Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

BY KEVAN WILLIAMS

The planting of jatropha could help build the economy of a haitian town.

The planting of Jatropha could help build the economy of a Haitian town.

From the April 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

When I meet Robinson Fisher at a coffee shop in downtown Athens, Georgia, on a cold and rainy day, he hands me a bar of soap. Fisher and the soap have just arrived from Haiti: specifically, a village called Terrier Rouge, a community of about 20,000 people in the hot, dry, and very poor northeastern part of the country. I first met Fisher, the father of a childhood friend, years ago, and only later learned he’s a landscape architect. He’s had a long career with his firm, Robinson Fisher Associates, practicing in lush, temperate, and developed northeast Georgia. But for the past decade he’s made a lot of trips to Haiti, spending several months each year learning and working with people there on a variety of agricultural experiments. The soap, wrapped in plain paper and stamped with a simple logo, is the latest product of that work.

Underneath the wrapper is a caramel-colored slab, smaller than your average bar of Dove or Irish Spring, and less refined. There is no logo pressed into the surface, or a specially molded form. It is the product of a simple, locally scaled manufacturing operation in Terrier Rouge, which is evident in its packaging and shape. But it lathers and bubbles just like regular soap. Even more remarkable is what the soap is made of: the oil from the seeds of Jatropha curcas, a scrubby tree that grows abundantly in this arid part of Haiti.

Jatropha is native to Central America and the Caribbean, growing between 20 and 30 feet tall. The semievergreen plant sheds its large leaves during periods of drought, to which it is well adapted. The seemingly worthless and weedy plant is also poisonous. “Nobody eats it: Goats won’t eat it, and bugs won’t eat it much, which allows this plant to survive,” Fisher says.

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The April issue features new and formative projects by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. Signe Nielsen, FASLA, and Kim Mathews, ASLA, talk about the evolution of the firm, and about Hudson River Park in New York City, West Point Foundry Preserve in Cold Spring, New York, and the transformation of Hunts Point in the South Bronx.

In the departments, Timothy A. Schuler talks to Carey Clouse, the author of Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the Ground Up, about the coming change in the urban agricultural system in Cuba; and Kevan Williams reports on how Jatropha has the potential to be an environmental and economic driver in Haiti. Chicago’s new linear park, the 606, does double duty as an elevated place to escape and as transportation and bicycle infrastructure. In the Back, we have a portfolio of drawings by Ron Henderson, FASLA, done as part of his studies on the Japanese practices and traditions of the cherry tree. All this plus our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for April can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating April articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “A Past, In Pieces,” “Built to Last,” Elizabeth Felicella; “The Leading Edge,” Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects; “Degree of Difficulty,” Elizabeth Felicella; “Food Revolution,” Andy Cook; “Tree of Life,” W. R. Fisher; “The Express Lane,” Courtesy the Trust For Public Land; “Peak Blossom,” Ron Henderson.

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