Timothy Schwartz

Timothy Schwartz
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Author of "Travesty in Haiti: A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking" AND "Fewer Men, More Babies: Sex, Family, and Fertility in Haiti" (Timotuck@yahoo.com)

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APRIL 15, 2011 12:00PM

Economic Impact of Haiti Earthquake on Sudest Haiti (Jacmel)

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This post comes from an NGO report I wrote in March 2010 after the Earthquake.  I'm posting it because it was essentially squelched and I think it contanins information and perspectives that could be useful to scholars, other NGO workers, and to the aid effort in general. I won't bother trying to explain why my employers did not use it. I think the report is sober, objective and speaks for itself.  I have had to take out the market maps and tables. But anyone interested in those details can contact me and I will share the entire report. I think that the EMMA (Emergency Marketing Map and Analysis), which I created with P. Moliere took the technique to a new and ethnographically useful level. I will try post it as an individual blog here on Open Salon. 


Field Report for

Post-Earthquake Emergency Response

&

EMMA Agricultural Labor Market Analysis

Department du Sudest

 

 
April 12th 2010

 

 


1.      Introduction


The people of Southeastern Haiti are suffering from fallout from the January 12th earthquake: but they are also recuperating from a recent pig epidemic that wiped out swine stock;  a pest infestation that has afflicted the highland cabbage crops; and arguably more severe than the earthquake itself, they are suffering from one of the worst droughts in decades. They are also dealing with a type of fallout from aid itself for whether the economy could have dealt with the crisis without greater suffering in the provinces is a mute point. The earthquake and associated press coverage brought on one of the greatest humanitarian efforts in history, the impact of which has not been entirely beneficial. These points and their relevancy to short and long term aid interventions are developed in the course of the report.

The report is structured as follows: an introduction to the Southeast Department; overview of settlement patterns and house type; ecological zones; the role of government, financial institutions, and NGOs; principal livelihood strategies; the internal versus import oriented economy and marketing systems; extra-household livelihood strategies; income; expenditures; and finally an analysis of the agricultural labor market and the EMMA map, followed by intervention options and recommendations.  At the end of each subsection is an assessment of the impact of the recent earthquake. Note that particular attention has been given to how the impact of earthquake and associated events articulate with the often misunderstood rural livelihood farming strategies and internal marketing system on which people in the region depend.

 

 

2.      Overview of the Region Department du Southeast

 

2.1.   Geography

Haiti’s Department du Southeast (hereon referred to as the Southeast) begins in the east of Haiti where it shares a border with the Dominican Province of Pedernales. Then, with the Caribbean sea on one side and the 7,000 foot heights of the Masif du Selle on the other, it stretches west in a thin 15 kilometer wide and 135 kilometer long strip of land. If a traveler transects this strip of territory, moving from sea inland, he or she will cross what in most areas is a short fertile, green, coastal plain with a wealth of trees and verdant foliage. The landscape then almost immediately begins to rise into dry scrub, then increasingly humid and fertile valleys, and ultimately into the mature karstic mountain range, with its scarce surface waters but high rain fall, fertile plateaus and valleys, and spectacular rock configurations. In all, the Department covers an area of 2,023 km.2 and is home to 527,531 people, less than 10% of whom (some 43,000) are concentrated in and around the city of Jacmel. The rest of the population is scattered throughout the few small towns, the principal hamlets where markets occur on specific days, and the many clusters of houses and isolated homesteads that dominate the landscape. The department is subdivided into 10 municipal districts called communes (counties).  Of these, three communes were chosen for the EMMA study: Jacmel (pop. 138,000); La Vallée (pop. 38,500); and Bainet (pop. 73,100).[i]

 


2.2.   Geo-Ecological Livelihood Zones 

The Southeast can be divided into six geo-ecological livelihood zones, primarily determined by altitude and precipitation. In each region a specific configuration of farming livelihood strategies prevails. But while the ecological zones define opportunities, they do not limit them. Most households rent, sharecrop, or own land in multiple geo-ecological zones, a tactic that helps spread risks and, as elaborated below, is a primary goal of people in the region. The best land is the 2% of irrigated arable land. 

Impact: Damage to the natural environment brought on by earthquake is minimum. Some people in rural areas report springs going dry and there are some rock slides in the mountains.

 

 

2.3.   House Type

Rural homesteads are overwhelmingly constructed of lumber that boss (specialized laborers) have hand hewn from local timber (most commonly Oak, Mango, and Mahogany); and to a much less degree of rock plastered with cement. Until recently, two grasses, zeb giné (panicum maximum) and vetiver (vetiveria zizanioides)[ii] where used for roofing.[iii] But today most houses are covered with tin, an indicator of the greater income and resources available as compared to other regions of Haiti where, despite the availability of tin roofing, one still sees an abundance of thatch or grass covered homes.

As one approaches a town, or hamlet-market center, the houses are more commonly built of cement and in modern architectural design. In the city of Jacmel and the coastal towns such as Bainet, new cement houses are common as well as colonial homes most of which are in state of deterioration or ruin.

Impact: People in the city with their cement houses and buildings suffered a far greater impact in terms of loss of life and property and injuries than those in rural areas. In the City of Jacmel--where lived some 350 of the 400 Southeasterners killed in the earthquake--tents line the streets and fill vacant lots and the town square. Most of the tents are used only at night as sleeping quarters for fear of another earthquake. The largest tent city, near the airport, has a population of 5,000. What that means is not exactly clear. Reportedly most are IDPs (internally displaced persons). But a high degree of opportunism has invaded the aid landscape, meaning that at least some of the residents may have been attracted to and continue to stay in the tent city because of the hope of continued aid from the international community.

The rural areas were not hit as hard. The walls in many of the poorer quality cement and rock homes collapsed. However, most roofs remain intact as they are supported with wood beams and often lashed together with a special type of vine. Few rural people sleep in tents—unless they are among the fortunate few to have obtained one via connections to a local NGO or mission—but rather in the earthquake-tested house of family or neighbors or in a joupa (the easily assembled palm-thatch covered A-frame structures that people throughout Haiti construct as shelters in gardens).[iv]

 

 

2.4.   Livelihood Strategies

Livelihood strategies, discussed in greater detail shortly, can be heuristically characterized by four dimensions: rural to urban, gender, household, and remuneration. On the rural extreme are farming, commerce craft specialties and traditional healers. On the urban end one finds an array of taxi drivers, porters, construction workers, vendors and entrepreneurs.  Most occupations are gender specific.  There is also a great dependence on household labor pool, something that tends to diminish with urbanization.  About 30% of those who live in the city of Jacmel and a much lesser number of people in the outlying areas receive remittances from family, spouses, and lovers who have reached France, the DR, Canada, and more than anywhere else, the US.[v]

Impact: As with physical infrastructure, economic fallout in terms of occupational loss and income struck more directly at people in urban areas. But as seen shortly, those in the urban areas are closest to the aid and have benefitted most from food distribution, cash for work, full employment as aid employees, and expenditures that aid workers, refugees and receivers of remittances make. By far the bulk of the Southeast population, and hence the principal subject of this report, are those living in the rural areas. By dent of their relative isolation and poverty these are the people of greatest risk to long term crisis and who have been hurt most by the aftermath of the earthquake, negative consequences of the aid, and the recent drought. Fortunately, as will also be explored in greater detail shortly, they have mechanisms to cope with food scarcity and decline in available cash; for these are the people who form Haiti’s domestic security net; the people to which the city dwellers, usually arrogant and disparaging toward their farming cousins, fled. Historically these rural dwellers have not depended on outside aid or even the world economy.  They practice a configuration of livelihood strategies that for three hundred years, from the time when the colony was the most productive in the world to the present era of impending ecological disaster, has underwritten the survival of the urban minority. The merchant and governing elites have sustained themselves on gate-keeping “peasant” access to the world market—both in terms of exports and more recently through a manipulation of the markets they monopolize. But it is the peasant livelihood practices that maintain the rest of the country in times of war, pestilence, disease, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

 

 

2.5.   The Haitian government and Financial Institutions

Both local and State government, has traditionally provided few public services to the population of the region. An equal or greater number of services (e.g. road repair, education, and medical care) are provided through NGOs and overseas based religious organizations. This absence of the State extends to agriculture and a lack of extension and financial services to farmers. With the exception of the NGOs—historically a relatively recent and weak phenomenon--farmers are forced to provide their own security and safety nets. They sell animals to fund investments in gardens and they borrow money at high interest rates from the kes popilè (cooperatives that charge an average of 3% to 5% per month) Fond Koze and another half dozen foreign/NGO funded organizations (for the same rates as just cited); or sometimes loan sharks (eskontè) who loan money at 10% per month. This money is not due upon harvest but rather farmers must begin making payments one to two months after borrowing the money, meaning before the harvest, putting additional pressure on household livelihood security. Some distributors of imported staples (sugar, rice, flour, and beans) have introduced another lending mechanism by advancing sacks of the produce to market women on credit. The women often sell the stock at a loss and then use the money to trade in more lucrative products.

Impact: Damage to the State brought on by the earthquake is massive. Port-au-Prince lost much of its principal government infrastructure (buildings, archives, equipment). However, the Haitian State did little to nothing before the earthquake. Indeed, the Haitian State is seen by many as an impediment if not a parasite, something that had significant practical implications in the wake of the Earthquake. The earthquake temporarily removed the impediment. Regulations were suspended; borders in the south were open; the US Navy took control of the country’s major port; the US army took control of the major international airport; Canadian armed forces took control of Jacmel airport and temporarily opened it to international traffic. Within weeks. all the preceding were handling significantly more traffic and more merchandise, and handling it more efficiently, than before the earthquake. In summary, with regard to the government inefficiency and bureaucratic impediments, the earthquake may have helped matters. The Haitian government itself has benefited from canceled debts and, although most aid goes directly to the foreign military forces and NGOs, an influx in aid and attention to its needs.

With respect to financial services, the high interest rates (averaging 30 to 50% per annum) have meant that many peasants view micro-financing as a predatory institution. In some cases the situation after the earthquake was reversed. Fond Kozé reportedly canceled all debts and gave its members part of two to three million dollars in cash that the US State Department gave directly to the organization.

 

 

2.6.   Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)

NGO activity skyrocketed after the earthquake. In addition to a massive flood of aid across the open border with the Dominican Republic and through the airports and provincial ports, an abundance of new jobs have opened up for unemployed students and graduates.  Spending on the part of expatriate NGO workers have stimulated the food, crafts, entertainment and sex industries. Many NGOs have also given cash relief bonuses directly to workers, many of whom were not impacted directly by the earthquake. The UN, whose various organizations operate much like NGOs (for example the World Food Program that took over CARE International’s Northwest and Artibonite activity zones) reportedly gave all local employees US$2,500. Other activities to be discussed shortly are increased motorcycle taxi traffic and increased sales of phone cards. In effect, for many, the earthquake has been a boon.

