Madame Rose and her village – a success story


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Content: Madame Rose, a great-grandmother in a small, poor village in Haiti, works hard for the benefit of her neighbours. Through her efforts, life in her village has greatly improved; for example, there is less sickness because she persuaded people to dig and use latrines; people now travel a shorter distance to market; soil and water conservation programs are being implemented.


1. This is another item in our series of farming success stories intended not only to serve all farmers, but also to:

* recognize the contribution of women

* enhance their ability to contribute more fully, and

* encourage and assist them to achieve their potential.

We welcome success stories of other rural women for future packages. A great deal of detail is necessary for the preparation of such a story. Please supply as much detail as you can with any story you send us.

2. References are made in this item to topics more fully covered in other DCFRN items.

Worm Eggs and Germs Spread Disease – Package 8, Item 10

Why Plant Trees? – Package 9, Item 1/D

Planting Trees (Part 1 – First Steps) – Package 9, Item 2

Planting Trees (Part 2 – Growing Your Own Seedling Trees) – Package 9, Item 3

Planting Trees (Part 3 – Where and When to Plant) – Package 9, Item 4

Planting Trees (Part 5 – Care of Trees After Transplanting) – Package 9, Item 5

Protect Plants From Animals Using Their Manure – Package 14, Item 11

Saving Hillside Topsoil (Part 1) – Package 5, Item 7

Saving Hillside Topsoil (Part 2) – Package 5, Item 8

Building Self-forming Terraces on Sloping Land – Package 14, Item 1

3. We try never to offend people by promoting ideas or practices that oppose their cultural values.  You are well aware of these customs and practices. Please keep them in mind when preparing to use DCFRN materials.




Madame Rose is a great-grandmother. She lives in Haiti in the West Indies. She lives by herself in her own mud house 3 1/2 metres (12 feet) square with a thatched roof. For many years, she has kept rabbits and chickens. She also has two goats and raises vegetables.

Latrines in Grand Fond

Madame Rose’s village is a long way from the capital city.

A few years ago, a health worker came to tell her and her neighbours how important it is for their health to use a latrine. The health worker said that when people use a well- made latrine, flies cannot collect on the faeces and spread disease germs that may be in the faeces to other people. Madame Rose had always worried about people getting sick so she was the first person in the village to dig and use a latrine not far from her house. She also talked to other people about why it is important to use one. Now everyone in the village uses a deep pit latrine. As you might imagine, not nearly as many people get sick now that they use latrines. That is one of many good things that Madame Rose has done for everyone in her village.

Access to the market – a real problem

Like all of her neighbours in the village of Grand Fond, Madame Rose’s main income is from selling her produce at a large regional market eight kilometres (five miles) north of the village. The only direct way to get there used to be by a rough stony mule (or donkey) trail up, over, and around a mountain. A safer, easier way was by walking 40 kilometres (24 miles) on a good mule (or donkey) trail and then on the main government highway. This way, however, has become more and more dangerous every year with many more cars and trucks using the highway.

After years of walking so many kilometres (miles) to the market every week, Madame Rose had an idea. She suggested that everyone in the village set to work to improve that dangerous, stony mule trail over and around the mountain. She and her neighbours would then need to take their produce only eight kilometres (five miles) to the market, instead of by that long way around to the market. Many people laughed at her. Some said that it would be too much work. Others said it would be impossible to make that trail safe and easy to use. Madame Rose would not listen to them. She said, “We can do it if we want to!”

Early in the dry season, she talked to everyone in the village. She told them that even though she was a great-grandmother, she was going to take her own hoe and shovel and start working. A few people followed her out to the trail, clearing off the big stones, making the trail easy to walk on, and wide enough for a cart. Then came the rainy season when everyone was busy with their crops. But after that, Madame Rose with a few more people went back to work on improving the trail.

There was one place on the trail where a big machine, a bulldozer, would be needed to cut into the steep mountainside. The government heard about the project. They came to see what Madame Rose and her neighbours had been doing. They were surprised to find how much the people of Grand Fond had done. They were so impressed that they supplied the bulldozer needed for that one bad place in the trail. By then, people who had laughed at the idea joined in to help. Also, people from other nearby villages came to help, and within one year the short route to the market was finished.

Ever since the trail was improved, the people of Grand Fond have been growing more and better produce to sell because it is now so much easier to get it to market.

Planting trees

Madame Rose’s next project was to plant trees on sloping land where trees used to grow before they were cut for firewood or charcoal. She planted out her own nursery of seedling trees and helped others in the village to do the same. There are now three big village nurseries in Grand Fond. Women, men, and children have all been out planting leucaena, neem, eucalyptus and pine seedling trees. On the steeper hillsides, they plant trees on the contour, and they conserve rainfall, soil moisture and hillside soil with self-forming terraces. (This is a conservation method developed in the Philippines.).

Adult education

Finally, let me tell you one more thing that Madame Rose has done for her village. She discovered that in the nearest big town, a group of seven young people write and sing songs, dance, and present plays. In their songs and plays, they tell people about good nutrition and how to stay healthy. They also do shows about soil and water conservation, agroforestry, and food production. Madame Rose has arranged for them to come regularly to Grand Fond to entertain and educate her and her neighbours.

Everyone in this village in Haiti is enjoying a better life because this great-grandmother helps others help themselves.

Information sources

All information in this item was obtained from Kenneth G. Davis, Executive Director, Canadian Foundation for World Development, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada