DECEMBER 1985 - VOLUME 6 - NUMBER 18
Porkbarreling Pigs in Haiti
North American "Swine Aid" an Economic Disaster for Haitian Peasantsby Allan Ebert
It is no small matter to own a pig in Haiti. With very little hard currency in the countryside, pigs act as living savings accounts and are often bartered for other products or wares. One pig can be traded for a year's education for two children. In fact, pigs comprise 30 percent of the peasantry's income.
In late 1978, when the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) spread to Haiti, the peasantry was devastated. In the next four years, the Haitian government, spurred by the U.S. and Canadian governments, slaughtered every pig on the island to stymie the spread of the fever.
African Swine Fever, a virus for which there is neither vaccination nor medication, made its way from Europe or Africa to the Dominican Republic, and later spread to Haiti. The disease, which decimates swine populations, endangers neither humans nor other animals. Even the contaminated meat, if the animals were slaughtered under proper conditions, is perfectly edible.
When AFS first made its appearance in the Dominican Republic, the Haitian government, as a protective measure, ordered the extermination of all Haitian swine on the border within a radius of 15 kilometers-100,000 pigs were slaughtered. The peasants received no compensation for the losses they suffered.
This preventive measure, however, did not stop the disease from spreading. Haiti's northern neighbors-most notably Canada and the United States-watched the spread with apprehension. If African Swine Fever ever made its way to the United States, the University of Minnesota estimated it would wreak $150 million to $5 billion worth of damage. The American and Canadian governments, together with the Mexican government, through the Interamericano Institute de Ciencias Agricola (IICA), quickly imposed a Swine Fever eradication plan on the Haitian government. This plan was extremely simplistic: kill all the swine in Haiti and restock the swine population with foreign pigs-either from the United States, Canada, or Mexico.
The African Swine Fever Eradication and Swine Industry Development Project (PEPPADEP) was launched in 1981, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; the IICA, a branch of the Organization of American States; the International Development Bank; the governments of Mexico, Canada, the United States; and finally, the government of Haiti. According to the government of Haiti, it was to "eliminate the debilitating effects of ASF in Haiti and to begin development of a productive swine industry."
The first part of the plan, the eradication of the swine, was the object of an agreement (supported by a budget of $23 million) between the Haitian government and the IICA. The U.S. government spent $15 million and 13 months to kill every pig in Haiti. Canada and Mexico both sent manpower and money under the auspices of Institute for International Cooperation, a subgroup of the Organization of American States, to help with the eradication. Haiti formed a "pig army," a group of conscripts and volunteers totaling about 700 at its peak. More than 400,000 pigs were killed, while another 500,000 to 600,000 died of African Swine Fever.
Although the main reason for the project may have been to protect Haiti's neighbors from African Swine Fever, the IICA saw the eradication project as a chance to do much more.
The IICA stated that it would eliminate the "debilitating effects of the African Swine Fever in Haiti," and start "the development of profitable swine production."
AID makes no pretense as to the purpose of the swine eradication project in Haiti when it states: "Thus PEPPADEPs most obvious-though unstated - objective is to eradicate once and for all the Haitian model of swine raising, whose `primitive' conditions may at all times be a source of nuisance for the modern swine industry of North America."
AID's project paper signed by Phyllis Dichter, Acting Mission Director, went into more detail: The eradication of ASF has presented the international agricultural community with an excellent opportunity to improve the productivity of the Haitian swine industry," the report stated. "The introduction of these [U.S.] breeds will permit the national agricultural sector to make a new beginning toward a modern swine industry. This would be a sufficient basis for undertaking a swine project in Haiti even if the eradication of the swine population had not occurred."
The swine project fits nicely into the long-term U.S. plans for Haiti. In more practical terms, the swine project is pushing the Haitian economy to a model of development that concentrates agricultural enterprises, displaces the population from the countryside, forces farmers to accumulate debts and to undertake non-localized stock breeding which yields poor quality meat in large quantities, critics charge. U.S. AID has decided that Haiti's development must adopt the Taiwan model of dependent industrialization. Haiti will be able to concentrate more on export crops like coffee, and the rest of its labor force will be free from non-productive agricultural activities so that it may serve as the workforce for export-oriented assembly industries owned by transnationals.
Critics charge that ASF Eradication Project is an antidevelopment initiative, reinforcing Haiti's underdevelopment by increasing the poverty of the majority of its people, strengthening the wealth of 200 millionaire families of Port-au-Prince, and raising the level of dependency on the U.S.
All agree that the ASF Eradication Project was devastating for the peasantry. Although $9.3 million of the money made available for the eradication project through the OAS was to be used to compensate the farmers, some $70 to $90 for each pig, this figure was unrealistically low, leaving out the profits and the cost of all lost services during the no-swine transition period. So in reality, no adequate compensation was granted to the peasants.
Immediately after the program was announced, unscrupulous government officials scared swine producers into selling their hogs at liquidation prices. In some instances, pigs valued at $200 or more were sold at the price of two for $30. AID states that indemnity schedule for the sacrificed pigs amounted to $40.00 (US) for adult pigs, $20.00 for junior pigs, and $5.00 for piglets. What followed was a massive slaughter which some critics charge caused more damage to the swine population than ASF could have. In January 1982, four years after ASF first appeared in Haiti, it was announced that the fever had lost its epizootic virulence.
Although the agreement between IICA and the Haitian Government stipulates that the owners of hogs slaughtered in the 1978 campaign were to be compensated "prior to the depopulation stage of the Project." No compensation was given to the peasants whose pigs near the Dominican border were exterminated in 1978, nor were peasants who lost their pigs in the later wave of slaughtering compensated.