In summary, NGOs have tried in recent years to fulfill many of the functions that should have been, but were not, filled by the Haitian State. But this is not sufficient to have completely offset economic crisis; nor to change more than 200 years of adaptation. As will be seen below, the absence of State and any effective social security system, has meant that people must assure this social security themselves. For the rural areas, the need to maintain a degree of self-sufficiency in the face of impending crop failure, pestilence, and uncertain market opportunities means that most people living there have no choice but to devote much of their time and resources to a type of subsistence oriented livelihood.  This does not mean that people in the Southeast are subsistence producers for as will be seen shortly, the market plays a major role in the regional economy. But the strategies are definitively subsistence oriented and they have not only served the peasants well during past crises, they have served the entire country well, for it is the rural semi-subsistence survival strategies and regional marketing systems that have assured survival through the dozens of hurricanes and political and military crises that have afflicted the region for over three-hundred years.  For this reason, the other income strategies and urban livelihood strategies will be discussed in greater detail later in the report for in general they represent the incursion of a different economy and a different system, one that is not as entrenched in most of Haiti and certainly not historically as dependable, a fact that leads to misunderstandings and frustrations among aid workers who tend to arrive in the country with the impression that Haitians depend more on the World economy than on the traditional farming strategies and the country’s own internal marketing system.

 

 

3.      Principal Regional Livelihood Strategies

 

3.1.   Farming, Fishing, and Charcoal

The principal income-generating and subsistence activities in the area are agriculture (including tree crops), livestock raising, petty commerce, charcoal production, and fishing. The tools and strategies used in these endeavors are no more complex than picks, hoes, machetes, rowboats, bamboo fishing traps, and string nets. People in the region do not use cows or horse traction to plow fields—as they do in Haiti’s Central Plateau. There are few pumps; farmers with gardens plots near to springs and rivers sometimes manually haul buckets of water to irrigate crops, particularly vegetables in cool highland areas; 2% of arable land is canal irrigated. Only one in ten (or fewer) fishing boats are equipped with motors. The use of chemical or processed fertilizers and pesticides is almost entirely confined to highland vegetable gardens and, to a lesser degree, beans (also considered a cash crop), that dependably yield profits.

While not all farmers engage in the commercial-oriented agriculture mentioned above, virtually all rural households have members engaged in the cultivation of semi-subsistence gardens and livestock rearing. Semi-subsistence gardens are part of a household safety net, and are adapted principally to minimizing risk in the face of drought, hurricane, and unpredictable market conditions. The farmers intercrop beans, pumpkin, squash, corn, millet, sweet potatoes, yams, manioc, and non food items such as castor beans (used for non-edible oil, export, and as a hair laxative). Also of great importance in the regional livelihood strategies are fruit trees, particularly coconuts, which provide a dependable source of cash (a dried coconut sells for the equivalent of US$1.00), but also grapefruit, oranges, breadfruit and fruits from vines such as passion fruit. As will be seen shortly, the balance between pure survival and production for commoditization is crucial to an understanding of life in the region for, as elsewhere in Haiti, life in the Southeast is embedded in a flourishing regional marketing system.

Impact: With the exception of fishing (some fisherman report having suffered damage from a small tsunami), and the impact on selling crops (discussed in greater detail below), the earthquake had little if any impact on survival gardens. Indeed, the crisis arguably illustrates the successfulness of the strategy as a massive number of people (estimated at 50,000) returned from Port-au-Prince to seek food and refuge in the area. Many have since returned to the metropolis, but not without arms brimming over with garden produce and assurances from their farming parents and other kin that sweet potatoes, yams, and plantains would be regularly sent on public buses to the city until the crisis has passed. The critical point being that Southeasterners are adapted to crisis, something that encourages farmers to engage in diversified strategies and imparts a type of conservative suspicion in the peasant who is presented with new and supposedly promising alternatives--often giving way to frustration and befuddlement among foreigners who are trying to help them cope.

 

3.2.   Crisis

In crisis times, such as the present drought and economic fallout from the earthquake, the rural majority as well as the town poor, resort to consuming the hardy subsistence type garden foods described above--what could be called survival crops--specifically yellow yams, sweet potatoes, millet, sugar cane and manioc—and complemented with at least eighteen different types of fruit and nuts many of which are available in the Southeast during times when other crops are not.[vi] [vii]  Farmers also have recourse to hundreds of natural and homemade substitutes for items like soaps, shampoos, hair laxatives as well as water containers, lamps, ropes, beds, fasteners, and shoes.[viii] A recent and very important recourse to income is the burgeoning motorcycle taxi industry that reaches into all but the most remote areas. Motorcycle taxis are used to haul freight as well as people and have become a significant economic mainstay throughout the present crisis.[ix] [x]

The principal means of dealing with the cash deficits brought on by crisis and meeting those critical needs that require cash—such as medical care, transportation, tools, and seeds—is the sale of livestock and the production of charcoal.[xi] The reduction in livestock is an ecological advantage in that it gives a reprieve to overgrazed foliage. Charcoal is a different matter. The importance of charcoal production, both in terms of a safety net and an ecological calamity related to crisis, cannot be gainsaid. As longshoremen who work the wharfs of Port-au-Prince well know, one can tell what region of Haiti is undergoing a crises by the origin of the shiploads of charcoal that arrive. But charcoal means felling trees and it has the particularly insidious impact in the felling of fruit trees that, while causing a long term depletion in household resources, yield immediate returns in the form of charcoal sales.  Recourse to charcoal production in times of crisis is such that it can be argued that the Southeast, as well as other regions of Haiti, have progressively become deforested not so much with steady demographic increment, but rather in fits and starts with the increasingly frequent embargoes, political uprisings, crisis in world food prices, droughts, hurricanes, and now earthquakes. At present, a common sight along Southeast roadsides are stacks of charcoal waiting to be picked up and transported to the urban market and if the researcher voyages into the rural areas she or he cannot help but note that resonating through the valleys and hillsides is the ubiquitous sound of machete hacking against wood.[xii]

It warrants emphasizing that crises are not new to the Southeast.  Since Haiti became a recognized French colony in 1697; through the subsequent 100 years when it became the most productive colony on the planet--annually producing greater monetary value in cash crops of sugar, coffee, and indigo than Britain’s 13 North American colonies with their respective products; and up through the past 200 years of Haitian independence; the region has been recurrently beset with crisis. Slavery itself was arguably one long crisis during which the slaves were forced to carry the bulk of the colony’s nutritional burden, not by work under the slave regime, but during their little free time when they planted foodstuffs on “subsistence” plots, giving birth to the proto-peasant economy (complete with markets and use of currency). The 13 years of warfare that ended slavery was a conflagration during which more people died per capita than during any war in human history and once again, was fought with the nutritional supplement from the same garden and livestock strategies that prevail today. Beginning around 1820 independent Haiti found itself falling under its first trade embargo, consequence of an agreement between England and France and the French demand for compensation for property lost by virtue of the revolution, including the cost of slaves; and from 1843 until 1889 the country, particularly the Southeast where reigned the piquet (rural military insurgents), was rocked by no fewer than 18 uprisings and civil wars; for the entire 1890s and into the 1900s the whole country was wracked with warfare; the US invaded in 1914 and another five years of intensive guerrilla warfare ensued (Saint-Louis, 1988; Heinl and Heinl, 1979). In recent times political crisis have intermittently cut off trade with the global economy forcing most Haitians to depend on semi-subsistence production of the peasants and the internal marketing system. Cases in point are the many uprisings between 1986 and 1990 and the 1991 coup when the country was virtually shut down under martial law; Port-au-Prince completely blocked off for over a week whilst the Haitian military attaches and soldiers gunned down some 3,000 impoverished slum dwellers. International access to the domestic economy was then shuttered up for three full years under the forces of a trade embargo maintained by US warships. Not to be left out was 2001-2004 aid embargo. Throughout all of this and until the present, hurricanes periodically ravaged crops and induced widespread die-offs of livestock. Since 1851, the Jacmel area has been hit with 18 hurricanes and 25 tropical storms--one severe storm every 3.7 years-- most notably Hurricane Hazel in 1954, known locally as douz oktob (the Twelfth of October) which devastated the entire country and is the one disaster comparable with and perhaps even more severe in terms of economic impact than the recent earthquake (Caribbean Hurricane Network 2010).[xiii] Droughts tend to be worse than hurricanes, often are severe enough to get named, and earthquakes although not generally recalled as precipitating economic crisis, have occasionally hit the region as well.[xiv] Throughout all of this what carried the survivors through the crisies was the same semi-subsistence strategies described earlier and the same internal marketing system discussed below.

            In summary, the people of the Southeast depend heavily on economic activities and external sources of cash that have been severely curtailed by economic fallout from the recent earthquake and, as or more severe, the regional drought. A certain percentage of families are suffering acute nutritional stress (a good estimate is 5%), the most severe victims can be seen with ribbons tied around their stomachs to suppress the hunger pains. But most people in the region have arguably not yet experienced a marked reduction in caloric intake or even a reduction in income.  What they are currently experiencing is increased consumption of low prestige garden crops and a reduction in the reserves they have on hand—cash savings and livestock—as they spend and sell off these reserves in an effort to maintain living standards. If the crisis abates soon, as it appears to be doing with the recent rains, most families will have come through without having completely exhausting these resources. However, the long term negative impact on the environment comes in the form of increased deforestation, perhaps even the felling of fruit trees that, while causing a long term depletion in household resources, yield immediate returns in the form of charcoal sales. When the crisis passes, the people of the Southeast will once again begin to build up livestock and cash savings. But they will do so within a more degraded environment, meaning that unless effective measures are put in place to increase production and alternative sources of household income, the next crisis will in all likelihood carry them that much closer to the dreaded bottom of the safety net.[xv]

 

 

4.      The Marketing System

 

The economy and market systems in Haiti, and specifically in the Southeast, can be conceptually divided into the global and the internal Haitian marketing systems. The division is not arbitrary. Each system is characterized in Haiti by its own unique actors who differ in performance, terminology, and the products they sell.  Players in one system sometimes cross the line and dabble in the other--for example the komèsan (distributor of imported goods) who may also buy local products for export -- but they can be conceptualized as definitively unique systems and have arguably become more distinct in recent decades with the near total disappearance of exports. Of the two, the regional marketing system is less well understood by both foreigners and urban Haitian nationals. Indeed, as discussed in greater detail in this section, it is plagued with misunderstandings.

 

 

4.1.   The Global Marketing System

The global market chain does not here warrant a great deal of explanation because it is familiar to most aid workers. In Haiti, this market chain begins with the importer, then moves to the various levels of distributor (komèsan) and warehouse owners (met depòt). At that point the chain either moves directly to consumer, as in the case of hardware and mechanized goods or, in the case of food staples, moves to marchann chita who sit in the market or by the roadside, the jambe chen (little street restaurants found throughout markets, bus stations, and neighborhoods), the boutik (small stores also found throughout urban area, provincial towns, and rural hamlets) or the boulanjeri (bakery) that are found not only at the higher echelons of society but in the simpler form of stone-hearth ovens located throughout neighborhoods, bidonville (slums), provincial towns and even in the most rural hamlets .

