In 1997, Grassroots International released a research study entitled “Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy: USAID Policies in Haiti.” Offering an in-depth examination of USAID development policies in Haiti, the study concluded that, as the title suggests, official aid actually damaged the very aspects of Haitian society it was allegedly trying to fix – namely it created a lack of democracy and too much dependency.
The study was particularly critical of the development community for making Haiti into a net food importer when it had been nearly self-sufficient, and in fact a major rice producer. Despite, or because of, years of aid programs, and structural adjustment policies imposed by international financial institutions and donor countries, the study found that Haiti’s food dependency was actually increasing. This disturbing result was partially caused by subsidized food aid programs which fed transnational agribusiness corporations but didn’t help Haitians grow food for their families.
Sadly, even more than a decade later, much of that study could have been written today.