The damage done to the peasants is almost irreparable, as AID clearly admits: "The repopulation of the Haitian pig herd to its pre-campaign status of approximately 1.2 million pigs is clearly outside the scope of any single effort, and will only be feasible given time and favorable conditions. The long-term repopulation program at the national level will require a substantial financial commitment from the [Haitian government], involving the training of technicians and farmers, interventions in swine nutrition and health, as well as concerted efforts by private voluntary organizations and the private sector."
The only real beneficiaries of this "development project," critics argue, are the North Americans who have not only protected their industry, but who will be able to reorganize a dependent sector of the food-processing industry and rich Haitians who are using the opportunity to build a stock-breeding industry. The big losers in this project will be the peasants, for whom only $7 million of compensation in a $23 million project is foreseen. The destruction of the swine means the loss of their capital and their working tools.
They are afraid the new breed of pig will not be as strong or as well-adapted as the native swine referred to as Cochon Plances who were fed available, seasonal wastes and that the "better" swine stock will only benefit the meat processing industries and American firms such as the Haitian American Meat & Products Company, HAMPCO, an American firm created under the U.S. occupation and responsible for providing Port-au-Prince with meat and exporting meat to the United States.
The Haitian-American Meat and Products Company (HAMPCO) and the U.S. pig producers stand to gain nearly $1 billion from AID's project. Only the HAMPCO facilities will be used by AID and the swine stock to be procured under the project will be produced and sold by U.S. swine farmers. HAMPCO is leasing its Port-au-Prince facility to IICA for nearly $1 million.
There is fear too that the U.S.-backed swine project will require more from the Haitian peasants than is financially possible. Critics argue that the peasants will be required to spend too much to take care of the pigs-leaving the family with even less money to spend on food.
According to contract, "It is forbidden to feed to the animals, wastes or other ingredients which are not part of the formula approved by the project."
The U.S. pigs were chosen for their ability to produce larger litters, and, according to the U.S. AID, the pigs have been averaging 9.5 piglets per litter twice a year. The first pigs were brought in April, 1984, with the first piglet distribution in late October-early November, 1984. These piglets were then distributed to secondary centers, sponsored by 88 local organizations around the country. Although these local organizations, receive no funds, they provide feed, drainage, farrowing protection and veterinary care for the pigs and draw up lists of which farmers will get the piglets. To receive a free pig the farmers must be unable to buy the pig, and agree to learn how to take care of the pig.
Each peasant or group of peasants must also build or have a pig pen made with appropriate materials, guarantee that pigs will not have access to human waste and return one pig from the second generation litter to the distribution center.
Although U.S. AID hopes to build the Haitian pig population back up to pre-Swine fever days in less than 10 years, corruption and graft may make that goal impossible. Father Jules of the Catholic Church in Mombin Crochu claims that despite the $7 million the Haitian government has received from U.S. AID for a swine repopulation program, no meaningful repopulation has resulted.
It was reported in the London-based Caribbean Report that even an AID official admitted that "We are now encountering the problems of corruption which are unsurpassed. Equipment has disappeared and swine are nonexistent. Veterinary supplies have been sold for human consumption."
There is also concern that the switch from the "Cochon Plances" pig to the Iowa or U.S. pig will cause environmental problems. The Cochon Plances are an intrinsic part of the ecological system of Haiti. While digging for tubes and roots left in the soil and for underground bugs, worms and larvae, the hogs destroy a large quantity of insects harmful to plant growth and productivity e.g. the Maroka, larva of the common may-beetle-and against which the peasant is otherwise powerless.
Swine are also one of the main sources of fertilizers. Their manure contains a high percentage of nitrogen and provides manure fertilizer that the farmers can use for their most demanding or most valued plants: coffee, plaintain, vegetables, fruits such as grenadine or a custard-apple.
Proper sanitation facilities are almost non-existent in Haiti, and the Cochon hogs, by absorbing organic human and domestic wastes, prevent their open air decomposition and the proliferation of insects and bacteria.
The impact of the extermination of the pigs and their repopulation with an imported breed has a tremendous impact not only on Haiti's physical environment but also on its social, economic, and cultural environment. The New Internationalist observes, "The second stage of the project (first stage being extermination of all the pigs in Haiti) which aims at starting a'profitable pig industry' using imported varieties has yet to begin. Since these improved breeds require heavy capital investment (clean water, pig sties, etc.), high maintenance costs (feed, vaccine, medicines) and skilled veterinary care, they have no place in the Haitian peasant economy. The beneficiaries of this project will include North American agribusiness firms (who will supply the pigs and equipment) and their counterparts among Haiti's elite 200 families.
"But for hundreds of thousands of Haitian peasants things look very different. The loss of their pigs-one of the mainstays of the fragile peasant household economy-is an unmitigated disaster. They have become the hapless victims of an `aid' project thrust upon them by foreign agencies in collaboration with their own government."
The repopulation scheme is tearing at Haiti's social fabric in a dangerous way. According to agronomists working with the Department of Agriculture, the simultaneous disappearance of all the swine stock, without replacing it with substitute breeds, could create such an imbalance in the already precarious revenues of the smallbreeders, that one-third of them will be ruined in a short time. The pork market would then be left to rich Haitians or, perhaps more likely, U.S. corporations like HAMPCO, a subsidiary of Servbest Foods, further exacerbating the problems already facing Haiti's peasant population.
Allan Ebert is program associate for the Washington Office on Haiti.