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.2.   The Internal Haitian Marketing System

For the purposes of this study, a discussion of the internal marketing system begins with the Regional Rotating Market System found in the Southeast and the extreme commoditization with which people in the area interact. This market system is spatially characterized by open air markets held in specific locations on specific days of the week. The system is such that inhabitants of any particular area are within walking-distance to at least five major markets per week. As with the rest of Haiti, the transactions that take place in these markets--as well as transactions outside of the markets--are cash based. But an important feature of the market is that many of the items sold are household necessities. [xvi] This is not to say that markets are stocked entirely with local products. There are also imported staples (spaghetti, flour, rice, beans, salami) as well as tools, utensils, clothing, and inexpensive knickknacks (soaps, hair ties, used clothing, shoes, wash basins, pots and pans, dishes, drinking glasses, eating utensils, machetes, hoes, and kerosene). But whether imported or produced locally, the overwhelming bulk of items sold in the rural marketplaces relate directly to subsistence.[xvii]

The vigorous, cash oriented market system and commoditization-mentality being described is also manifest in a dazzling degree of specialization in both the production of local material goods and provision of services.[xviii]  But, arguably the most important aspect of the regional marketing system is the role it plays, not simply as a place to purchase, but in generating household income through selling. The overwhelming majority of women who live in the area are involved in trading such that commerce is the primary feminine economic opportunity; and together with agricultural and livestock production is one of the three pillars of Haiti’s domestic economy. Women use commercial activity as a means of earning money and of extending household savings. The tendency to commoditize is such that a local person who is given a bag of rice or earns it in a food-for-work project will generally not stash it in a dark recess of the house to be doled out bit by bit over a period of weeks or months. Rather, the rice is separated. A large portion is sent straight to the market or sold at below market price to obtain cash that is then used to engage in more lucrative marketing activities and to purchase other foods and provisions as needs arise.

Female involvement in commerce is something that has the potential to put women on economically equal footing with men, particularly middle aged women who have a sufficient number of adolescent children. These children maintain the other productive activities of the household while the woman is away engaged in itinerant marketing activities. It is from this class of women that come the madam sara, a major player in the internal market system and one so commonly misunderstood as to warrant special mention and clarification here.[xix]         

 

4.2.1.      Madam Sara

Named for a migratory bird that assiduously searches for and finds food wherever it goes, the madam sara (pronounced ma-dan sé-ra) acts as the critical market link between rural producers and the urban consumer, most importantly the 30% of the national population who live in Port-au-Prince, many of whom work for wages and receive remittances from overseas migrants. In the Southeast there are several characteristics of the madam sara that outsiders and urban based Haitians commonly misunderstand. 

           

1.      madam sara are predominantly rural woman who, in normal non-crisis times, purchase produce in rural areas, typically near to where they live; then transport the goods directly to larger markets or Port-au-Prince,

2.      madam sara seldom venture into unfamiliar territory; rather they overwhelmingly operate either in their native rural area or an area with which they are familiar and have kinship relations, 

3.      although the most heavily capitalized and visible madam sara use public truck transportation, most move their cargo on foot, donkey or mule, [xx]

4.      by virtue of the fact that they focus on rural produce, most madam sara specialize in whatever commodities are seasonally available in their activity zone,

5.      perhaps the most common misunderstanding and so consistent as to be elevate almost to the status of a rule, madam sara return to the rural areas with no merchandise and the reason is because the most lucrative market for the madam sara is not the cash scarce rural areas--where they would have to wait a long time to recuperate their investment--but the cash flush urban market where they can roll their capital over rapidly and return to the rural areas to repeat the cycle (the profits for a madam sara going from Segen to Port-au-Prince is 100% for a one day walk and one to two days of selling; if she goes to Kay Jacmel it is 50% with same day sales; if, on the other hand, she buys a sack of rice, her profit is 20%--one fifth that of the madam sara destined for Port-au-Prince-- and her average turnover rate is 15 days—five to seven times as long as the madam sara destined for Port-au-Prince),

6.      madam sara seldom take standard loans (because it cuts too heavily into their own earnings),

7.      madam sara often give credit to fixed and trusted clients (kliyan) with whom they have a long-term trade relationship and most of whom fall into the category of marchann chita,--sitting merchants--or machann kinkay-- literally “merchants of lots of things”--women who typically have little capital or operate on credit from the madam sara,

8.      when in Port-au-Prince the more capitalized madam sara sleep in depòt (storage facilities) with their merchandise--which they are loath to leave unguarded--and they stay there until they have sold their goods or until their kliyan, to whom they have given credit, have returned with the money (typically 2 to 3 days); the less capitalized sara often sleep in the market stalls, (arguably the major blow to the big madam sara networks was the destruction of depòt during the earthquake—but many of which have been built back)

9.      in broad terms, there are no urban madam sara, at least not in the terminology of people in rural Southeast: those men and women who purchase imported produce and redistribute it inside or outside of the principal cities are known as komèsan (distributors) who own storage facilities in the city or provincial towns and hamlets; or they fall into another category of machann chita, those who sell out of their home, a boutik (store), or a fixed place along the roadside or in the market,

 

The anthropologically fascinating feature of the madam sara is that she is the principal accumulator, mover, and distributor of domestic produce in Haiti and as such represents the most critical component in what anthropologists have long called the internal Haitian marketing system. Her opposite, and what can be conceptualized as her figurative nemesis, is the komèsan (distributor), the handler of durable imported staples mentioned above. The komèsan is the key figure representing the incursion of the global market economy and foreign produce into Haiti, a link in what can be analytically categorized as a market chain separate from the sara and the internal system, one that moves in the opposite direction, both literally, in terms of the primary flow being urban to rural (in contrast to rural to urban), and figuratively, in terms of its opposition and undermining of domestic production.[xxi]      

Impact: The physical blow that the earthquake dealt to the Global Market Economy, as it extends into Haiti, was principally to intermediate level warehouses in Port-au-Prince (many which were in the hard hit central city), to grocery stores (six of the city’s 15 major grocery stores were damaged, at least two of which were leveled), and to bakeries.(several of the largest bakeries were put out of commission as well). Many of Jacmel’s storage facilities were also damaged, giving an advantage to those komèsan who were not hit especially hard.

The physical blow to the internal marketing market chain were the depòt mentioned earlier. But testimony to this market’s resilience is that the rural and even many of the urban open markets never ceased operating.  Two days after the earthquake, madam sara were walking down out of the mountains from the Southeast countryside and into Petion Ville (upper metropolitan Port-au-Prince). By the third day Petion Ville markets were functioning; prices for domestic produce had not increased. A principal complaint that peasants consistently made was the decline in urban market demand. In retrospect this is lamentable as it did not have to be this way. What could have been a time of high market demand, a moment when the peasants temporarily received high prices for rural produce, became instead one of low demand and unchanging prices. People were not buying for the NGOs, foreign military forces, and religious missions who were rushing to save those under the rubble and to provide nourishment to the survivors had decided not to purchase locally, but instead to import food from abroad. The subsequent massive importation led to the paradoxical reverse, a different kind of crisis, a domestic market and local production crisis

In summary, the vigorous internal Haitian marketing system looms large in Southeast household livelihood strategies. Virtually all households are involved in the market system and, while about one third to one-half of most Southeast crops—including black beans-- are consumed by household members, the other portions get sold, the profits rolled over in internal marketing activities or in agricultural and livestock ventures, and eventually spent on food staples or necessities such as school tuition, medical care, or spiritual obligations to the family lwa and ancestors. Thus we can say that while farmers in the region are emphatically not subsistence farmers, they can expediently be defined as subsistence-oriented market producers and traders.

 


 

5.      Extra-Household Livelihood Strategies, Income and Expenditures

 

5.1.   Extra-Household Livelihood Strategies

Putting aside extra-legal and religious-entrepreneurial activities of a powerful new type of elite mentioned in endnote v. (the narcotrafficker and the religious-charity entrepreneur), at the top of the popular income spectrum, both in terms of pay and prestige, are NGO employees, government employees, school teachers, and bus and taptap drivers. Some 3% to 4% of literate young men and to a much lesser extent women benefit from the vibrant and relatively recent commerce in telephone cards and calling services (since c. 2000); some 5% of men earn relatively high incomes as skilled craftsmen; and at a slightly lower level in terms of prestige and income, one encounters the burgeoning new industry of motorcycle taxes (also since c. 2000), a sector that has created a respectable niche for the many largely urban based, unemployed and lowly educated young men, some of whom become a significant threat to others during crises—most notably through thievery. At an even lower and more populated echelon one finds the porters with their battered wheel barrows, the unskilled laborers, and the guardian (caretakers) who watch over property, often sleeping in warehouses, gardens, gas stations, and the port.

Women have fewer opportunities for direct employment but have recourse to largely feminine domain of commerce, discussed at length above, and to commercial food preparation, a sector where women enjoy variable degrees of success as urban vendors (marchann chita), restaurant owners, and cooks. Men too specialize in the preparation of some foods, such as barbecue chicken, hotdogs, as well as sale of telephone cards and itinerate pharmaceutical sales. And both men and women migrate temporarily to Port-au-Prince where they engage in commerce, domestic work for wealthy families, or work in factories, as porters, motorcycle taxi driver, cooks, clerks, in the government sector, education, or in the construction sector. 

Another option is temporary migration to the Dominican Republic where mostly men work in industrial agriculture, in the construction industry, and in tourism (in all three sectors Haitian immigrants make up from 80 to 90% of the labor force); both men and women work as domestic servants for Dominican nationals as well as for the many foreigners resident in the Dominican Republic; and both sexes are prominent in the Dominican Republic’s pleasure industry where Haitians make up about 40% of the more than 100,000 sex workers. A good estimate of the number of men 16 and 30 years of age who were in the Dominican Republic at the time of the EMMA investigation is 20 percent. A lesser but still important number of women have left.[xxii]

Other entrepreneurial and income activities that should be mentioned are overseas commerce between Haitians who have returned from France, the DR, Canada, other Caribbean islands and the US (about 1% of the population), as well remittances from family members who have not returned (about 10% of total households receive remittances). Throughout the area people patronize an indigenous industry of medicinal leaf doctors, masseuses, and midwives, and sometimes earning impressive sums, spiritual healers known as bokor, hougan, and gangan if male, and mambo for the approximately 10% who are female.

 


 

5.2.   Income

Wages in the rural areas are, like skills, fairly consistent. A good estimate of actual earnings is 100 to 150 goud per day.  That is what we calculate from evaluating data on all activities, averaged over time; and it coincides with the actual daily rate that farmers throughout the region (indeed, all over Haiti) attach to a full day of labor 100 goud without food and rum; 150 goud with food and rum). But note that it does not take into account in monetary terms income derived from the complex of agriculture, livestock, and charcoal producing strategies in which all peasants are engaged.

