Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Urban oasis offers hope to Haiti's poorest

Story highlights

  • Community garden project a symbol of hope for Haitian shantytown
  • Former garbage dump transformed into largest urban garden in the country
  • Recycled tires, suitcases and footballs used as plant pots

Living amid the garbage-strewn sewage canals, residents of Haiti's Cite Soleil endure a grim battle for survival every single day.

The shantytown in the northern reaches of capital Port-au-Prince is one of the countries poorest areas, blighted by poor sanitation and violence.

Shacks, on average, house nine people and around half the population earn less than $0.50 a day. It's little wonder then that life expectancy isn't much more than 50 years, according to the healthcare NGO, Haiti Clinic.

Haitian slum builds 'Garden of Eden'

    Just Watched

    Haitian slum builds 'Garden of Eden'

Haitian slum builds 'Garden of Eden' 02:31
PLAY VIDEO
Can planting trees fight natural disasters?

    Just Watched

    Can planting trees fight natural disasters?

Can planting trees fight natural disasters? 01:46
PLAY VIDEO
Planting a million trees a year

    Just Watched

    Planting a million trees a year

Planting a million trees a year 02:08
PLAY VIDEO

But one man is hoping to challenge this statistic, planting the seeds of a healthier future for the district's 250,000 population by transforming a garbage dump into a vibrant urban garden.

"Growing up in Cite Soleil we have the situation where people think it's somewhere nothing good can happen," says local resident Daniel Tillias.

Read: Can family farming make poverty history?

"But myself and some members of the community wanted to have something to turn it green and nothing could be better than a garden."

The results are extraordinary. Jaden Tap Tap (Tap Tap Garden) covers half-an-acre and is the largest urban garden in the country.

Teeming with plants and people planting and picking them, the garden is hugely popular with locals.

"We grow about 20 different vegetables in the garden," explains Tillias.

Founded in 2011, the garden has an abundance of vegetables and herbs: eggplants, peppers, chard, radishes, potatoes, parsley, basil. It's a cornucopia of healthy green vegetables that rivals any community farm in the world.

"People get in mind that it's not possible to garden in Haiti -- the soil is no longer good, we don't have water. But you see we have accomplished something really amazing," says Tillias.

Read: How supersized portions cost the earth

The bulk of the produce is used for the local soup kitchen providing much needed nutrition for the community. Whatever is left is sold at market.

It's not just the plants which catch your eye, but also the recycled pots and containers.

Old tires, shoes, footballs are filled and planted. Even toilet bowls and old suitcases have been put to use.

"We use whatever we can find. The whole point is first we want the kids to feel connected with what seems like nothing much, because this is something that would just float in the canal. We say: 'No! It could grow parsley,'" Tillias says.

"I want them to be able to eat, to make money out of the garden and to feel more peace through the garden. If I can see these three things happen, I would feel as if I had fulfilled my dream."

      Environment

    • What's better than fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables? How about fresh, locally-grown, free fruits and vegetables, all within an easy walk of your home or office?
    • Haiti's 'Garden of Eden'

      Living amid the garbage-strewn sewage canals, residents of Haiti's Cite Soleil endure a grim battle for survival every single day.
    • Oxfam Rabha Elis Bandas mentioned in story

      In just 12 years Vietnam cut the country's malnutrition rate in half by investing in small scale farming. Now other countries are following suit.
    • Philippe Cousteau recalls his grandfather's advice and asks how you'd like to look at the ocean in 10 years' time -- with regret or awe.
    • The world's oceans are facing a bleak future, say marine scientists unless we rebuild its abundance, variety and vitality.

      We need to rebuild the ocean's abundance, variety and vitality. Without such action, our own future is bleak, say marine scientists.
    • Scientists look at an ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide coring site.

      Global warming has propelled Earth's climate from one of its coldest decades since the last ice age to one of its hottest -- in just one century.
    • Dressed in a wet suit, air tanks on his back is an image of Jacques Cousteau most people would recognize. But he was also an inventive genius.