By Ricardo Flores
Haitian agriculture is struggling: natural disasters and human mismanagement have caused many setbacks. Deforestation has left only 3% of the forest remaining, leaving soil vulnerable to erosion from weather and less fertile. Poor farming techniques and the lack of waste and water management add to the pressure on Haitian agriculture. Powerful international influences also play a role in worsening the situation through neocolonialism, when powerful countries exploit lesser developed ones.
Neocolonialism is a serious issue for many Haiti farmers. Most of them barely subsist on small plots of land. In the presence of foreign competitors, farmers struggle to sell their crops and sustain their vital income. In the past, the US has flooded the Haitian markets with rice, forcing the already stressed farmers to compete with artificially low prices that benefited US farmers but sent rice production in Haiti plummeting. The US pressured Haiti to open its markets flooded it, causing many Haitian producers of this staple crop to lose their income, thus exacerbating the poverty of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
A similar agricultural disaster looms on a slightly smaller scale with the proposed “donation” by the USDA of 500 metric tons of surplus American peanuts. The surplus is the result of agricultural subsidies protecting US farmers during a time of reduced domestic demand. The “donation” has been offered to address malnutrition in Haiti, but Haitian farmers and foreign NGOs operating in Haiti argue that it is only a short-term solution which will destroy the market for Haitian peanuts, impoverish farmers, and increase Haiti’s dependence on foreign imports in the long term. Click here for additional information.