A good rule of thumb for income in urban areas is 350 goud per day. That figure is based on interviews with female vendors and male porters, and it is consistent with motorcycle taxis reports on net earnings as well as the actual wages paid to laborers (250 goud per day; which can be thought of as the urban pay floor).

Currently the Haitian minimum wage is 200 goud per day (about US six dollars). Government cash for work meets this standard and there is no shortage of workers. But it should be born in mind that most report otherwise being economically inactive.

 

5.2.1.     Four Dimensions of Work: remuneration, rural to urban, household to public, and gender

In understanding the economic opportunities, how they were impacted by the earthquake, and the consequent change in income, it is useful to define four dimensions that condition work in the region:

 

5.2.1.1.   Remuneration: This dimension follows a continuum from direct pay to commission to reciprocal service to those “gifts” made with the veiled expectation that some kind of owed favor has been incurred; and it can be analytically conceptualized as moving along the somewhat overlapping axis of three other dimensions described below

 

5.2.1.2.   Rural area to town (degree of  urbanization): Labor that occurs predominantly in the rural areas is seldom directly remunerated in terms of pay, but rather moves from commission to various types of reciprocal exchanges.[xxiii] For example, fishing, livestock rearing, even planting, are often reciprocal, or based on some type of commission. In fishing there is a share of the catch; in farming there is a spectrum of arrangements from family and friends who work for free or for a meal and rum, to reciprocal labor groups known as squads (eskwad) who take turns working in member’s gardens, to the kontra, in which one person agrees to accomplish specific tasks for a fixed price, to paid day labor, achté moun. The only significant per day paid labor opportunity that we identified are what we can call the highland agro-industrial entrepreneurs who make large investments in vegetable and bean gardens and to a much lesser extent the lowland bean gardens, the activities of which are analyzed more closely in the EMMA map provided shortly. On the other extreme virtually all extra-household income generating activities performed in the urban areas are remunerated at least on a commission basis. Digging and refining of lime and river gravel and loading trucks is based on a production and commission system. Artisans are paid for jobs but there is a type of negotiation in which the owner of the shop attempts to hold on to his employees for little direct pay during times of low sales—food if possible—and then gives commissions when sales are high. Porters with wheel barrels must be paid immediately upon completion of the job.

 

5.2.1.3.   Household to public domain and male to female (gender): With respect to the third and fourth dimensions, a proverb said throughout Haiti is that, “men build houses, but they don’t own them” (gason fe kay, min li pa gen kay). As a cultural rule, the household is the domain of women. Men plant gardens on behalf of women and in the name of the children they have together. In all cases except manioc and yams--where digging the roots out is onerous--women physically harvest their spouse’s gardens; and women subsequently sell the harvest and manage the money. The common assertion to the contrary made by visiting aid workers and indifferent urban based observers is a projection of urban, elite, and western values and feminist agendas that emphatically do not apply to domestic life in rural Haiti. Indeed, few rural Haitian men would be so bold as to mettle in his wife’s commercial activities and, more daring still, try to put his hands on the money she manages on behalf of the household (those men who succeeded in doing so would, in most cases, soon find themselves looking for a new wife; if he decided that violence could sort things out he may well find himself beset by a pack of rock hurling and stick wielding in-laws).

Impact: Focusing on the Southeast, putting aside the loss of life and property, and injuries, the earthquake and the aid that came after it had the greatest rural impact on extra-household income. This is true through loss of income from family in Port-au-Prince, loss of local jobs, and the depressing impact of aid on the market. An example in the job sector is the virtual standstill of the construction industry as people wait in fear to see if another quake is going to hit. On the other hand, there have been boons buried in the aftermath of the earthquake. The new motorcycle transportation industry benefitted from the windfall of 50,000 urban based family members who fled Port-au-Prince and eagerly sought refuge, not among those concrete buildings that ominously remained standing in Jacmel, nor in the few fetid tent cities packed with strangers, but rather in the security of plank walled and tin covered natal homesteads scattered throughout the countryside. To arrive at theses homesteads—and to depart-- the vast majority of the so called IDPs, having become accustomed to the city, are indisposed and often incapable of walking great distances, leaving them no choice but to pay for a motorcycle ride. Similarly, the telephone card salesmen who earn 20% on cards and calls have found themselves experiencing windfall sales as people try to locate and maintain contact with friends and family in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere, and to solicit remittances from those overseas.

Another and much greater influx that observers may be overlooking is the injection of aid itself. The earthquake crisis has had its prolonged aftermath and it was certainly devastating to specific families, but it has been characterized, not by an embargo as in 1991 or a suspension of financial assistance from the international community as in 2001 to 2004, but by the greatest aid boom in Haitian history—indeed, the hemisphere. The great bulk of that money—at least 80%—has, still is, and will be absorbed by the aid institutions themselves (overhead, salaries, vehicles, gas, housing). Nevertheless, much has been released into the economy. It has arrived via direct channels, such as the massive food distributions and the common practice of giving employees thousands of dollars and canceling debts; and in more subtle exchanges that accompany the inevitable relations of friendship, sex, and outright prostitution between locals and at least some of the thousands of aid workers who have visited the area. It has also been characterized by massive influx of remittances sent from family and friends abroad, a fact supported by the long lines that formed outside of wire transfer services and that still form outside of banks, lines that were seldom seen before the earthquake.

So, in the absence of hard data, it is not easy to assess which way income has actually gone, up or down.  Asking people, while seemly logical, is unlikely to resolve the conundrum. One can expect prevarication. To think differently is to deny the occurrence of 50 prior years of massive aid and mission activity. The point is especially poignant when the inquiries come from employees of a major international NGO working in the region, individuals who might, if a decline in income can be convincingly demonstrated,  produce some configuration of foreign aid--be it a tent, money, food voucher, or even a packet of toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo.  But there is still hope. We know that many people lost on following counts, and on the following page a list of how specific livelihood strategies changed in terms of intensity of activity. [xxiv]

 

o   Lost access to money from the city

 

o   Depressed sales and market demand

 

o   Madam Sara have lost depots

 

o    

5.3.   Expenditures

During normal times most Haitians in the region, urban and rural alike, do not pay rent, electricity, water, or taxes. Among the major expenses are medical care, school tuitions, transportation, and expenses for a range of ceremonial obligations (baptism and obligations to the family lwa and ancestors). Food is the greatest expense for both rural and urban dwellers but those in the rural areas have significantly greater recourse to survival crops. Moreover people in the rural areas depend almost entirely on local production and hence sale in the internal marketing system. When crisis strikes they can and often do dispense with paying for school as well as transportation, they seek out local healers rather than medical doctor and, as seen, they withdraw into consumption of garden crops, particularly the enumerated “survival crops.” To obtain cash needed for items such as garden implements and seed stock, they can resort to sale of livestock and charcoal. Indeed, it might be said that few people on earth are better suited to dealing with economic crisis than rural Haitians.

Impact: The same data gathering difficulties described with regard to income applies equally to expenditures (i.e. fat chance at getting accurate reports). But we can garner insight from obvious changes. Two major cash expenditures that were temporarily eliminated after the earthquake are school tuition and medical care (arguably the two major expenditures for the food producing rural majority of the population). Schools were closed and medical care became and still is free.[xxv]

In further assessing the impact of expenditures on the rural majority, recall that outside of towns most people in the region are dependent on low-input peasant livelihood strategies. As seen, during times of crisis most farmers do not obligatorily lower their consumption or even experience a reduction in income. Similar to the unemployed developed-world professional who dips into his or her bank account or 401k while trying to find a new job, what the Southeast farmer typically experiences during times of crisis or lean months is most often, not a reduction in nutritional intake or even income, but a switch to heavier consumption of low prestige foods (in this case, the discussed ‘survival crops’); and a reduction in livestock and marketing cash as they sell off animals and spend the money on food. The recourse to garden versus imported food imparts a type of elasticity to rural household expenditures. As with income calculations, demonstrating this point is nigh impossible. Few Southeasterns would be so naïve as report to aid workers an increase in income (most would not even do that with their neighbor for to do so would be to invite requests for money). But we can summarize the principal declines and benefits (Table P4) as well as the principal impacts on all sectors of the economy and material infrastructure (Table P5).

 

6.      Summary Interpretation of Crisis and Response

 

This report could not be complete without inserting, somewhere, a summary of the overall impact of the earthquake and subsequent aid effort.

The primary physical impact of January 12th was the destruction of major sectors of the Port-au-Prince urban area where lives 30% of the Haitian population, and where one finds 80% or more of all medical, education, and administrative infrastructure. In the Southeast the primary impact was the city of Jacmel. In both cases the tendency among decision makers and aid workers is to see these areas as indispensable mainstays of the regional and national economy, focal points of administrative functions, political and economic organization upon which the provincial majority depends. The destroyed National Palace became a symbol of the chaos and suffering to come.  In reality, the opposite may be the case. For the vast majority of Haitians, the police and military have most often acted as agents of repression; the government as impediments to commerce and development. The earthquake temporarily eliminated both.

While swooning, a large fraction of formal sector--albeit less than 300,000 workers to begin with--was back to work within weeks of the earthquake. For example, at least some of the factories in SONAPI duty free zone—where 500 workers were killed in a single factory--were back in operation within one to two weeks of the earthquake. The same was true of most major bakeries, beverage and water bottling companies, grocery stores, and banks. In the informal urban sector welders, mechanics, electricians were once again clogging the rubble strewn streets of the central city within three weeks of the earthquake. The more robust internal marketing economy was arguably only dazed by the physical impact of the earthquake. Within two days of market women from the Southeast, goods perched on their heads, were walking out of the mountains and into the streets of Petion Ville; and within three days after the quake many markets once again began to fill with marchann; roadsides with fruit, beverage, and fritay vendors.

But whether the economy could have dealt with the impact of the earthquake is a mute point because the international community came together and in a heartwarming coalescence of international compassion, swamped Haiti with aid. What followed was a frenzied and uncoordinated tsunami of food, aid kits, rescue workers, and recovery experts.  Competing agencies, dignitaries, movie stars, and the arrival of military contingents from at least 42 different countries created a show stopping logistic nightmare at the airport. Masses of aid vehicles driving across the now open border from the Dominican Republic all but shut down the movement of road transit. Convoys of privately leased trucks were pulling into the city and indiscriminately unloading tons of food into the frenzied hands of recipients—as well as driving them up into interior cities of the country and selling them at bargain basement prices. The international community imported more than 26,500 tons of food, and as the containers piled up at depots, and filled warehouses, importers prudently stopped importing.

