Even Paradise needs a Community Garden

Even Paradise needs a Community Garden

To grow up in the small fishing village of Baharuco, seems like a person has grown up in Paradise. The Palm tree lined white pebbly beach, turquoise Caribbean Sea, and bright fishing boats of Baharuco, in the Provence of Barahona, South Dominican Republic, really are what dreams are made of.

The children and young people of the village spend their time surfing, fishing and preparing the fish. After swimming in the little fresh water river, they finish the day battling over the dominos table in the main street.


However, after spending some weeks here, the days begin to roll into each other and the children's lack of entertainment quite quickly becomes apparent. On our first morning in the village, my husband brought out his skateboard which caused quite a stir amongst the young boys especially. News of the new activity spread like wildfire. This skateboard has highlighted the need for something new, as well as peoples appetite for a new activity.

The concept of community gardens is not new to the Dominican Republic, however they are few and far between and are usually charity based, lead by different foundations. One such is the Save the Children Programme.

Save the Children has been working to improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families in the DR since 1972. Save the Children has an interesting focus on nutrition, ensuring that families achieve a better nutrition through various activities that improve food production. In recent years they have worked extensively in the implementation of school and community gardens for the production of fruit and vegetables. Future projects include household vegetable garden planning for improved diet and generating income. 

The small village of Baharuco is not involved in any such projects, following are a few reasons why I believe that a village community garden would be a great asset to the local community. 

The diet of the villagers consists of delicious fresh fish could each day from the beach. Rice and beans are a very popular lunch. Chicken is another staple, eaten at lunch or dinner, maybe even both! Plantains and green bananas (guineos) squashed and then fried are so popular that they will be eaten and cooked throughout the day. Initially this diet sounds very healthy but after a few weeks, the high protein and carbohydrate diet seriously lacks variation. With the introduction of a new vegetable garden, a constant supply of fresh green leafy Lettuce, Spinach and Rocket could be at hand to help add some needed vitamins. These crops are very quick to grow especially in the tropical Caribbean climate. Seed could also be saved and resown easily. 

Fruit is sold daily but by passing trucks, and therefore children do not tend to avail of their goods. The children's foraging instinct is happily filled by collecting small fruits washed up along the high-tide line on the beach. Hours of entertainment is had from bashing these fruits between stones to reach the sweet nut that is right in the centre. Quite an art to extract the nut without bashing it all to pieces, as I did. 

In a community garden the children will have hours of fun each day and week digging, planting, foraging, sowing. All these tasks are enjoyed by children the world over. And any fruiting crops grown, will be readily enjoyed by the children. Another crop that we could grow for their heavy cropping value would be Tomatoes. Any household would find good use of fresh tomatoes and their high vitamin level would be a valuable addition to the local diet. 

There is a patch of wasteland rightalong the street of the village that would be a perfect place for the proposed garden. It is surrounded by houses, which would provide some security against vandalism. As it is right in the centre of the community, this should add to a sense of ownership amongst the locals. 

All day long, people seek shade and shelter from the hot sun. In the garden we will include shaded seating areas and quiet benches. Thus, making it a popular social spot all through the day. Dominos are the evening entertainment of the children, the garden should definitely include some permanent Domino tables, ensuring that even into the evening, the garden would be used and enjoyed. 

Amusingly, the village has regular power cuts due to the fact that it refuses to pay for electricity. Very few houses have any electricity backup from saved battery power. The garden will have an inverter system that stores electricity to then light up the dark each evening. Any light source in the dark village attracts locals, again adding to the social aspect of the community space and garden. 

This garden plan is only the musings of a horticulturalist on holiday, however, perhaps one day the village of Baharuco will indeed cultivate a community space. One that will provide the village with not only some nutritional food but also a community focused project beneficial for young and old alike.

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