by Francy Innocent on June 1, 2011
Enock Sejour is part of Leogane’s farmers. His small plot and other lots near Tomb-Gateau Fondwa Leogane, are about 1.29 hectares or 3.18 acres.
At 43, he somehow manages to get food to the family and sends the children to school. Then, last spring, when he was offered cheap seeds of what he called the “Project corn and peas,” he has bought and planted them in one of his fields.
“The plants have become so vast! “They were beautiful from afar, but up close you could see they were useless,” says Sejour “They did not rise in corn and grain.”
Mr. Sejour showed an empty field, where he had planted the corn and peas seeds that came from a $ 126 million program, funded by the United States and called WINNER (Watershed Initiative National for Environmental Natural Resources) . According to the website of the program, the goal of WINNER is “to assist the farmers’ associations in order to increase their productivity and to double their income in five years, through better irrigation and better farming techniques , and using seeds, fertilizers and other improved inputs, at one tenth of the price offered in the “peasants stores” run by the local farmers’ organizations.
“The price has prompted people to buy them and plant them, “says Sejour
Here are some of our discoveries:
• Despite the cries of alarm about “farmers who consume their seed,” a multi-agency study on seed security, led by researcher Louise Sperling, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), has determined that “Contrary to what is happening almost everywhere else in the world, ‘eat and sell seeds, are not signals of distress in Haiti. These are normal practices. The study indicates that there was “no emergency seeds” in Haiti and recommended in June 2010, not to make distributions, by proposing that families receive the money to buy local seed, and to address other pressing needs.
• Even if the study on seeds also warned that “one should never put it in a context of emergency of new varieties that have not been tested on the site in question and agro-ecological conditions in the management of farmers “The Ministry of Agriculture has approved the donation of 475 tons of seed of hybrid varieties of Monsanto, in direct contradiction with Haitian law and international conventions aimed at protecting the genetic heritage and the ecosystem in general.
• Although USAID / WINNER tries to hide his work behind the internal regulations that prevent employees from speaking with reporters, we have discovered that at least 60 tons of hybrid maize varieties of vegetable seeds and Monsanto and Pioneer , among others, were distributed and were actively promoted. In an internal report obtained by the investigation team, staff USAID / WINNER wrote:
“Despite a media campaign against hybrids, under cover of GMOs / Agent Orange / Round Up, the seed has been used almost everywhere, the real message is passed, albeit at a level below our expectations” and ” we are working as quickly as possible with farmers to increase as much as possible the use of hybrid seeds. ”
• At least some groups of farmers who received Monsanto’s seeds and other hybrids of maize and other cereals have little understanding of the implications of the use of hybrid seeds. (Most Haitian farmers select seeds from their own crops.) One of the “Peasants Extension agents” trained by USAID / Haiti WINNER told us that in his region, farmers will no longer need to retain Seeds:
“They do not have to kill as before. They can plant, harvest, sell or eat. They don’t have to save seeds anymore because they know they will get them from the store [WINNER-subsidized]. ”
About the scheduled end of subsidies when the project comes to term (four years), the farmer could provide no logical answer.
• At least some of the farmers interviewed do not seem to understand the health and environmental risks involved in the use of seeds treated with fungicides and herbicides. In at least one place, it is quite possible that farmers use the seed without wearing gloves, masks and other objects of protection. Also, until our intervention they intended to crush the poisonous seeds and make poultry feed.
• Although most IDPs (66 percent) were returned to the cities in mid-June, the seed distribution continued throughout 2010 and 2011. When Sperling, CIAT researcher learned this information, she stressed that:
“Using direct seed – it is not necessary, and practiced repeatedly – is an actual injury. It undermines the local systems, creates dependency and stifles any real development in the commercial sector.”
She added that some humanitarian actors “seem to see in the provision of seed aid an easy way to finance themselves, even if their actions can harm poor farmers.”
• In a few places around the country, the seeds were not well received. “I would like to say to the NGOs that because we are the poorest country does not mean they must offer us anything as aid” said John Dernier, a dissatisfied farmer of Fondwa (West).
• While projects are implemented in an attempt to improve the seed system in Haiti since at least the last three years, to date the National Seed Service (SNS) of the Ministry of Agriculture consists of only two members of staff.
• Most improvement projects of seeds and seed distributions repeated (which began after hurricanes in Haiti in 2008) are mainly funded by FAO and INGOs, who are also running, instead of the Ministry of Agriculture where farmers use improved seed varieties, production increases, but
“The system is based on a grant … You need to ask questions about sustainability because if the politics changed from one day to the next, where are the peasants going to get seeds? … We will reach a point where one day we will have many seeds, and then, suddenly, when all NGOs leave, we will have none at all. ”