While the aid was coming, many of the most desperate people left for the countryside. Behind them others, some desperate and some simply with nothing else to do, congregated in tent cities to wait for the promised bonanza in aid that was being amassed behind fences and in military compounds set up in the vacant spaces near the airport and the industrial parks. Tens of thousands of these people were in need of some assistance. But exactly how many will never be known. Today, we see tent cities with no one in them—until an aid convoy shows up (case in point is outside of Cite Soley, Rt National 1); while the emerging image of those that are inhabited, that cover the parks and squares, is one of bidonville tent cities in which as many as half of residents have standing homes elsewhere, use them daily, and will certainly return to them, eventually, but where most cling to the promise of aid and possibly a new, cost free, second home.

Returning to the central issue, for the economy, instead of directing aid to where it could have reinforced production and trade, much of the emergency assistance worked against it. For example, instead of using local trucks for transportation of medical supplies, the wounded, and rescue teams, and instead of hiring locals as translators and guides (most agencies categorically refused to do so), aid was and often still is being directed without the support and guidance of locals, and conducted with little participation of local contractors or suppliers. Instead of helping the some 2 million potential assistants clear the rubble to get at survivors (as we saw in China scarcely a year ago), two thousand rescuers and over 20,000 military personnel from 42 countries consumed 70% of the aid during the first three months of the emergency—and will surely consume even more in the long run--with which they created the described chaos while saving a grand total of 132 people. [xxvi]

The entire emergency rescue effort was symptomatic of the current aid culture in Haiti. The food and water that flooded in meant that, in action, the aid agencies effectively cut out the local water purifiers as well as the importers and delivered a simultaneous blow to the rural producers. The point is perhaps most poignant with regard to producers in the Southeast, for instead of purchasing their local produce and providing much needed cash infusions into rural Sudest economy, aid agencies swamped both Port-au-Prince and the Southeast with gratuitous food imported from abroad effectively reducing demand in the peasants urban Port-au-Prince market to a fraction of what it could have been and assuring that the agricultural produce and provisioning market economy upon which they so depend would remain depressed for months.

And now, flush with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, international NGOs and the government are beginning the rebuilding process.[xxvii] They are hiring teams of locals, mostly to sweep the streets, gutters, and to do low grade maintenance and rebuilding of retainer walls. Meanwhile, the great bulk of aid is directed toward external experts brokered by the Haitian elite and the NGOs. Massive amounts of money are spent to write reports that are not read or that are about foregone conclusions,[xxviii] while literally hundreds of thousands of Haitians sit idle, having been knocked out of the economy by the aid tsunami.  Contracts are being negotiated with foreign rubble removers, toilet operators, and construction companies, the same members of the merchant elite who have dominated both government and the import and export sector for centuries; having always fed off of the rural regions and given little in return, they now sit at the tables with the high paid consultants and try to central plan the new system.  At a lower level the Haitian agronom and aid workers (the majority of who did not suffer directly from the earthquake), flush with gifts of cash from their sympathetic NGO patrons (imagine that your neighbor dies and your boss hands you a $10,000 sympathy check), desperately try to understand not so much what is going on in the rural areas, but rather what blan wants so that they can get more paychecks, more of the aid pie, perhaps a promotion and, if everything goes really well, a visa. At the very bottom is the average Southeastern peasant who has fled to a Dominican sugar plantation, considered among the most exhausting physical labor in the hemisphere, to work backbreaking 10 hour days over a period six months with the hopes of saving the US$500 dollars he needs to come back home and invest in his garden and livestock, all with the goal of shoring up the security-net upon which his and his family’s lives will depend. Meanwhile, back in the office, the average NGO consultant sips his coffee, eats his three hardy meals per day and consumes in salary, transportation, hotel, and food expenses about the same amount of money, per day.

There has to be a more efficient way



Works Cited

 

Collier, Paul 2008 The Bottom Billion. Oxford University Press.

Easterly. William 2006 The White Man's Burden. Penguin Press.

Harrison, Lawrence E. 1991 "The Cultural Roots of Haitian Underdevelopment" Small Country Development and International Labor Flows. Anthony P. Maingot, ed. Boulder: Westview Press Inc.

Murray, Gerald,  Matthew McPherson and Timothy T Schwartz 1998  The Fading Frontier : An Anthropological Analysis Of The Agroeconomy And Social Organization Of The Haitian- Dominican Border.   Report for USAID (Dom Repub).

Schwartz, Timothy T. 2009 Fewer Men, More babies: Sex, family, and fertility in Haiti. Lexington Books: Landham, Md.

2007  Subsistence songs -- Haitian téat performances, gendered capital, and livelihood strategies in Jean Makout, Haiti. NWIG (New West Indian Guide)

2003 Pronatalism and the Economic Utility of Children in Jean Rabel, Haiti. Journal for Research in Economic Anthropology

2001 Countries and Their Cultures (Haiti entry) MacMillan Referente USA (Yale University)

2000  “Children are the Wealth of the Poor:” High Fertility and the Organization of Labor In The Rural Economy of Jean Rabel, Haiti (Ph.D. Dissertation)

T. Schwartz and M.  McPherson 2004  Socioeconomic assessment of the Jaragua, Bahoruco, Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve.  International Resources Group (IRG)

 


 

End Notes



[i] Calculations are based on 2003 census and an annual demographic increment of 1.8 percent.

 

[ii] Another incredible plant, vetiver has multiple uses. In addition to a durable roofing material, medicinal herb, it has roots that reach as far as 12 feet into the soil making it good for erosion control.

 

[iii]  Unlike many other regions of Haiti, people in the Southeast do not use any type of palm for house covering. They do, however, use coconut thatch for kitchens and joupa (garden shelters that resemble tents).

 

[iv] A note regarding the wispy shelters made of sheets and plastic that one sees on the drive from Port-au-Prince through the mountain to Jacmel: Close examination reveals many are on unlevel ground, strewn inside with rock, or simply too short for most people to sleep in. This is to say nothing of the fact that most do not qualify as a shelter at all-- they would not deflect neither rain nor sleet nor the vision of curious neighbors. When one leaves the road and ventures into the countryside, one no longer encounters them.

Virtual bidonvil  of such wispy tents can be seen on the northern outskirts of City Soley in Port-au-Prince, hundreds of wispy tents but not an occupant in sight.

These tents can be seen as a summary statement of the attitude that has evolved toward aid. “Catch as catch can.” One USAID staff officer referred to them as “come crows.”

 

[v] Not to be left out is the aid-entrepreneur and the narcotrafficker:

 

Pasture-entrepreneur: Notable because it reveal much about economic opportunity in Haiti the country’s role as recipient of vast quantities of international charity donated through churches, this special type of aid entrepreneur who can be found throughout Haiti is  typically from the ranks of the rural town poor or the lower middle class, He is the pasture-business man, a gate keeper of religious donations from overseas with a portfolio that typically includes an orphanage, church, school, store, warehouses for trade in imported foods, perhaps a bakery, and sometimes a transport ship;  he invests in land, irrigated gardens and livestock, owns at least one house locally, another in Port-au-Prince and often one in Miami as well; he quite likely is, has, or will run for political office.

 

The narcotrafficker: Also special for the insight that his role offers into the current Haitian economy.  Like the religious aid-entrepreneur, most are males, traveled, multilingual; at the bottom are those young men who might make a modest living smuggling a few ounces of cocaine to the Dominican Republic; at the top is the highest of the regional elite, members of what some call the “Jacmel Cartel” that reputedly monopolizes regional political power (a belief that, whether true or not, demonstrates the rank that narcotrafficking holds in the popular imagination, reflecting economic reality).

 

[vi] The crops planted in the traditional semi-subsistence gardens of rural Haiti are those that are best adapted to the harsh environment. Relatively high yields of these crops can be produced with minimal effort in a wide range of soil pH conditions, and prove to be resilient in the face of unpredictable rainfall patterns, destructive hurricanes and floods, and periodic drought. For example, five principal crops planted are corn, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, and peanuts, the very same five crops most important to the Taino Indians who inhabited the area in pre-Columbian times. To this basket of Taino domesticates, early colonists added three of the most drought resistant crops on the planet: sorghum, millet, and pigeon peas, and very importantly in the Southeast, yams, crops that continue to be of great importance in rural Haiti.

 

Sweet Potato (Impomea batatas):  In calories per square meter, sweet potatoes are the most productive tropical cultivar on earth. They have few natural pests, and from planting to first harvest, they can produce as much as twelve metric tons per acre on as little as four inches of rainfall. There are dozens of varieties of sweet potatoes, which are recognized for features ranging from the ability to resist drought to the tremendous size of the potato. All varieties begin yielding in from two to six months. Cuttings must be planted when the ground is moist, but thereafter provide a continuing year round harvest, yon manje tout tan (a food at all times). After the initial planting, the vine itself becomes drought resistant; it withers during long dry spells, and its fruit degenerates. But the vines go into a state of dormancy and come back vigorously when it rains and the more it rains the more the vine produces. When harvesting sweet potatoes, a farmer need only re-bury the remainder of the vine for it to continue growing. Patches of sweet potatoes endure for several years and would endure indefinitely if hungry children did not help themselves, digging the sweet potatoes up and roasting them whole in small fires (see Bouwkamp 1985; Onwueme 1978).

 

Cassava (Manihot utilissima): Cassava is a close competitor with sweet potatoes for the most productive tropical food plant in terms of calories produced per square meter. It needs more rain than sweet potatoes to grow, but it is more tolerant of drought, easily surviving dry periods longer than six months. Further, unlike sweet potatoes, cassava has the unique ability to be stored in the ground and it is hurricane proof because it can lose all its leaves and its branches may break, but the root, which is where the food is, will not die. After drought or hurricanes, the plant draws on carbohydrate reserves in the roots to rejuvenate itself. Cassava is propagated by cutting short lengths of its branches, and these sticks can be stored for as long as five months. There are least five varieties of bitter cassava and five varieties of sweet cassava. Cuttings can be planted at any time, even in the dry season, and will remain until the rains come.  Depending on the variety of cassava, the type of soil, and the frequency of rainfall, the roots are ready to harvest anywhere from six months to one and a half years but can be left in the ground for up to four years. After the tree has reached maturity (at one and a half to two years), farmers will often trim branches, allowing for the planting of other crops and the harvesting of the cassava roots as needed over a period of several years. When harvesting, portions of the roots are commonly left in the ground to grow back (see Toro and Atlee 1980; Cock 1985).

 

Pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan): Pigeon pea roots reach six to seven feet beneath the surface, deeper than cassava, making the plant highly drought resistant. When drought does strike, pigeon peas shed all their leaves and go into a state of dormancy just like cassava, coming back to life when the rains return. The peas are a high source of protein (20 percent) and provide all but two of the thirteen amino acids necessary for protein synthesis in humans. The leaves provide animal fodder superior to most grasses and mature stalks are burnt as cooking fuel. There are at least seven varieties of pigeon peas in the region.  They are planted with corn—good for the corn because pigeon peas are nitrogen fixing—and after a year the plant provides a continuous yield for six to eight months and can survive for up to five years., yielding for 6-8 months every year (see Nene et al. 1990).

