Partnership with the Peasant Movement of Papaye, Haiti
Three decades of partnership through thick and thin in Haiti
Haitian social movements know that the effects of natural disasters are far from “natural.” In this corner of the Caribbean, the climate crisis, enduring legacies of colonization, and impoverishing trade, aid, and development policies render the population highly vulnerable. Decades of neocolonial relations with the US have moved Haiti from food self-sufficiency to food dependency, to the point where upwards of 60% of its food supply is imported. Meanwhile, its peasant-based domestic agriculture hangs in the balance, with high levels of rural-urban migration. Agrarian movements like Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Peasant Movement of Papaye, MPP) are rising to these challenges in ways that are rooted in local experiences deep in Haiti’s countryside.
Based in Haiti’s Central Plateau, MPP has been working at the intersection of agrarian and environmental issues since 1973. Its relationship with Grassroots International dates back more than three decades to 1992, following the coup d’etat in Haiti that replaced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide with a military government. This was also a time in which economic globalization was ricocheting across the world, with devastating consequences for small-scale food providers and rural workers. When Grassroots International launched its Haiti solidarity program the following year, MPP was among our very first partners.
MPP’s aim is not simply to increase domestic food production as a stopgap for hunger, but to transform the food system as an engine for economic development, social justice, and ecological resilience. MPP is recognized globally as a pioneer and leader in agroecology – a science, practice, and political project that applies ecological principles to food and farming systems. Through a wide range of trainings on natural farming techniques reaching thousands of participants, MPP is supporting peasants in building healthy soil and other conditions to boost both yields and resiliency.
MPP is combining agroecology with reforestation to address some of Haiti’s greatest ecological vulnerabilities head-on. Among the factors making Haiti so susceptible to the climate crisis is the severe deforestation facing much of its landscape. This worsens the effects of both floods and droughts and deprives soil of nutrients essential for agriculture. In response, over the years since its founding, MPP and the communities it works with have planted more than 50 million trees. These trees regenerate the land, provide a buffer against weather extremes, and are sources of fruit, fiber and fodder – sustainable income-generating alternatives to the intensive wood harvesting that drives deforestation.
For MPP, this work at the intersection of food sovereignty and climate justice is deeply intentional. According to MPP founder Chavannes Jean-Bapitiste, “The struggle for food sovereignty is the fight against global warming. All actions aimed at food sovereignty will have a direct impact on the climate crisis.”
MPP is also an innovator in alternative energy production, water conservation, upcycling of solid waste – and the list goes on. But perhaps most inspiring is the political organizing that goes hand-in-hand with the technical work. MPP makes a special effort to reach youth through trainings, internships, and its Food Sovereignty Camp. Through its women’s branch, female peasants organize themselves to tackle not only food production but also gender-based violence.
MPP scales its vital work through organizing at the national level, as a driving force behind the National Congress of the Peasant Movement of Papaye, as well as at the regional and global levels, as a founding member of the global peasant network La Via Campesina.
Over more than three decades, the relationship between MPP and Grassroots International has deepened through thick and thin. Beyond support of its day-to-day operations, Grassroots has accompanied MPP through emergency response, advocacy, and a range of movement-building initiatives in and beyond Haiti.
Following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, emergency funding from Grassroots supported MPP in hosting urban refugees in its ecovillage in the Central Plateau, providing not only housing but also training in sustainable livelihoods. Today, some of these former refugees are leaders in the movement. MPP recognizes young people as a pillar of their work, and Grassroots is pleased to partner with the movement to strengthen youth leadership through hosting activities such as a youth convergence among Caribbean member organizations of La Via Campesina.