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OAS Foundation Riles Haitian Peasants

from This Week in Haiti


Ask almost any peasant in Haiti, and he or she will tell you that the "American plan" for Haiti began in 1982. That was the year that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier launched a program called PEPPADEP, which stood for the "Project for Eradication of the African Swine Fever and the Development of Pig Raising."

Under this highfalutin title, Haitian and US authorities proceeded with the mass extermination of Haiti's famous "kochon kreyol" or Creole pigs, the hardy, black-haired swine which were for generations the back-bone of the peasant economy.

Once the indigenous pigs were wiped out, the US sold to the few Haitian peasants who could afford them "kochon grimel" or white pigs, a large fatty American breed which fared poorly under the rigorous conditions of the Haitian countryside.

Peasants around the northern town of Plaisance fear that they may be witnessing today a new attack on another mainstay of their economy: yams. On June 15, peasants took to the airwaves of the local community radio station, "Zeb Ginen," to say that the representatives from the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) were buying up all the yams in the region, particularly in the remote mountain areas of Martineau and Champagne, where peasants live off the root year-round. Was the yam purchasing campaign another PEPPADEP, they asked.

The PADF is a foundation, founded in 1962, which describes itself as working "to improve the quality of life in Latin America and the Caribbean through programs with the public and private sectors." Its activities are coordinated with the Organization of American States (OAS) under a 1982 Cooperation Agreement.

Peasants around Plaisance are very suspicious about what the PADF has in mind to improve their "quality of life." When buying yams, PADF representatives offer to plant "elephant grass," which is a fast-growing grass crop used for biomass energy production. Perhaps the PADF's yam purchasing campaign was devised to introduce and promote "elephant grass" to combat erosion or provide an alternative energy source.

Whatever the case, the peasants complain that the crusade has had very negative repercussions. With all the yam purchasing, the value of the humble root has risen considerably. As a result, armed "zenglendo" thieves have established a de facto curfew in rural areas so that they can steal yams from peasant plots. Therefore, the food supply in the area is extremely low, the peasants complained during their broadcast.

The peasants also said that they would like to know why the PADF is buying up all their yams, thereby increasing crime and violence around their mountain farms.

  "This Week in Haiti" is the English section of Haiti Progres newsweekly. For information on other news in French and Creole, please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax) 718-434-5551 or e-mail at <haiticom@blythe.org>  

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