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#4008: Re: Chabon and Cachon (fwd)

From: Tom F. Driver <tfd3@columbia.edu>

True words recently posted here:  

    The increase in chabon production and selling was not a reflection on the 
    increased cooking activities of everyday Haitians who rarely have meat to 
    eat in the best of times. Producing chabon and selling it at market 
    became a poor substitute for tapping into the emergency cash flow once 
    provided by the timely sale of the prized Haitian pig.  

With a Witness for Peace delegation, I recently visited the Peasant 
Association of Fondwa in the southern mountains.  Most of the terrain there 
is denuded of trees, badly eroded, and subject to scorching heat.  We talked 
with men now in their forties who remember the tree-cover that used to 
shelter them when they were growing up.  On footpaths and roadways where 
we sweltered and panted in the merciless sun while trudging up and down 
steep hills, they had walked in the shade of trees.  On a very few farms, 
whose owners had been fortunate enough not to have to cut their wood for 
cash, we saw trees still standing in lush groves, fruits of all kinds on their 
boughs, and the land rich in topsoil.  Most of the area's trees, however, 
disappeared in the 1980's following the slaughter of the pigs.  It breaks your 
heart to see the devastation and realize how stupid, if not malicious, was its 

Today the Peasant Association of Fondwa is making huge strides in turning 
this area into a model of sustainable peasant agriculture.  Projects of re-
forestation, improved methods of mountainside farming, community water 
systems, and innovative ways of serving local markets are being carried out.  
These projects give the lie to people such as we met among the staff at the 
USAID office in Port-au-Prince who say that Haitians cannot or will not do 
anything to improve their situation.

There's been discussion on this list about whether the slaughter of the Kreyol 
pigs in the early 1980s was an example of globalization.  I've never heard that 
it was done in the name of an economic theory of globalized markets, 
although some have suggeted that it was partly motivated by a desire to 
export pig stock from the U.S. to Haiti (to replace the exterminated Kreyol 
stock).  The official reason given was to stop the spread of swine fever.  Be 
that as it may, it was a case of a local enomony being forced into the orbit of 
a much broader, bigger, and vastly different one, with tragic results for most 
of the local people, their economic resources, and the ecology on which their 
lives depended.  Poverty descended into misery.

Without respect for local customs, culture, and accumulated wisdom, 
"improvements" can often be ruinous.

Tom F. Driver
New York City