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Why A Starving Country Rejects US Aid

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Contributor:
Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

Charity or Exploitation?

You remember, of course, the devastating Haiti earthquake. 

The country has slowly been trying to re-build while continuing to deal with pre-earthquake problems, as half the nation’s population was already malnourished even before the disaster. People with their homes destroyed and family members killed swarmed out of the city and into the countryside, “with nothing but their appetites.” 

In May, 60 tons of corn and vegetable seeds arrived in Haiti, as donated by a large United States agricultural company named Monsanto. More shipments are on the way, including cabbage, carrot, eggplant, onion, tomato, spinach and watermelon seeds. In total, the donation consists of four million dollars worth of seeds. But many are rejecting the donation and although the seeds are approved by the Haitian ministry of agriculture, Haiti's farmers are being urged to burn every last one by the powerful Haiti’s Peasant Movement. 

The seeds in question are hybrids and only good for one harvest, so the farmers would have to buy new seeds every season – hence the donor company creates a dependent customer. It is feared that the donation would serve as a hook, tying the farmers to multinational corporations and threatening the environment through an introduced product. Although the donor in question claimed a similar donation of hybrid seeds to Malawi turned an aid recipient into a food exporting region, others are calling the donation an exploitive opportunistic act, even using the metaphor of a drug dealer handing out free samples to first time users. In a hungry world, are multinational companies the new-age colonists redefining slavery? 

This is the voice of the peasants, who consider their future and the long-term effects of the donation and they say no to Monsanto, no to the United States Government, and no to their own Government in Haiti. They want to produce on their own terms and prevent what they perceive as “a major attack”.

Now – we’re all adults here. Can’t we allow the farmers to manage their own land as they see fit? To start sustainable new crops with seeds saved from the previous season, as has been done for thousands of years? Or must they resign themselves to the stereotype of uneducated, unhealthy labourers, afraid of change and technology, forever reliant upon the benevolence, charity, and enlightenment of the rest of the world? 

Darren Wallis, company spokesman for Monsanto states that, "Monsanto made this donation, simply put, because it's the right thing to do." If they are sincerely focused on doing the right thing, then I strongly suggest to Monsanto that they revoke their original offer and respectfully collaborate with the Haiti Peasant Movement so that the seeds may be replaced with varieties that can be sustainably used for future harvests, encouraging complete independence. Because it’s not like there is an ulterior motive. 

References from the A.M. Costa Rica Wire Services, June 7, June 9, June 11

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