Seed Programs International

Pascale DesormesPascal Desormes meets us in the center of the small town of Perches, in mountainous northeast Haiti. The cooler mountain air and fresh puddles of rain are a pleasant change from the crowds and heat of Cap Haitien. But the living conditions on the way here are, mostly, no better - many houses are constructed of sticks and mud, not the cinder blocks back in town. Statistics tell us that 60% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day and this region is surely typical -- income appears patched together from improvised sources. Gas stations consist of women selling motorbike fill-ups worth of diesel or unleaded from plastic cooking oil jugs on the side of the road.

Pascal rides with us up the hill and we park in front of a structure, partially built like so many in Haiti, but well on its way to what he tells us will be a food processing facility. As we walk farther up the hill, admiring the tropical reserve-like land clearly under good stewardship, the story slowly unfolds.

Pascal’s family has owned some land in these mountains for generations. He was educated in agronomy, always knowing he wanted to return to his family land in Perches. He built a small business growing peanuts, then grew the business and then began processing peanuts grown by his neighbors. He began an association for the furthering of agriculture in Perches, which anyone is welcome to join. Over time, he added new crops: coffee, cacao, and honey. In each case he helps new growers and sees their products through to their final processed form, ready for the final buyer or wholesale outlet.

Today, more than 500 peanut growers, 135 coffee growers and 25 honey producers and cacao growers are in business with Pascal. His food processing business provides a sure market outlet for what they produce. He never stops trying new things: as we stand under the shade of a cashew tree, he points out a new plot, in full sun on the hillside, recently turned over to produce a crop of hot peppers. The new processing facility will save a 3 hour drive each way to reach the current processor.

Keep in mind, a story like this sounds commonplace, almost easy, to American ears. We see it every day in a magazine, or chatting with a successful business owner in our hometown.

However in Haiti, forces of corruption, destruction and chaos make a story like this near-impossible. Yes, Pascal has an advantage: land from his family. But Haiti rips every advantage and every attempt of progress out of the hands of smart and well-meaning people every day. To do what Pascal has done is near-miraculous: growing an enterprise without electricity most days; with impassable roads; with personnel emerging from underfunded, crowded schools; amid a constant cycle of drought and flood with limited access to modern agricultural supplies; and relying on a customer base with little or no disposable income.

If you want to know how hard it is to make progress in Haiti, just ask the many aid and development agencies who have for decades fought--with varying success--to keep multi-million dollar projects from descending into the sewers of chaos and ineffectiveness. This in spite of all the advantages of having US headquarters, expensive vehicles, imported technology, and highly educated staff.

After the walk, we return to the lovely courtyard of Pascal’s house, where he gifts us with a fresh coconut each (to drink the water) and a bottle of his own organic honey.

I am travelling with SPI’s core Haiti partner AKV, Ayiti Konse Vet or “Keep Haiti Green.” They maintain a relationship with Pascal because that is part of the organizational model: to find and build a network of Haitian people who, through force of will, and by making the most of small advantages and opportunities, are able to parlay agriculture into a force for positive change.

We have never provided seeds or other services for Pascal. UNDP’s Small Grants Program for Haiti has in fact supported the development of his farmer support networks and processing equipment. So, why is this story relevant to SPI’s mission? Why does it so inspire me? I think it’s because the success of our work depends on and trusts, that there will always be local leaders like Pascal Desormes. We take a small but essential resource--good vegetable seed--and put it in the hands of many, along with a little knowledge and local support. This, by itself, does something. But the dramatic change comes when one, or two, or a few women and men step out from the many to take a small advantage, a small idea, and with that great human entrepreneurial spirit so very evident here in Haiti, make a bigger change for more people.

Vegetable seed is such a beautiful analogy for this transformation. A sand grain-sized speck of cabbage seed holds all the potential and information needed to grow a two-pound cabbage, perhaps the centerpiece of a family meal, or to shoot up a flower stalk and produce enough seed to grow 100 more two-pound cabbages. It only needs a little water, soil nutrition, and sunshine. People are the same. Sometimes it only takes a little advantage, a small resource, delivered with care and interest, to start the growth. Then, human entrepreneurial ingenuity takes over. 

Peter Marks, Seed Programs International


Mother's DayIf you're stumped for ideas about what to get the moms in your life for Mother's Day this year, try thinking outside the box. It's easy to get wrapped up in figuring out what your own mom wants, but there are millions of mothers around the world in need. So this year, consider honoring your mom by helping out someone else's. We're thrilled to introduce to you the Sweet Blossom Gifts, a sponsor of SPI's Women's Empowerment Project. With every item sold, a portion of the sale will be donated to help SPI's partnerships that empower women through seeds.

