Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Letter to USAID Director Rajiv Shah Urging Fair, Sustainable Agriculture Policy in Haiti

June 14, 2010
Dr. Rajiv Shah
Administrator
U.S. Agency for International Development
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20523-1000

Dear Dr. Shah,

We write to you as Faith communities and allied organizations who have a long history of relationships with Haiti, especially with small farmers who work hard to feed themselves and their communities and who are facing even greater poverty in the aftermath of the January, 2010 earthquake. For a land that met most of its own food needs less than 40 years ago, we are concerned that policies put into place by the Haitian government and by our own government have been unable to correct a trend toward the total collapse of Haiti’s agricultural sector. The country now imports most of the food consumed by its population. Haitian farmers want to make Haiti self-sufficient again and we believe that aid from the United States must further that objective.

In that context, we want to express our dismay that $4 million worth of hybrid seeds donated by the Monsanto Corporation are being distributed through the WINNER Project, under the auspices of USAID. We all want to see food production boosted in Haiti.  Small farmers are saying loudly that they do not want to plant chemically coated hybrid seeds because they do not reproduce true.  Roughly 10,000 farmers turned out for a June 4 march in Hinche to protest the use of hybrid seeds and chemical pesticides, as well as any risk of dependency on foreign suppliers for seeds, since hybrid seeds generally require farmers to buy new seeds for each planting season.

We believe that Haitian farmers should decide what form of agriculture is best for their land and what kinds of seeds they choose to plant – else we slide into old patterns of paternalistic behavior. Since the majority of Haiti’s agricultural production is done by small farmers, we urge you to listen to their voices and to consult with the peasant farmer organizations, such as the Peasant Movement of Papay, as you identify alternatives to the present plan and to work collaboratively to create a sustainable food economy in Haiti.

We urge you to heed the requests of small holder farmers by not sending hybrid seeds. Such collaboration is congruent with the goals of the Feed the Future Program, which emphasizes country-led plans and shaping development alongside beneficiaries. We urge you to increase your support to programs that further erosion control, soil conservation, environmental rehabilitation and food production.  We hope that you will also prioritize the local and regional procurement of food aid whenever possible in order to provide further support to Haiti’s agricultural production.

USAID has a critical role in helping Haiti restore its agricultural sector so that Haitians may feed themselves, a value that the psalmist praises: “He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126)

Sincerely,

Agricultural Missions
American Jewish World Service
Church World Service
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)
Congregation of Holy Cross
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Grassroots International
Groundswell International
Holy Cross International Justice Office
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe Michigan
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Medical Mission Sisters Alliance for Justice
Mennonite Central Committee US Washington Office
PLANT (Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples)
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Washington Office
Sisters of the Holy Cross – Congregation Justice Committee
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

CC: Phillip Gary, Chief of Staff, HaitiTask Force,USAID

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