Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 14:56:19 -0800 (PST)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Bob Corbett <>
Subject: Haiti’s economic future: Comments of Chavannes Jean-Baptiste 1
Message-Id: <>

Date: Mon, 22 Jan 96 20:40:01 GMT
>From : Charles Arthur

Haiti’s economic future

By Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, October 1995

As a contribution to the discussion on Haiti’s economic future perhaps people would be interested to read the following responses made by Chavannes Jean-Baptiste to questions during his visit to the UK last October, 1995.


In the early 1970s peasants in the Central Plateau region of Haiti began organising and working together, and the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) was born. Forced to maintain a low profile for years, the MPP expanded rapidly after Duvalier’s fall in 1986. Links with other peasant organisations were made, and in March 1991 the National Peasant Movement of the Papay Congress (MPNKP) brought together representatives of over 100,000 organised peasants. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste was the founder of the MPP and is the spokesperson for the MPNKP.

On the structural adjustment programme

The Americans returned Aristide with what we call a poisoned packet. The neo-liberal plan envisages the elimination of the small peasantry in order to develop large farms for agro-industry. US policy aims to destroy Haitian food production. That is their plan, but we have own ideas. The basis of the MPP’s struggle is that Haiti should be able to determine its own policies in the area of food production, and indeed, everything else.

On the work of the peasant organisations

Before the coup all the structures and organisations of the MPP were in place, but now we are in a position where we are just beginning to build everything up again. If land, soil and water are not conserved we know the peasants cannot survive. The MPP is working on soil and water conservation, reforestation and improved productivity with natural fertilisers. The MPNKP has planted 8 million tree saplings this year.

Peasant producers are trying different approaches to the problems of the countryside. For example in the north east of the country the state owns a lot of land, and in response to pressure from the MPNKP just recently the government gave 6,000 carros to a peasant group (1carro equals 1.29 hectares). They are utilising the land in the following way: 1 carro has been allocated to each peasant for their individual use; 1,000 carro have been set aside for reforestation; and 2,000 carro have been allocated for collective use. There will be collective animal husbandry. Some land will be used for a school, a clinic and a sports field. They plan to establish collective farms with mills for grinding manioc (casava), a sugar cane refinery and collectively run schemes for the provision of credit and technical assistance.

On the national level

The solution is a national economic plan. Haiti was previously nearly self-sufficient but now we import 70-80% of the food we consume. Two hundred thousand tonnes of rice a year are needed to feed the nation. In the Artibonite region we could produce up to 140,000 tonnes if only irigation systems were set up. Then there is grain. We need 350- 400,000 tonnes each year—Haiti could produce this quantity within five years, and the country could be self-sufficient.

On development projects funded by foreign aid: There has been a focus, conditioned by international aid agencies, on highly labour intensive projects such as the repair of roads which is not a top priority for the peasants. The greatest effort should be spent in funding projects of reforestation, soil conservation and repairing irrigation systems.

On the USAID environmental programmes

USAID finances a lot of reforestation projects through the Pan-American Development Foundation (PADF). These projects are centralised—they send trees out from the nurseries to people around the country without doing any consciousness raising around the issue of reforestation or providing any technical training. Peasants get given a little money to plant the trees but I think that in PADF’s own evaluation 80-90% of these trees don’t survive.

USAID also works through the CARE organisation which has reforestation programmes but they are not part of a larger agricultural programme. They try to show their environmental concern but in reality it doesn’t have any real impact that would support real development of production in the agricultural sector or development of the country in general.

USAID is doing things which have an impact on the environment. They want reforestation and they want people to plant coffee because they can see the dangers if Haiti has no trees. But one thing is certain—USAID is not interested in having Haiti produce. US-financed reforestation projects don’t produce real results in terms of the true protection of the land in terms of a holistic approach to sustainable development of the peasant sector.