CHEF program comes into play and business with change is created. Holistic change to stop the cycle of handouts. Harvest Craft works towards this goal everyday with our aquaponic and other agriculture systems in Los Angeles, CA. Tijuana, Mexico, and Southern Haiti.

No we are not doing this for our own self-interest, we are doing it because, yes we are separate nations, but we are not separate humans. We are one. Working with other people, despite the culture difference is how we cultivate change. It will not come quickly, surely it will come though. We must work with each other to alleviate material poverty. Communities are not in poverty. Their souls are rich, their materials are scarce. This is why we create solutions using the environment and people to work as one. To work towards environmental and social justice. Not as one separate entity but as one primary producer affecting all consumers around the globe in this trophic cascade of life. Using the symbiotic relationships of nature to create change. We must stop being the hashtag generation and be the generation that hashtags change in communities with sustainable agriculture, jobs, education, and environmental care.