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Via Campesina in Haiti: Brazilian Delegation Brings Solidarity and Seeds to the Haitian People

February 2009

We will be posting updates from the Dessalines Brigade in Haiti. Stay tuned.

Last month, a small delegation of four representatives of Via Campesina-Brazil arrived in Haiti. Their mission is to help the Haitian peasant movement in their efforts to build local sustainable agriculture practices and a popular education curriculum on food sovereignty. Besides solidarity and technical expertise, the delegation also brings agro-ecological seeds produced in agrarian reform settlements in Brazil to share with local families.

Through its Movement Building and Global Learning Exchanges grants, Grassroots International supports this farmer-to-farmer collaboration in Latin America. The realization of this peasant-led technical cooperation has a great significance to Via Campesina-Brazil.

Besides helping local efforts to boost the food sovereignty movement, the leadership of Brazilian peasants shows the humane face of the regional integration in Latin American and the Caribbean regions. Through this initiative, Via Campesina also shows that instead of failed neoliberal policies and growing militarization, Haiti’s sovereignty would be better served with genuine solidarity.

Since 2004, the UN MINUSTAH troops, led by the Brazilian Army, are occupying streets and neighborhoods in Haiti under the guise of offering protection. Member-organizations of Via Campesina for many years have pressured the Brazilian government to withdraw its troops from Haiti, believing that funds used for military presence could be better spent supporting agricultural development.

Jean Jacques Dessalines

The Brazilian delegation is named in honor of Jean Jacques Dessalines, one of Haiti’s national heroes who fought for Haiti’s independence. Dessalines was a part of bringing about independence in 1804and was the first ruler of a free Haiti. He broke the chains of slavery to shape and lead the World’s first black republic. His ancestors are believed to be from Guinea, Africa. Jean Jacques Dessalines spent most of his life as a slave on a plantation in the Northern Plains region, near the town of Grande-Rivière-du-Nord. His name remains very present in the life of Haitians as a national hero and authentic warrior for independence and national reconstruction.

Preparations for Haiti

The Dessalines Brigade started its preparation for this trip in the Florestan Fernandes National School, a training center of the Landless Movement (MST). The four-member delegation received classes of Haitian Kreole and also studied the history and organization of local movements. Visiting Haitian students to the Florestan Fernandes National School in Brazil rotated in the facilitation of study group sessions on the political, social and economic context of Haiti.

En route to Haiti, the delegation also spent a month at the Latin American School of Agroecology (IALA), located in Varinas, Venezuela, participating in the regional meeting of Via Campesina trainers in Agroecology and for final preparations to the trip.

Dessalines Brigade members

Sidevaldo Costa, a 25-year-old member of the Landless Workers Movement, is a son from a peasant family. His family currently acquired a piece of land in one of the agrarian reform settlements of MST. Sidevaldo is an agriculturalist and a member of MST’s agricultural production sector. His expertise is production of agroecological seeds and construction of rainwater catchment systems.

Carlos de Oliveira, 30, has been a member of the Small Producers Movement (MPA) since 2000. He is a small-scale farmer in the Brazilian Amazon region. Carlos has expertise in the production of seeds and medicinal plants.

Luis Paulo de Almeida, 30, has been a member of the Landless Workers Movement since 1997. Luis Paulo works in two sectors of MST – agricultural production and education. He is another agriculturalist and has a B.A. degree in Pedagogy from ITERRA and the Rio Grande do Sul University (UERGS). He will be working with Haitian peasants to develop an agroecological curriculum for youth and adults.

Jose Luis Rodrigues, 32, joined the Landless Workers Movement in 1984. Jose Luis is also a member of the International Relations Sector of MST. He has a mid-level training in cooperative management and a B.S. in history from the Pontific Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Jose Luis is the delegation coordinator in Haiti.

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