How aid programs are corrupted to force corporate interests onto the Haitian People
On the 12th of January 2010, Haiti was devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. An estimated 3 million people were affected, with upwards of 160,000 to 316,000 people killed. In the wake of this disaster a massive aid-campaign was initiated, with the United States leading the charge.
However the allotted funds have not been used to help the people of Haiti, instead they have been funneled towards programs managed by USAID and Monsanto. The goals of these programs are to fundamentally restructure the Haitian economy, particularly the agricultural sectors. This is being done in order to maintain a corporate monopoly on both the import of food products into Haiti, as well as the means of food production within the country.
At the head of the post-earthquake aid effort was the the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which reported that in 2013 alone it had spent over $270m in Haiti. From this significant figure, American non-profits received 40% and a further 50% went to US-based corporations.
One such company is Chemonics International, which was allotted more than $58m. Chemonics claimed this would be dedicated to further “promoting recovery and laying the foundation for long term development in Haiti.”
Unfortunately Haiti’s recovery is not being pursued and the only long term foundations that are being laid are for the total corporate annexation of Haiti’s economy.
The aid money that was allotted to Chemonics international is being funneled towards the “Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources” (WINNER) program. WINNER was formulated by Chemonics for USAID and the International Crisis Group in 2007.
On top of the post-earthquake funds that Chemonics received, an additional $126m was given to the WINNER program in 2009 through USaid. The stated aim of WINNER was to implement methods of watershed conservation which would in turn help local farmers. However the aim of this program has shifted substantially to “focus more on large-scale agricultural production, processing, and commercialization in the economic corridors.”
The extensive funding of Chemonics in Haiti raises the question of the actual agenda being promoted and the corporations behind it.
The first indication of the corporate program being pushed in Haiti is a report titled “Haiti: Saving the Environment, Preventing Instability and Conflict,” released in 2009 by the International Crisis Group (ICG). The ICG includes in its list of board members the likes of billionaire George Soros, former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark and former Swedish FM and US government informant Carl Bildt. Also listed as a senior advisor is Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former U.S. National Security Advisor to the President and author of the neo-conservative guide-book “The Grand Chessboard.”
The aforementioned report pushes the demand for a “government-donor-civil society partnership” that would theoretically increase the levels of transparency with regard to the spending of aid funds in Haiti. The report also frequently cites endemic corruption within Haiti as a major factor in the need for increased outsider financial intervention and control.
Included as a reference within the report is a USAID & Chemonics funded study on “Environmental Instability in Haiti.” This study is where the WINNER program is first forwarded as a major recommendation.
Another recommendation of the report is for Haitian farmers to start planting bio-fuels such as Jatropha curcas, “for development of a biofuel agro-industry in Haiti.” Not only is the development of a biofuel industry an expensive and long process, but the Jatropha plant is poisonous and inedible and thus unable to provide any short term relief for Haitians.
French agronomist David Millet criticizes this and similar programs for having “no connection to the fields, with their assumptions of what’s needed and without asking the locals.”
The aid program that was originally meant to focus on local agriculture and helping poverty-stricken Haitians was quickly being hijacked. It took another turn when Monsanto announced in 2010 that it would partner with the USAID/Chemonics program to “donate” seeds to poor farmers. This new twist in the WINNER project had now fully removed it from its original goal and instead focused on the aim of “increasing collaboration between producers and private associations.”
The private association in question was Monsanto and this alarmed local activists and farmers, especially as the program was set to be delivered over 12 years and involved four million dollars worth of seeds. This aid “donation” would be distributed by the WINNER program in order to be sold to Haitian farmers at a “significantly reduced price.” The real costs not discussed by Monsanto, USAID, Chemonics and the ICG are the long term effects on biodiversity, farmer debt and corporate control of Haiti’s aid and agricultural economy.
This corruption of a program that was initially meant to focus on repairing watersheds and aiding local farmers did not go unnoticed. Local activists such as Chavannes Jean-Baptiste have taken up the fight against Monsanto and Chemonics. Baptiste and his Haitian activist group the “Mouvement Paysan Papaye” (Peasant Movement of Papaye, MPP) refuse to allow Monsanto and USaid to annex Haiti’s means of food production and outsource it to a biotechnology firm.
Baptiste has worked tirelessly to rally Haiti’s farmers against the destructive “green capitalism” of Monsanto and Chemonics, staging important events such as a 12,000 farmer rally against multinational corporations. Activists like Baptiste see opposition to the WINNER program and its partnership with Monsanto as crucial to the fight against the domination of Haiti by multinational corporations.
The WINNER program also faced harsh criticism from the office of the US Inspector General in a 2012 audit of the program. The audit found that not only did the WINNER program not focus on its original goal of restoring local agriculture, its actions posed significant environmental and health risks within Haiti. WINNER faced criticism in particular for “not encouraging safe handling of pesticides” and not “adhering to USAID’s biodiversity code.”
Both of these problems are linked to the partnership with Monsanto as it was found that Monsanto products were being distributed without proper signage or safety measures, leaving Haitians at risk. The WINNER program puts small businesses in danger by distributing Monsanto seeds that do not replenish naturally for the coming seasons.
There is also the added risk of actively encouraging the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals were provided by Chemonics “to the agricultural supply stores that support WINNER’s agricultural campaigns.” The auditors were shocked to find that the storage of both Monsanto seeds and chemical pesticides was practiced without the implementation of basic safety measures.
What is evident from programs like WINNER, is that multinational “aid” such as USAID and Chemonics are a detriment to the health and livelihoods of the Haitian people. Instead of focusing on rebuilding Haiti, especially after the 2010 earthquake, the aim of these groups has been to undermine local businesses by installing systems that support corporations such as Monsanto.
There also arises the question of a conflict of interest with members of the ICG having direct financial investment in Monsanto. George Soros, in particular, bought close to a million shares in the company in 2010 and another half-million in 2013. Remember it was the ICG that originally proposed increasing multinational control of Haiti’s aid funds, particularly with regard to agriculture. What is essentially being perpetrated by these groups is a form of ‘humanitarian’ money laundering.
Though the ICG originally proposed a financial intervention based on purported environmental and poverty-based concerns, this was then twisted by USAID and Chemonics into delivery programs for Monsanto products.
The actions and of these immensely powerful, multinational aid groups and their corporate sponsors are what the people of Haiti face in their prolonged struggle for financial independence. Small, grass-roots activist groups are fighting for the basic human rights of not only preserving Haitian livelihoods but also retaining indigenous biodiversity.
The intervention of multinationals directly affects the aspirations of the Haitian people. Under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarian projects, corporations are silently annexing Haiti’s agricultural economy and consequently the basic freedoms of its population.
Editor’s Note: Due to an error on my part, this article was initially attributed to Kit O’Connell, rather than Andrey Panevin. I regret the error. -KO
Crossposted from The Barricade.
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