In 1990 The Comprehensive Development Project (CODEP) initiated a very ambitious and successful reforestation program in the rugged mountain region (Cormeir Water Shed) located southwest of Port Au Prince. In addition to reforesting thousands of acres of barren hillsides (planting an average of 500,000 trees/year) CODEP also encouraged and helped finance the building of 50+ beautifully constructed concrete fish ponds terraced into the mountians. Most of the ponds are communally owned and operated and the fish harvested would be equably divided amongst the pond owners.  The goal was to raise tilapia fingerlings, supplied by the CODEP hatchery in LaCul, using fish feed that would be imported from the US. Fish harvested from the ponds would be equably divided amongst the owners/operators of the ponds. An unforeseen flaw in this concept was the dependence on imported feed to produce fish. Political turmoil hindered the importation of fish feed and the ponds quickly became fallow. It was at this juncture that the MBL was asked to help.

Our recent efforts have been focused on a “periphyton” based system of aquaculture, a method of raising plants and algae within a pond to supply the fish with food. All of the methods we employ are evaluated in terms of energy and resource input and output, to minimize demand on farmers. Every effort is made here in Woods Hole and in conjunction with partners in Haiti, to refine our ideas into adaptable, culturally congruent methods.

Training seminars were conducted in Haiti and one of our staff, Nick Warren, was sent to Haiti for 6 weeks to ensure the techniques were implemented correctly. Within 5-6 months of introducing the new fish rearing technique the ponds began producing fish and for the first time in many years fish were being harvested, revenue was being generated and people were eating better. The unexplainable secrecy behind which ponds were being harvested and when, made it very difficult for us to quantify the success of our efforts but we quickly learned that more ponds were being built in remote areas we had not been in contact with. The word was spreading. This was our only real evidence that the technique we had introduced was working and had been accepted into the culture.