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Rural Haiti Has Rights Too!

November 2007

This week we received a letter from Chavannes Jean Baptiste, Executive Secretary of the Peasant Movement of Papaye, one of Grassroots International’s partners in Haiti. His letter highlights the root causes of the ongoing neglect of rural communities in Haiti and the devastation in the countryside due to recent floods. Please read his words below:

Dear Grassroots International,

Thank you all very much for your concern for the situation that we are facing, and the difficulties that the Haitian people are living with as a result of the recent floods and Hurricane Noel. Thank you also for your deep understanding of the root causes of the situation. The priorities of the neoliberal economic model put the entire planet at risk. But the small nations on the peripheries of the great economic powers, such as ours, are greatly more vulnerable than most. Also, in Haiti, the elites who have maintained power since independence [in 1804] have failed.

Today the environmental situation is alarming and very dangerous. The entire country was affected by the recent floods – which in fact should not have caused so much devastation. Hurricane Noel did not hit Haiti as hard as it did some neighboring countries but the devastation in its wake in Haiti has been enormous in all of the ten departments. This is the first time that a hurricane, whose force was in fact fairly light, hit the entire country. Framers and rural communities have lost almost all of their crops and have lost many animals as well to the floods. This is a very grave situation – because even before – national agricultural production was only able to meet about one third of the food security needs of the nation.

The measures taken by the government to date have not given us much hope. What can one million Haitian gourdes (which are about U$ 28,000.00) do to meet the emergency needs of an entire department? And the worst thing is that often times those who are most in need often receive no emergency support.

We need to immediately reactivate agricultural production while at the same time protecting the watersheds and continuing reforestation work. But these activities do not figure into the priorities of the state – the national government. Many sectors of civil society are pressuring to make the environment a pressing national priority.

Meanwhile the government is planning for the production of agrofuels for export to the United States in the place of agricultural production for food. This is a battle that the peasant organizations have to wage to change the government’s policy orientation.

It is important to find ways to support rehabilitation and reconstruction in rural communities -because of course it is most important to reactivate agricultural production and the protection of the environment. The traditional international NGOs are working in collaboration with the government to give out emergency food aide and clothing in the cities and the zones that are nearest the larger cities. None of those efforts support reactivation of production or reconstruction in the countryside were support is most needed.


Chavannes Jean Baptiste, Executive Secretary, Mouvmann Peyizan Papay

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