 

Sorghum (Sorghum vulgare) and Millet (Pennisetum gluaucum): Both crops yield with minimum rainfall. The roots reach more than eight feet beneath the surface, enabling the plant to withstand over two months of drought. When the crop is entirely lost to drought or has been harvested, the stalks can be cut back and the plant will begin growing again. Millet and sorghum have a special status as a subsistence grain crop because it has a very hard, pest, and mold-resistant kernel that can be stored for over two years (see Nzeza 1988).

 

Corn (Zea mays) and Cowpeas (Phaseolus vulgaris):  Farmers reported planting corn and beans more than any other crops, probably a reflection of the fact that they are high-status cash crops, particularly on the plains. Corn and beans are not highly drought resistant although the cultivars planted have traditionally been short season varieties like those originally planted by the Taino Indians.  Beans and corn are among the few plants that yield all at once and even though about 50 percent of the crop may be consumed by the household, they make up one of the most significant sources of income available to farmers. They are planted on the plains and corn is the most productive domesticated nontropical plant species on earth in terms of calories per square meter (Newsom 1993; Prophete 2000).

 

Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea): Peanuts are even more drought resistant than sorghum and in they can be planted in sandy soil and in dry areas where only cacti and xerophytic plants are found. (see Nzeza 1980). Other important crops all fit into an agricultural strategy that is clearly selected more for eking out a living in the face of an unpredictable market and natural environment than for participating in the world economy. Lima beans, which are intercropped with corn, are nitrogen fixing and begin to yield two to three months after harvest and continue to yield for as long as there is sufficient rainfall. Pumpkins and squash also yield continually as long as there is rain. One of the most important local crops, the Yam reyal, can be planted during dry spells and will begin to grow with the first rains. Like manioc, it can be stored in the ground indefinitely serving as an important food during droughts and other crises.  Sugarcane endures for years, propagates itself without human intervention, can be harvested at any time after it is mature, and will grow back after being cut. Perhaps most importantly with regard to sugarcane, the hard fibrous exterior locks in water while the roots extend some eighteen feet underground, making it a completely drought-resistant source of water and high energy food for both people and animals.

                Another aspect of the Haitian peasant subsistence strategy that should be emphasized here is that the crops planted do not require simultaneous harvesting but yield slowly over a period of several months, even year round. The cropping strategy adopted ensures that several staples will be available in the garden in every month of the year.

Crop harvesting cycles are complemented by the availability of produce from at least nineteen types of fruit and nut trees, most of which are not planted deliberately but rather selectively permitted to grow and the harvests of which conveniently fall during the some of the leanest months for garden produce. Fruits are sold in the markets for local consumption, they are given away freely among friends and neighbors, and are consumed in abundance by everyone.

 

For those who may be interested in these type of trends, many of the crops planted in the Southest are survivals from pre-colonial agricultural strategies. Indeed, agricultural the strategy practices in the Southeast is largely inherited from the Taino Indians, making it an in situ survival strategy that has been practiced on the island for at least 1,000 years. The consistency is such that in the neighboring Dominican Republic, where campesinos use an almost identical cropping strategy the word for garden is the Taino term conuco

 

                                Table n7: Commonly planted crops by origin

Crops

planted

 

        Origin

%

farmers

  Crops

  planted

 

Origin

% farmers

Corn

Taino/Americas

87.9

Yam

Africa, Asia

2.6

Beans*

Taino/Americas

70.8

Okra

Africa

2.5

Sweet Potato

Taino/Americas

59.1

Arrow root

Taino/Americas

2.0

Cassava

Taino/Americas

44.9

Castor Bean

Africa

1.8

Peanuts

Taino/Americas

39.1

Egg Plant

Asia

0.9

Millet

Africa, Asia

32.1

Carrot

British Isles

0.5

Pumpkin

Taino/Americas

20.6

Tomato

Taino/Americas

0.4

Plantain

Philippines

8.7

Echalot

 

0.3

Sugar Cane

Asia

7.2

Squash

Taino/Americas

0.3

Watermelon

Africa

6.0

Other

 

5.6

Sesame

Africa, Asia

3.4

 

 

 

 

[vii]              Table n8: Regional tree cycles (H = harvest) for the eighteen most common fruits and nuts

 

 

 

Jan

 

Feb

 

Mar

 

Apr

 

May

 

Jun

 

Jul

 

Aug

 

Sep

 

Oct

 

Nov

 

Dec

Avocado

0

0

0

0

0

HH

HHH

HHH

HHH

HHH

HHH

HH

Mango

h

h

H

HH

HHH

HHH

HHH

HH

H

h

h

h

Bread nuts

0

0

H

HH

HHH

HHH

HHH

HH

0

0

0

0

Bread fruit

0

0

H

H

H

H

H

H

0

0

0

0

Kenep (liche)

0

0

0

h

H

HHH

HHH

H

h

0

0

0

Oranges (sweet)

HHH

HHH

0

h

H

H

H

H

h

0

0

HHH

Grapefruit

HHH

HHH

0

h

H

H

H

H

h

0

0

HHH

Limes

H

H

H

H

HHH

HHH

HHH

H

H

H

H

H

Oranges (sour)

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Coconut

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Papaya

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Corosol

HHH

HHH

HHH

HHH

HH

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Grenadia

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Abriko

HHH

HHH

HH

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Almonds

0

0

0

0

0

H

HHH

HHH

H

0

0

0

Cashews

0

0

0

0

0

H

HHH

HHH

H

0

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many if not most fruit trees are not planted deliberately but rather selectively permitted to grow and the harvests of which conveniently fall during the leanest months for garden produce. Fruits are sold in the markets for local consumption, hauled by sara to the urban Port-au-Prince market, they are given away freely among friends and neighbors, and are consumed in abundance by everyone, especially children.

 

[viii]  Many of the items used in and around households are procured or manufactured by household members from useful plants, trees, and shrubs found in the yard, growing up around the garden, along paths, or in the arid State land. Limes and sour oranges are used as an all-purpose disinfectant and aloe as a hair oil and shampoo.. Baskets are made of grasses and splintered bamboo. Sleeping mats are made from dried plantain stalks. Gourds from the kalbas tree provide a range of different sized storage and drinking vessels. Sticks are collected for use as cooking fuel. To start fires locals use the abundant and flammable coconut husks, dried orange peelings, and a pitch pine (from the native Hispaniola pine found abundantly in the nearby National park, the Pine Forest).

-People of the Southeast to have historically suffered recurrent nutritional crisis less frequently than other regions, such as the Northwest, the Plateau Central, and even nearby Plain of Leogane.  This observation is supportded by informants identifying far fewer edible wild plants. They did report knowledge of several wild leaves and a wild yam but they were not able to expound on the subject nor did they report a need to resort to these items.  For example, people in nearby Leogane commonly eat boiled gree mangos as a nutritional coping strategy during times of scarcity, but people in the region we studied laugh at the prospect. When probed on the issue of some informants did note opportunistically eating feral cats, iguanas, and most types of birds—including eagles, hawks, woodpeckers, and even buzzards. They also consume land crabs, fresh-water crabs, crayfish, and even snake. They do not eat horse as people in North Haiti have begun to do in the past 15 years.

 

[ix] Motorcycles have become affordable to the general population only in the past 15 years. Their availability began in the mid 1990s with massive imports of second hand, refurbished Honda Cubs (scooters) from Japan. In the early 2000s Chinese Motorcycles became available at even lower prices giving way to virtual revolution in transportation on par in impact with that of the cell phone, something that became widely available at the same time. The use of motorcycles has been especially advantageous to young men who are overwhelmingly the drivers. But also to older individuals. They provide an investment opportunity. People with the resources buy them and then rent or lease them to younger family members or trusted friends (the going rate is 250 goud per day). In this way the economic impact of the new industry effects a wide number of people. Also notable is that several informants spontaneously remarked that if it was not for taxis, the current crisis would have been more severe because young men, not having any other recourse to income, would have been more prone to steal garden produce and livestock.

 

[x] Although at times devastating, the impact of hurricanes are generally not as severe as those associated with drought tuber crops such as manioc, sweet potatoes, arrowroot, and yams survive and even benefit from the abundant rainfall.  Prolonged droughts are more devastating.  Only the hardiest crops and livestock survive.  Animals that may have survived hurricanes and the associated disease that often comes with them are more likely to die. People who are old or sick are more likely to die at these times. Stricken families begin moving, going from house to house begging for morsels of food. Livestock theft and banditry increases. Commercial activity becomes perilous because desperate people sometimes hide themselves in the brush by trails and charge unsuspecting voyagers, hurling rocks and screaming, driving the traveler away from her donkey and seizing her merchandise.

 

[xi] Animals are led to open pasture or checked before dawn. The animals are moved again at least once and sometimes twice during the day to areas with shade and fresh fodder. These times also serve to assure that the animals are not strangling on their cords, that dogs are not in the process of killing them, or that thieves are not in process of stealing them. Small animals such as goats and sheep do not need to be watered when there is abundant rainfall. But when there is not sufficient rainfall, as is common in Southeast, the animals must be watered at least every three days and generally every day during the hot summer months. Rain or shine, large livestock such as cows and pack animals must be watered daily.

                The amount of time invested in livestock obviously depends on the number of animals a household owns and the distance from the household to water sources and foraging areas. Except after harvest times, animals are tethered or in the vicinity of the garden  or  on arid State lands rented from the government. In some areas, such as Bainet, animals are corralled in the arid areas.

                It is difficult and probably impractical to try to estimate the amount of time necessary to tend animals. To begin with, there is wide spectrum of intensity with which members of a household can care for their animals. Animals can be turned loose in the kadas and not checked for days, or tethered somewhere and moved only once a day. But these are risky practices that increase the chances of animals being lost, stolen, or killed by dogs. At the other extreme, a household head can see to it that animals are checked and moved at least twice during the day and brought into the yard at night, practices that increase the probability the animals will survive to reproduce and to be sold in the market. But that also requires significantly greater investments in time and labor.

                Another factor that complicates the estimation of livestock labor inputs is the difficulty of determining how many animals can be moved or led to the water at the same time. A lone man or woman, for instance, can handle as many as six goats and an unlimited number of sheep. Only one sheep needs to be guided and the rest will follow. Goats will also follow but they are less cooperative. In summary, regarding the time and labor inputs required by a household for livestock raising, the general rule is that the more time and the more labor that is invested, the better.

 

[xii] People all over rural Haiti generally do not themselves use charcoal for cooking fuel; they use wood. In almost any region one finds an ongoing production of charcoal with a handful of specialists and intermediaries engaged in the industry and they are considered among the poorest, lowliest people in an area; although the money earned at charcoal production can compare favorably to other occupations, these are people who tend to have less land, animals and no other employable skills. But for most individuals charcoal production is something that occurs when a special need arises, as when someone wants to build a house or finance a new garden and, as discussed in the main body of the report, charcoal production is most conspicuously bound with times of drought and crop failure.