Sweet Blossom Gifts is an independent family owned business, located in the heart of the Appalachian mountains in Asheville, NC. They offer customized handmade jewelry using high-quality materials by an assortment of fine artisans who take time and care to create each piece. Each item is unique and made specifically to order. Sweet Blossom Gifts' partnership with SPI will help fund seed shipments and agricultural training for women.

Access to the most basic life necessities is out of reach for a staggering number of women around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN reports that "if women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million people." We join with women's gardening projects in the most impoverished countries worldwide including Madagascar, Guatemala, and Liberia. In these countries, illiteracy is prominent, especially among women and girls. 

Female farmers produce more than half the developing world's food - yet own less than 2% of land and have limited access to resources such as seeds, tools, and information. By providing top-quality vegetable seeds and locally-driven support, Seed Programs gives women a path to empowerment, income, and nutrition.
 Enabling women to grow their own food in an underprivileged area can change the lives in an entire community. We join with women's gardening projects in the most impoverished countries worldwide including Madagascar, Guatemala, and Liberia. In these countries, illiteracy is prominent, especially among women and girls.

It may be hard to understand how something as small as a seed can have such a far reaching impact but this is indeed the case. Growing vegetables enables women to feed their families with good nutritious food. Excess vegetables can be sold at markets providing money that was previously unavailable. That money can be used to send girls to school where they can learn to read. Once someone can read, a world of opportunity and hope is opened up.

This Mother's Day, thank the special moms in your life and all mothers around the world by doing what they do everyday: making the world a better place. As you prepare to indulge your mom in the goodies she loves most, consider doing so with a present that also gives back to an organization empowering women in greatest need. 

 Sweet Blossom

Central African RepublicAfter years of brutal violence, finally a small sign of hope! At the agricultural fair in Bozoum, Central African Republic, 178 cooperatives gather to sell their products. Amongst them are the recipients of SPI seeds, selling fresh vegetables. "This is the first time in two years the fair is taking place again, a bet made on hope” says Father Aurelio Gazzera, one of SPI's partners working in CAR. 

Father Aurelio Gazzera is the Bishop of St. Michael Parish of Bouzoum, and has bravely led mediation efforts, provided shelter for thousands fleeing their homes during the violence of ongoing wars, and is helping the local community grow their own food to feed their families.

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the least developed countries in the world, coming in at 187 out of 189 countries in the 2014 UN Human Development Index. After a visit to CAR last year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the BBC that “desperate is an understatement” in describing the situation there. 

Even with the conflicts in the neighboring countries spilling over into the CAR’s borders, SPI has delivered desperately needed seeds with support from our partners like Father Aurelio Gazzera. 

SPI's seed shipment to CAR are funded by the Watson Children's Foundation 
Check out Father Aurelio's blog here: http://bouzouminternational.blogspot.co.uk

Article from WorldWatchMonitor.com about Father Aurelio's amazing work here: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2014/06/article_3202859.html/

MadagascarThe Madagascar SEEDS Project promotes learning and self-sufficiency by offering much-needed training in the cultivation of nutritious options for feeding families and for generating income. The project helps a thousand families benefit from the donation of thousands of vegetables seeds. Seed distribution takes place at the CRMF literacy centers, where students received lessons in home gardening. The gardens growing today were started with seeds from last year's plants. The renewed hope, the feeling of empowerment, and the sense of accomplishment that this project instills in each gardener is immeasurable.
Dear Donor,

I write on behalf of all those who benefit from the nutrition project and on behalf of myself as program coordinator of this collaborative effort between CRMF and ONG St Gabriel.

We wish to thank you immensely for your support for the home garden project. Your endowment contributes greatly in our fight against malnutrition. We can find no words to thank you adequately, but we can promise we will do the best gardens in a short time and we will send you lots of pictures. At the moment it rains too much and our gardens are not very pretty.

Vero Rasoazanamita 

SPI's seed shipments to Madagascar are funded by the Watson Children's Foundation 

Contact Us

Seed Programs International

PO Box 9163
Asheville, NC 28815


Seed Programs Canada (Affiliate)

Registered Charity No. 839858107RR0001
Lombardy, ON

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Seed Programs International (SPI)

Seed Programs InternationalSeed Programs International (SPI) is a non-profit, tax exempt, non-governmental humanitarian organization.

We work thorough other humanitarian organizations, church groups, service clubs and individual donors, to provide quality seed to impoverished communities in developing countries enabling them to grow some of their own food. In addition to seed, SPI provides critical seed expertise and experience operating seed based self help programs.”

SPI is operated by individuals with over 50 years seed industry experience plus over 20 years experience in vegetable research and production. We also have 15 years experience operating programs that have successfully shipped seed to over 70 countries on five continents. SPI has shipped enough seed to plant over 1,000,000 vegetable gardens, providing more than 20 kinds of vegetables that are rich in vitamins and minerals often missing in people’s diets.