In 2012, the Vincentian Family Haiti Initiative (VFHI) started working in Savane Perdue, about 107.7 kilometers northeast of Port-au-Prince. One of the biggest attractions to this area was its potential for economic development. There were ample water resources and already some baseline industries of livestock and agricultural farming. We’ve always viewed this local population as our partners. When we built our fish farm, they were our workers, and they are the resellers of the fish, sharing in the profits with us. When we partnered with Fonkoze to bring an 18-month training program, 150 local women participated. Thus, when we heard of the new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) plan to send 500 metric tons of surplus peanuts to Haiti to assist in a feeding program, we felt the need to advocate with our partners.
In our small locality of 500 households, 13% of farmers make a living by planting and harvesting peanuts. Peanuts are a major cash crop throughout Haiti. Peanuts are often milled into peanut-butter infused with local hot peppers, a staple breakfast and/or late supper item topped onto rolls. Local peanuts are sold by street vendors as a snack. The chain creating livelihoods from peanuts includes farmers (peanuts & hot-pepper), millers, peanut-butter transformers, street vendors, and bakers.
History has taught us that often surplus goods make their way into the black market at lower than local production costs, resulting in diminished capacity to plant the same crop. For an extreme example, we can consider the collapse of the rice industry. In the mid-1990s, the Haitian government was pressured by the international community to drop its tariff on imported rice. This led to a flood of foreign rice on the market with Haitian rice production plummeting. Bill Clinton, who as President touted this plan for trade liberalization in Haiti, has more recently commented: “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake…. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did.” We find it hard to believe, that after an influx of 500 metric tons of peanuts in Haiti, that the local peanut production will not be affected for at least the next 2-3 harvest cycles. As we watch history repeat itself, we hope that we can convince USDA and other US based policy makers to make another choice…if you agree click here to sign the petition.
Inquiries: Regine Theodat, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org