 

[xiii] Although commonly called hurricanes, note that some of the most devastating climatological events  in recent years are tropical storms rather than hurricanes, as for example, Tropical Storm  Jean in 2004

 

[xiv] At least  8 major earthquakes have hit the island in the past 250 years and probably more; the most destructive were one in 1751, destroying Port-au-Prince; another in 1842, estimated at an equivalent of 8.5 on the richter scale it destroyed both Cape Haitian and the Dominican city of Santiago some 150 miles away; and one in1935 that created a tsunami, swamped sections of the North coast and killed thousands.  In my own research in church archives in the northern town of Port-de-Paix, I noted that a severe earthquake hits on average every 43 years. They are currently overdue by some 40 years.

 

[xv] Note that high numbers of households members is arguably not the burden during crisis that many observers and aid workers tend to emphasize. When crisis strikes, particularly drought—arguably the most severe type of crisis-- demands on household labor increase precipitously. And the principal feature that determines the success of a household in coping with and surviving drought is not how few mouths it has to feed, but how many able bodies it can put to work. Crop failure turns many households to charcoal production and, as a consequence, local wood supplies dwindle and household members must travel farther and farther to find wood for fuel.

                Most problematic is the water supply. Water sources dry up and people have to travel farther to fill their buckets and water animals.  Moreover, all households in the region are experiencing the same stress and this means that the fewer water sources are being visited by more people. Springs are packed with crowds of pushing, shoving, and cursing women and children. People get up at midnight so they can arrive at a distant spring before it becomes too crowded and they spend hours waiting to fill a single water jug. Some people, particularly young children, return to the house teary-eyed, trodden and bruised, having failed to procure any water at all. Washing clothes during drought conditions becomes problematic as well. Women must travel great distances to find clean water and a vacant place to sit and scrub. Animals have to be watered more frequently since the desiccated fodder dehydrates them. Fodder itself becomes scarce, so farmers are traveling farther and farther into remote areas to graze their animals or to cut grass for them and then they must lead the animals more frequently in the other direction, into more peopled areas, where there are adequate water sources that have not dried up.

                All of this additional effort translates into more labor and the need for more workers because, rain or no rain, people must eat and they must drink. Food still must be cooked, water found, clothes washed, and at least some animals must be kept alive so that when the drought finally does end there will be something with which to start producing again. The same logic of increased labor demand associated with crises can be applied to the most marginal regions. The poorest people usually live in the most marginal areas, which by definition those areas farthest from water and markets, thus increasing household labor requirements.

 

[xvi] In markets one finds not only piles of fruits and vegetables, but locally produced beeswax candles, tin-can lamps, thatch brooms, ropes made of sisal or shredded food aid sacks, tin graters and funnels, cloth coffee and juice strainers, locally crafted wooden mortars and pestles, saddles, saddle blankets, saddlebags, bridles, ropes, baskets, grass sacks, sleeping mats, scrap-iron bed frames, and wooden furniture. Locally produced castor oil is sold as a body lotion and hair relaxer. Bundles of wood are sold as cooking fuel and tiny packets of split pitch pine are sold as kindling. Domestic tobacco is sold in powder and leaf forms. Other locally produced items found include clay pipes, domestic rum concocted with aromatic leaves, roots and spices, homemade sweets made from peanuts, sesame seeds, melted brown sugar and manioc flour, and rolls made with cane syrup and ginger.

 

[xvii] One finds, for example, no bicycles, sporting goods, toys, labor-saving appliances, art, radios, videos, music cassettes, or imported gourmet foods. Nor does one find Hostess Twinkies or Lay’s potato chips or items considered necessities by people elsewhere such as toilet paper, tissues, and maxi pads. There are shampoo and deodorant but not in great abundance rarities. In summary, the rural economy is not disconnected from the world economy, but does continue to be oriented toward provisioning subsistence needs rather than prestigious or pleasurable wants. Moreover, the dichotomy between the internal and the global markets is manifest in market organization as seen in the market chains for imported vs domestic goods.

 

[xviii] For example, individuals specialize in the following activities: making tin lamps from discarded containers of condensed milk; crafting graters and funnels from tin vegetable oil containers; making candles from local beeswax or tree resins with wicks woven from locally grown cotton; fashioning brooms from a long stick with palm thatch lashed to the end; fashioning coffee makers from a sock of cloth and a loop of wire; producing juice strainers from screen scraps; making mortars and pestles of all sizes out of local woods, making switches to whip animals—and children—from the skin of bull testicles. Saddles and saddle blankets are made from banana and plantain stalks, saddle bags and sacks ranging from quart size to a hundred gallons are woven from palm thatch, baskets are made from slithers of bamboo, bridles are made from sisal and palm thatch rope and goat skin with scrap iron used to make the bit, and hats are woven from grasses. Lumber for houses and furniture is hewn by the local specialists who fell trees with axes and saw them into boards using hand saws. Furniture is made with hand tools. Chairs are made of sticks and palm thatch, sisal, or vine. Nails, hinges, latches, iron bed frames, and the bits on horse bridles are produced locally by smiths working with nothing more than a hammer, burin, pliers, and burning coconut shells for heat to work the iron (the scrap iron is heated over a fire of dry coconut shells, a fuel that burns hotter than regular woods.) There are also specialists who make nets, weirs, and boats, caulk the boats, and go into the hills to find buoyant monben tree seed pods for nets and poles for oars. There are specialists who make bread, sweet rolls, and coffee. Others sew shoes. There are those who go into the bush to find vines and galata poles for roofs. There are specialists who climb coconut and palm trees, who gather rocks, and who make lime and charcoal. There are specialists for fixing doors and roofs and there are children who specialize in fixing bicycle tires. Digging holes in gardens is another specialist activity, as is the castration of livestock. There are even specialists who castrate particular kind of livestock. Other specialists hunt cats or mongoose using trained dogs. There are specialist tomb builders, grave diggers, casket makers, and those who wash and prepare bodies for burial. There are health care specialists, herb specialists called leaf doctors who know hundreds of remedies made from local plants and trees to treat everything from colds to AIDS (not all of them are effective). There are masseuses, midwives, spiritual healers, magic practitioners, and card readers. There are prayer-saying specialists, and even those who specialize in saying particular prayers on particular occasions.

 

[xix] Marketing is, after agriculture and livestock, the most important source of household income in the region. Every woman who has her own household and who is not sick or crippled visits a regional market center at least once a week, where she makes household subsistence purchases and sells the agricultural and animal products produced by the household.  Women may specialize in selling anything from staples to used clothes to brewed coffee to machetes and schoolbooks. Even butchery is a female buying and selling enterprise. It is women who skillfully chop with a machete freshly slaughtered animals into smaller divisions and then sell the fresh meat on the spot. The only marketing enterprises in which men participate are the selling of live animals—and even this is an activity in which women are more prominent than men—and itinerant pharmaceutical and pesticide sales. Female market activity is so important to household livelihood in Haiti that few people would dare save money by stashing it away. A person who has money will invariably “put the money to work” by giving it to a female relative or friend who will roll the money over in the market, lajan sere pa fe pitit (stashed money bears no children). Indeed, although men travel farther and stay away from home longer than women, intense female marketing activity means that women travel more frequently than men. Many of the women specialize in the sale of one or several commodities, such as chickens, goats, or straw handbags, which they spend several weeks purchasing from neighbors, friends, or in rural markets to sell in the urban markets. Others, the madam sara discussed elsewhere, focus on seasonal produce and staples. The most successful sara are agents in the rural to urban distribution of staples. These women develop extensive networks of local female clientele who depend on them for supplies that are often provided on credit. Some of them become wealthy by local standards—many subsequently emigrate.

 

[xx] Madam sara in the Southeast activity zone can be classified into two categories: the ti madm sara (the little madam sara) and the gwo madam sara (the big madam sara).

The ti madm sara purchase produce in the interior, either in the garden of the producer or in the rural market place. She then either, 1) hauls the merchandise to Jacmel or another of the principal coastal market centers where she earns an approximately 50% market up selling to other better capitalized madam sara, or 2) she takes the goods herself to Port-au-Prince where she earns approximately 100% on her investment.

Although many women make the trip to Port-au-Prince on foot, a principal factor that determines her choice of destinations is the availability of animal transport (the lower capitalized ti madam sara avoids the cost of using paid transportation, keeping this revenue for herself). If she does not own an animal she may be more inclined to carry the goods on her head to the coastal markets with the expectation that she will earn about 125 goud for her effort. Stronger women can who can carry two loads (chay) can double that sum .

Thus, those how own a donkey or mule are more likely to chose Port-au-Prince as her destination. The animal allows her to haul three to five times the quantity that she herself could carry. But she also incurs more expenses than her ambulant counterpart; she leaves her animal in the Kenscoff area; she then pays a taxi-truck to transport the goods down the mountain to the Petion Ville. As mentioned in the main text, she will purchase nothing for the return trip home and the reason is that it is more profitable for her to return home and use her precious capital to make another purchase and a yet another trip to the vibrant urban market. Madam sara who live in highland Jacmel typically make the trip to Port-au-Prince twice per week. Those that go to the coastal markets can make the trip daily.

                The gran madam sara has significantly more capital at her disposal than the ti madam sara. She either accumulates stock in the highland market centers or she purchases stock in the more accessible coastal markets. She then pays truck transport to take her goods to Port-au-Prince where she checks into the depots as described in the main text. She gives credit to.kliyan as discussed The largest of these women use assistants, often men, who are variously known for their different tasks as by the terms maladieu, koutiere, and gestioné. But the overwhelming majority of sara purchase their own goods.

 

[xxi] An heuristic comparison can be made with the market system in the neighboring Dominican Republic (DR) where neither the madam sara nor the rotating market system exist (except in the border areas where one does find rotating markets and, regarding the madam sara , historio-ethnograhically in the rural areas surrounding the central city of Santiago where until recently operated a famed type of madam sara on her donkey; the Dominicans have even built a statue to commemorate her).  In the DR it is male truck owners/drivers who fulfill the redistribution function analogous to the Haitian sara , purchasing domestic produce from farmers and then redistributing them through male dominated market system.  The buyers in the Dominican open markets own stores (colamados) or they are other truck-owner-driver intermediaries who sell out of their vehicle, riding through neighborhoods announcing over a loud speaker their produce, or who distribute directly to colmados found throughout both rural hinterlands and urban barrios.   The colmado  also warrants a special clarifying note because they play a central redistributive role on par with the Haitian rotating markets. Interesting in this respect, provision of credit is a fulcrum point of the colmado system while Haitian boutik  generally does not provide credit to customers. Indeed, the colmado is often the point of most intense social activity in barrios and pueblos throughout the country.

