Monthly Archives: December 2017

Haiti, On the Cutting Edge of Empire

Working in Haiti for four years changes one’s views about development and politics. When asked what Haiti is like, I usually respond that it is like the “real” world. The real world being, to a significant extent, the impoverished world, and also our world where greed and corrupt politics can rule the day. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way; even Haiti has seen periods of real hope.

In 1990, under the popular leadership of President Aristide (elected by a landslide vote), things began to change for the better. It was not to last. In 1994, possibly due to external pressures to liberalize importation policies, rice import taxes were reduced from 35% to 3%, the lowest in the Caribbean. While initially applauded in Haiti due to the availability of cheap imported rice, costs gradually increased and resulted in the decimation of local rice production. This agreement transformed Haiti from being self-sufficient in rice to a net importer and provided huge profits for foreign rice conglomerates.

This neo-liberal approach to relaxed importation policies is repeated throughout the world, in places where protected production models and organizations could support local production, resulting in strong local economies. While shifting the mindset of the international development community, and the many policies adopted by national governments will take time, it is crucial for smallholder farmers who depend on local crop or livestock sales.

Yet there is hope in Haiti. ISCA has proven through its work that sustainable agriculture is one of the best ways to move beyond the charity model. The charity model, while very necessary in emergency situations (such as earthquakes), does not work as a development method. Sustainable agriculture is one of the best ways to create local economic activity and employment. The ISCA poultry project in Northern Haiti has created four long term sustainable jobs while almost doubling the income of 27 Haitian families!

In the end, Haitians are no different than you or me. They want to live in a country where everyone has enough food, good housing, and fair wages so that they can provide for their family. ISCA’s work in Haiti has grown local economies, and as a result, brought the light of hope to the cutting edge of empire.

Blog entry written by ISCA Secretary/Treasurer David MacKay

ISCA travels to Ukraine

In January of 2015, ISCA was invited by Chalice Canada to conduct a community livelihood assessment in the community of Terrier Rouge, Haiti. This assessment resulted in a long and successful relationship for both organizations, one that has created thriving community agricultural projects supported by sustainable field staff and an agricultural supply store. It was in early 2017 when Chalice and ISCA began discussing the possibility of replicating this success to other Chalice field sites – namely Ukraine.

ISCA members, David Mackay and Lloyd Dalziel, travelled to Ukraine in May 2017 with Chalice Country Representative Randy Spaulding. Over a two-week period, we conducted a livelihood assessment in Chalice project sites of Ternopil and Lviv. The goal of the assessment was to determine if there existed natural, physical, and human resources that could be leveraged to provide livelihood opportunities for Chalice beneficiary families.

During our visit, we learned many things about agriculture, food processing, marketing, and the challenges and oopportunities that exist in each. The families we met were all master gardeners, growing and storing their own vegetables and cereals for their families. However, in many cases the family lacked access to capital or resources for intensifying production, or the organizational capacity to access higher yielding market opportunities. One opportunity that repeatedly presented itself was that of a dairy processing unit. The families we visited all valued the nutritional value of milk products and stressed the importance of buying and consuming local products. A natural advantage for many was access to high quality forages, which supported the dairy model by providing feed to ruminants (cows and goats). Milk production and dairy processing appears to be a value proposition worth pursuing, and both Chalice Canada and the Lviv site, together with ISCA, continue to examine what a future model may look like.

What most impressed both ISCA team members was the warmth and hospitality of the hard-working families we encountered. Each of these families had a unique story to tell us. However, the common thread that weaved through each story was their desire for a better life for themselves and their children, and their eagerness to work together to achieve this goal. ISCA hopes that our relationship with Chalice, both in Canada and Ukraine, continues to grow as we work together to support these hardworking Ukrainian families.

Blog entry written by ISCA-AIDC Chair, Lloyd Dalziel