Today I’d like to talk about a story of hope, born where nobody thought it could. We are in Haiti: the island in the West Indies ravaged in 2010 by a devastating earthquake that caused more than 300k deaths, leaving more than one and a half million people homeless. More precisely, we are in the capital Port-Au-Prince, in the Cité Soleil district; despite its name, this ‘City of the Sun’ is one of the most notorious slums in town. Well, right here is where this extraordinary community gardening project, the Jaden Tap Tap, was born.
It all began three years ago: the scenario back then must have been even more grim as only one year had passed since the earthquake. Nevertheless, Daniel Tillias, Herode Gary Laurent and Franz Francois – the three minds form Cité Soleil behind the Jaden Tap Tap project – deeply believed in it: and in that area, often used as an unauthorised dumping ground, surrounded by dozens of empty warehouses and with a sky-high crime rate, hope was born.
It wasn’t an overnight process, of course: you need to give gardens time, just as it happens with with people. Daniel Tillias recently explained it in the Guardian: “Making a garden is about more than cultivating plants, it’s about cultivating people”. These are the words of Japanese philosopher and agronomist Masanobu Fukuoka; by looking after a garden, more than cultivating plants, you cultivate the souls of those who every day take care of it.
And that’s exactly what happened: today Jaden Tap Tap counts more than five hundred tyre-gardens, makeshift flowerpots made with used tyres, a flower garden and a greenhouse with moringa, also known as Haiti’s tree of life, used by many destitute people for food purposes. Daniel explains: “We want to give the people of Cité Soleil a model of success. Something to do. And something to eat too”.
Today Jaden Tap Tap’s produces more than 20 types of vegetables, fruit and local herbs: everything gets redistributed in the local community. In addition, Jaden Tap Tap is now flanked by several other projects focusing on education and sport, and recently a school was also opened. “You don’t need space to garden, we tell people, you just need to want to” concludes Daniel’s interview on the Guardian. And maybe, together with the plants, in Cité Soleil some more smiles will soon sprout too.