 

[xxii]  Many rural Southeast men I talked to work on the Higuey or the Consuelo.(San Pedro Marcoris) sugar plantations. The season for work on sugar plantations is January to July. Bilingual recruiters known as bukon (Spanish buscones) begin arriving in December and subsequently lead the men to the town of Boukan Chat and then across the border and through the Dominican park on the other side (a more detailed discussion of  the process is provided below). Although upon arrival remuneration is based on the amount of cane cut, something that varies among men, a good approximation of what the men can save in the six months that they are there is 20,000 pesos (about 22,000 Haitian goud or US$500). A large number of Haitian women (perhaps as many as 100,000, a surprising number of whom originate in Jacmel region) and to a lesser degree men engage in what Haitians euphemistically call lave boutey (bottle washing), meaning the Dominican Republic’s. thriving sex industry, second in the Western Hemisphere only to Brazil.

The most familiar example of the demand for Haitian workers in the DR involves Dominican sugar plantations like those mentioned above. And it is here that most men interviewed in the Jacmel area had gone. Virtually every person interviewed on the subject displayed no knowledge of laboring in Dominican bean, vegetable, and rice farms—where Haitians closer to the border commonly seek employment.  On the other hand, virtually all rural men knew about the opportunity and many had made the voyage at least once.  The most familiar plantation is the distant Higuey plantation on the far, eastern side of the Dominican Republic. Some local men also go to the Consuelo plantation  in Sem Pedro de Macoris (also in the east).  They avoid the much closer Barahona plantation, some fifty miles into the DR, because while they say that there is abundant land on which to plant gardens—a fringe  benefit—they make less money. The Barahona plantation has also been made rather notorious for severe exploitation by activist Priest Ruquoy—who has been expelled from the DR for his outspoken opposition to the plantation practices and policies.

All the ingenios,, make annual projections of the number of men needed for the cane harvest and then send the bilingual labor scouts, called buscones and  mentioned in the main text, into Haiti in search of workers. The buscones use paths within the Parque Nacional Sierra Bahoruco (called the Massif de la Selle in Haiti and which links to Southeast Haiti’s highland Pine Forest National Park) to escort parties of as many as 1,000 labor recruits to the sugar plantation camps, called bateyes.  Beginning on the Haitian side in a place called Boukan Chat  (“Cat Barbeque,” near to Thiotte)  they walk for two days through the Dominican park forest, whereupon they arrive in a coffee growing region called Polo (where most workers are also Haitian but few come from the Jacmel region. ). After an often hungry wait of several days in Polo, they are picked up in truck and transported to the sugar plantations.

Although most rural men in the Jacmel area go to sugar plantations, people closer the Southeast border region are drawn directly across the border to work in menial agricultural. In the border region (again, as Haitian jump off points think, Thiotte and Fond Verettes), there are the mentioned coffee groves of Polo, the agroindustrial farms of Famoso in Limon and Victorina in Angustura, and the sand quarries of Vengan a Ver. In each case, Haitians make up a significant percentage of the manual labor force and in most cases they are a majority.

Haitian labor is in also high demand among Dominican small farmers who live near the border. Haitians clear conucos (garden plots) for small Dominican farmers, they sharecrop for them, they hoe their small agrarian reform plots (typically irrigated), they pick their coffee beans, they repair their fences and  they look after their homesteads (the price is the same in pesos as it is in gourds—150 per full day—giving an advantage in that the peso is worth more but, perhaps more than anything else, simply being able to find dependable work). Dominicans often prefer hiring Haitian laborers. Haitians work for less pay than poor Dominicans; they are not entitled to severance pay--an important consideration for industrial farming enterprises; and Haitian workers are distant from homes, families, and the associated obligations that often interfere with work regimes—such as the obligation to attend funerals, and visit ill family members.  Dominican patwons also negotiate access to garden land for the planting of semi-subsistence plots and even more commercial oriented bean undertakings.

There are few impediments to illegal entry of Haitians into the Dominican Republic. Along the approximately 120 kilometers of international border that can be classified as falling in the Southeast, there are only four points along that stretch where there are Dominican guard posts. Dominicans and Haitians often walk through these check points with little more than a nod to the guards. The rest of the area is unguarded, scrub, forest, fields, mountain, and ravines. Thus, even if the guards prevented entry, people wishing to cross the border can freely do so at almost any point. Haitians wishing to travel to more distant points inside the Dominican Republic avoid interior check points by walking through the parks. Haitians with greater resources catch public transportation, paying guards at each check point 20 pesos  or providing them with a small gift like a bag of potato chips. And Haitians who have the money and wish to catch the bus to Santo Domingo simply hand the driver 1,500 to 2,000 pesos (about US50) and the driver pays the bribes for them. In contrast to reports that describe the above movements in terms of clandestine smuggling and human trafficking, there is nothing especially secretive about them (although there is clandestine smuggling as well). Park guards, migration authorities, military personnel, police officers, and ordinary Dominicans living in the area are fully aware of the openness of border crossing and of the routes that Haitians take across the Sierra de Bahoruco and to a lesser extent through the more Southern Jaragua National Park.

Labor needs inherent in the different kinds of productive activities found in the Dominican Southwest (Haitian Southeast) determine the degree that Haitians in the Southeast are disposed to migrate and the permanence of that migration.  In livestock and fishing areas where labor demands are low, such as Tres Charcos in the Lago Enriguillo area and Juancho on the Southern coast, there are few Haitians. There is also less permanent presence of Haitians in cattle grazing areas of Duvergé (on the Northern flanks of what Haitians call the Masif du Selle) and in the northern areas of Lago Enriquillo where Haitians are hired primarily to perform specific tasks in the plantain farms. In areas such as Polo, where Haitians find work in both conucos and coffee groves, as much as half of the resident population is Haitian. In the rural areas of Pedernales, where there is a large demand for Haitians to work in conucos, the vast majority of the rural population consists of Haitian born immigrants living in communities where they have their own churches, colmados (boutik in creole), and soccer fields.

To illustrate the degree of Haitian incursion that has occurred in some areas, a 2004  vaccination drive in the hamlet of La Altagracia turned up a total of 700 families both in the colony (village) and in the surrounding areas (conucos). In the colony there were 135 homes occupied in the following manner: 25 were empty houses, the owners having gone to live in Pedernales; 75 were inhabited by purely Dominican families; 20 of the homes were inhabited by purely Haitian families; and 15 were inhabited by Dominican men in union with Haitian women. Outside the colonia, ‘in the conucos,’ there were 565 households, of these, four were Dominican men in union with Haitian women and all the remaining 561 families were Haitian. Similar trends were evident in Mencía and Las Mercedes.

Haitians have become a permanently established presence on the Dominican side of the border and they have done so by making themselves useful to Dominicans. But they are also extremely vulnerable. Most are impoverished illegal aliens. They often build homes and live in the least desirable and even dangerous places as, for instance, in the 2004 Jimaní flood where over 600 Haitians were killed. Haitians are sometimes subjected to extreme abuse with little risk of repercussions for the abusers. There are documented cases of Haitians being  murdered en route through the parks (Ruquoy, per.com.). On the other hand it is equally important to understand that Haitians are well integrated into Reserve social systems. Overall, Haitians and Dominicans coexist with little everyday conflict or tension. Doctors and health directors working in Dominican rural health clinics and hospitals treat Haitians and many school directors allow undocumented Haitian children to register and attend public schools.17 Illegal Haitian immigrants who have not been paid by an employer or who have been victimized by a Dominican will often report the wrong to the authorities and get justice. Haitians and Dominicans live side by side, often in the same homes. Dominicans adopt Haitian children and, as described above, some Dominican men cohabitate and bear children with Haitian women creating blood relations that extend across the border and bridge cultural gaps.

Not only is Haitian labor from the Southeast the mainstay of the most productive regional economic activities on the Dominican side of the border, Haitians are a mechanism by which Dominican farmers circumvent their own environmental laws. Dominicans use Haitians to make charcoal that is then shipped across the border for sale in Port-au-Prince—a practice that has contributed to the deforestation of the Northern slopes of the Sierra de Bahoruca (the Dominican side of the Massif de la Selle) and almost all of the Sierra de Neiba (together this is the region closest to Port-au-Prince); and they have used Haitians to transform forest into pasture (specifically the Southern slopes of the Sierra de Bahoruca), and at times, reportedly, as fronts and scapegoats in accessing park resources and commandeering Dominican park lands.

The described demographic movements—in their purest essence, labor flows--relate to productive activities and economic opportunities on the Dominican side of the border. People living there, both Dominicans and Haitians, are responding to economic opportunities managed and manipulated by national and international corporations, the State, wealthy urban based investors and locally based entrepreneurial market intermediaries who directly impact production by linking producers to markets and often by underwriting the costs of production.

The influence of Dominican agroindustrial intermediaries has also extended across the border and into Haiti where they have played a role in stimulating potato, cabbage, and onion production  within the Foret des Pins, the Haitian national park just on the other side of the border from the Sierra de Bahoruco. The intermediaries sometimes loan Haitian farmers money to cover the costs of labor and pesticides; and they advance large sums of money to Haitian intermediaries who purchase vegetables on their behalf, and they purchase vegetables at an open market within Sierra de Bahoruco National Park (near Boukan Chat, which is near Tchiotte).

 

[xxiii] An exception is the mentioned industry of healers, masseuses, and midwives. However, with the exception of the Shaman, who in life threatening situations may demand large sums, the fees charged are fixed and relatively insignificant in terms of livelihoods.

 

[xxiv] Some might see this an unfair demonization of Haitian character.  But Southeasterners --those in possession of their mental faculties-- are unlikely to divulge the true extent of their resources. To argue otherwise, while perhaps an admirable expression of human trust,  is at best naïve and, at worst, tantamount to romantically impugning the Southeasterner with a degree of stupidity that few human beings possess. Imagine, if you will, the US government offering to pay all loans for people who qualify but not revealing the sum, and then, as the Haitian developed world counterpart, you willingly divulge all your bank accounts, and offshore assets.

 

[xxv] Beginning around the 23rd of January, anyone walking into a one of the post-January 12th field hospitals or bothering to interview doctors working there could attest to the switch that came occurred. At about one half to two weeks after the quake the hospitals become swamped not with victims but with what they called primary care. Indeed, Haitians have arguably never been so cared for). 

 

[xxvi] An illustrative ongoing example of which is while in the neighboring DR where every bank, shop, and restaurant has it’s motorcycle taxi on call. In much more impoverished Haiti few if any NGOs use motorcycle taxis to transport documents, preferring instead to send SUVs.

 

[xxvii] The aid from the US  has already reached some 1 billion, at least 70% will be spent on administration.

 

[xxviii]  This report is arguably a case in point: It is an emergency market evaluation meant to be conducted within three weeks of the disaster. It is now three months into the disaster. Moreover, while the participants may find it a worthy objective, there is little to no doubt that the decision to give cash or food rests with the donors who will unlikely be swayed in either direction by this report. Rather they will respond to Washington, as they are obliged to do.

 

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