Insight to Development Needs: Home Gardening and Photography
In order for international humanitarian and development organizations to integrate effective programs, the communities they seek to benefit must be informed, engaged and active in the process. Yet the targeted communities are rarely given an opportunity to contribute in shaping programs that meet their needs. This paper shares the experiences and lessons learned from a home gardening project that combined photography in which participants took photos for three-months. The purpose of the project was not only to enable women to grow food for their families but also empower them to show through photos the day-to-day challenges they face in Haiti; issues that organizations may take into account as they undertake humanitarian and development efforts. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere where 80% of its people live below the international poverty line of $2 per day and 54% live in abject poverty surviving on just $1.25 per day. Poverty levels are reflected in a very high infant mortality rate where 52 of every 1,000 children are dying before the age of one year (in the U.S. it is six per 1,000). This poverty is forcing at least 225,000 Haitian children to work as unpaid household servants, which is considered to be a modern-day form of slavery. Haiti is also the world’s first black-lead republic. Located just 838 miles from Florida it is roughly the size of Maryland. With just over 10 million residents, it shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. The primary languages spoken are French and Creole. Its indigenous name, Ayiti, means “land of the high mountain.” The home gardening project equipped 50 participants through training and education with the essential knowledge to establish and sustain their gardens for family consumption. Additionally, as the project evolved, participants took photos of their everyday lives using disposable cameras. The idea was to use pictures that
they took so they could tell their stories of the daily challenges they face. The photos from forty developed disposable cameras were used to create two photo albums, one from the researcher’s point of view, the other from the participants’ perspective. Key research lessons learned from this experience are: a) Research how you can wire the money to the country you will be employed, b) culture and traditions could alter the purpose of the research, c) be open to feedback, d) journal or make voice recordings to document experiences, e) get involved with different aspects of the organization, and f) build meaningful relationships with project staff and participants. Developing and
implementing projects based on photography is a way to assess the needs of a community.
This approach may allow non-governmental, faith-based, humanitarian, and governmental organizations to engage with target populations before proposing efforts to address such issues as poverty and food insecurity.