Pray for a Tiller

…photos by Bruce Thorson

Frederic Estemar lives with three of her six children up in the mountains, about an hour’s drive from Borel. The road is dusty, rocky, rutted and bumpy. In some places the bumps will knock your fillings out. Using a hoe and a machete, she and her children clear a large garden of weeds and other growth. They are getting it ready to plant sugar cane. All the farming is done by hand. The crop will be used to feed themselves, their pigs and leave some crop leftover to sell. To get to the garden they walk about 20 minutes down the mountain from their home. Estemar, walking barefoot, never breaks stride as she walks across rocks and streams to get to the garden.

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln soil specialist has told Estemar the soil she tills is good soil and has the potential to yield good crops. He instructs her to not burn the piles of weeds and brush but to spread it as mulch around the base of the banana trees. Every day the 20-minute trip up and down the mountain is travelled to bring up water, carried in a five-gallon bucket on one of her children’s heads. It is used for drinking, cooking and cleaning. To take a bath requires another trip down to the stream. Each morning she walks down to feed and waters the donkey and moves it to a new location for grazing for the day.

Her home, with its three small rooms, is perched near the top of the mountain. It sits on a foundation of rock, which was chiseled and chipped away with pick axes to make it flat for the home. Its walls are caked with what is now dried mud. Life is simple. Most of the day is spent sitting in chairs, on the rock or on the ground talking with other neighbors in the mountain community. Estemar has no husband. One of her husbands died; another she told to leave when she grew tired of him.

Meals consist mostly of rice and beans, and sometimes adding tomatoes, onions and potatoes. These are cooked over an open fire outside the house. Cooking each meal, about twice a day, is a long ordeal. Before each meal, one of the children has to go find wood, mostly twigs and small branches, to make the fire. It takes about two and a half hours to prepare and cook the meal. Eating takes about five minutes. Cleanup takes another 45 minutes or so.

For Estemar, who is 45 years old, and her children, life is hard. She keeps praying for someone to come and help her. She doesn’t want another husband. She wants a friend to help her. To be a better farmer, she needs better tools, better crops and a lot more strength. To get money she sometimes walks several hours down the road to the town below and begs. On a day when I showed up to photograph her life’s routine, I brought her a bag of rice and beans. She was thankful as she had no food that day to feed her children or herself.

A church is a short walk from her home. She goes there on Sunday for the service. Faith is important to her. To have a better church, in the morning, just as the sun is rising, she goes to sweep out the dirt.

To have a better garden, she prays for a tiller.

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Soil Testing

Dr. Charlie Wortmann, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln soil specialist, checked soil in the valley outside of Borel.

His tests indicated the soil here and  up in mountains hast he potential to yield good crops that could be exported.

Farming in Haiti is virtually all done by hand. Assisting Wortmann is Amy Bruce, founder and president of

The Root Cause-Haiti. (photos by Bruce Thorson)



Wortmann uses a probe to pull out a soil sample.








One-man Farming

…photos by Bruce Thorson


…Harrison Nalien walks along the path several miles outside of Borel to his father’s farm.


…Along the way, Nalien stops to check on the progress of some rice crops.


…Once the rice is harvested, it is laid out on a tarp to dry. Almost all of the farming in Haiti is done by hand.


…Theresa Snyder, left, Harrison Nalien and his father Anson Nalien talk about the crops Anson grows.


…Innosend Gualbert, left, and Esperance Lormens collect and bag charcoal.


…Gualbert takes the bagged charcoal and heads for home. Some of the charcoal will be sold.


…photos by Bruce Thorson


…Ephesiens draws water from the well. He lives on one room about 10 feet by 12 feet with one light bulb.


…He has a diploma in stone work from the Dominican Republic but can’t find work yet.


…The power was out on this evening.


…Ephesiens, alone in his room, eats his dinner of rice and beans.


…after working the morning in the field, Ephesiens washes his feet.


…He doesn’t have money to hire laborers to help him in the field. He heads home after a short time.


…Sunrise over the fields in Borel where Ephesiens has his sweet potatoes planted.


…all of this field work preparing the soil was done by hand.


…Ephesiens Petit Homme plants sweet potatoes on Saturday, March 16, 2013.


…Ephesiens Petit Homme came to Haiti from the Dominican Republic to farm.


…Petit Homme’s friends gathered while he put each sweet potatoe in the ground one plant at a time.


…Delva Woldine watches her friend Ephesiens Petit Homme plant the field.


…On Sunday the field will be irrigated from a canal nearby. Gravity is used to bring water to the crops.


…life in the town of Borel….photos by Bruce Thorson

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…my new Haitian farming friends.



…images from Borel and the surrounding area…photos by Bruce Thorson

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