Haiti, bearing nearly every calamity and catastrophe that a nation could live through, endures as the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Currently, 4.4 million people of a 10.9 million population are considered food insecure.
Cité Soleil, a dangerous, vulnerable neighbourhood sitting at the foot of Port au Prince’s hills, remains neglected and marked by violence. With the help of the community, a local youth centre called Sakala has transformed a landfill of the slum into a communal garden named Jaden Tap Tap. Since then, the garden has prospered into a site of hope within the sweltering city.
The Jaden Tap Tap Garden is named after the tap-tap vehicles that decorate the cityscape of Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti. Even with political strife, natural disasters and unyielding poverty, Haiti’s tap-taps remain some of the most beautiful public transport units. The lavishly designed tap-taps come alive with a vibrant personality of their own, and function as part of the city. Considering only three percent of Haitians own their own car, tap-taps act as art that serves the people it carries.
Likewise, Cité Soleil’s Jaden Tap Tap garden emulates the colour and vibrancy of the tap-tap vehicles with the greenery of its tree nursery, a kaleidoscope of bright flowers and lines of vividly painted tires that shelter seedlings. Alongside a multitude of vegetables and herbs, moringa trees thrive in the nursery and, as a superfood easily consumed in soups, rice, cornmeal and juice, deliver an abundance of vitamins and proteins to the community.
The Jaden Tap Tap garden provides food to over two-hundred and fifty youth and residents from Mitchiko, the neighbouring disbaled and elderly persons displacement camp. The garden grew self-reliance within the community of Cité Soleil; the gardeners source both food and pride from its produce, and many private and community gardens have flourished as a result.
The garden sprouted in 2012 through the labours of Daniel Tillias, Herode Gary Laurent and Franz Francois, three locals of Port au Prince. Since then, they have cultivated the garden as a haven from everyday hardships. The Jaden Tap Tap garden, as an integral component of Sakala’s youth empowerment program, emerges as a living classroom. In a nurturing and safe environment, the initiative presents over 250 at-risk youth an opportunity to learn and pursue the fundamentals of nutrition, agroecology, and agroforestry, side by side with entrepreneurial and leadership experiences.
Sakala, alongside SOIL and their organic compost, has laboured for sustainable urban communities in Haiti, whilst also aiding the protection of human rights and the environment. The garden is one example of such efforts. Further, it has been shown that urban gardens lessen violence in addition to solving a rapidly-growing food insecurity, transforming it into a platform for building community.
In a video for Bochika, one of the garden’s predominant sponsors, Tillias said, “[The] most important to us is showing to people that from nothing, from the very most difficult situation people can think about, you can make a lot of wonder.”
Understanding this, the Jaden Tap Tap community garden leans into the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals of Sustainable Cities and Communities, No Poverty and Climate Action. . In providing environmentally and economically-conscious solutions for lower income communities, the garden sustains local livelihood and well-being in the long-term.
"We call this a peace and happiness place. It can help with the cleansing that we want to see because we know that's what the children of Cité Soleil really deserve," Tillias said to CNN. "They have a chance to hear birds singing in the garden. They have a chance to see a tree that they planted getting as tall as them."
The Jaden Tap Tap garden, formerly a landfill, now embodies a place of vitality, beauty, community and empowerment for one of Haiti’s most impoverished neighbourhoods. As of today, the Jaden Tap Tap garden is Haiti’s largest urban garden and it, alongside its accompanying initiatives, empowers youths and surrounding communities to live sustainable lives. It continues to inspire similar projects across the country. The Jaden Tap Tap garden opens up the conversation about the sheer strength and endless potentialities of community, even in economic and climate crises.