Tools distribution ends feudalism in Les Anglais

Tools distribution ends feudalism in Les Anglais

02/03/2010

Célias Canger is an elderly small holder farmer. He lives at La Source in the Haitian commune of Les Anglais in Haiti’s southern department, founded by British colonists in 1774 now better known as the land of black beans. Although he is a farmer, Mr Canger doesn’t record ever having owned his own hoe or even a spade to work on his little parcels of land. He can’t remember anyone in his family, or his own parents owning any tools either, apart from a machete perhaps.

Before FAO distributed hoes and top quality Brazilian machetes, the farmers of La Source had to borrow tools from the big landowners to be able to cultivate their own small plot of land. In fact, the landowner asked for two days labour on his land in exchange for lending a hoe for a day. It was a good deal for the landowner who was assured of free labour to work his land, but a bad deal for the small holder farmers who were unable to give their small plot of land the attention it required.

"There is no mechanized agriculture here in Haiti", said Norpélus Paul André, who is in charge of the FAO tool distribution programme in Haiti. “The land is worked by oxen and humans. Usually they work one week on their plot and the rest of the month they work the land of the landowner; like this they will never have enough money to buy a hoe."

"The tools didn’t just helped me but gave the whole village a kick-start" said Canger, "now the big landowners have to pay us if they want us to work for them, so we are doubly happy."

Small holder farmers own around half the land in the region. They either inherited it from their parents or they are tenant farmers. The rest of the land is owned by a dozen or so bigger landowners. Large landowners complain that following the FAO tool distribution there is hardly any free labour left in the region.

For the November and December harvest of black beans Leone Ludger, a larger landowner who employs 30 to 35 people every day paid his workers 50 gourdes each for a days’ work.

Braving the bad road, Fritz Arne, an FAO agronomist made the journey from Les Cayes to Les Anglais to make sure the tool distribution went smoothly with the tools going to the right beneficiaries. Improved quality bean seeds were also given to the farmers.

“In general I would say there are 4,500 beneficiaries that can count on us. They can work their land within the irrigation perimeters. Their harvest will definitely be much better than the ones they usually get. Moreover a lot of people have started to plant and care for a home garden near their houses, now that the have the right tools and the time to make it a success.”

To say thank you to the FAO, the villages came dancing into the road carrying their hoes in the air and singing. It was a very happy Arne who joined the revellers. Following the high food price crisis in 2008 and the devestation in western Haiti caused by four back to back tropical storms and hurricanes, the Haitian government, with a $10.2 million loan from IFAD, asked FAO to devise programmes to kick start agricultural production nationwide.

Around 240,000 small farmers benefitted from the distribution of high quality seeds, tools and training. The idea was not only to distribute suitable seed varieties, but also to speed up in-country multiplication of these seeds.  24,600 tool kitswere distributed in all 10 Haitian departments in 2009. Each $25 kit contained a hoe, a pick axe and a machete, costing FAO $25 each. The Haitian Government, FAO and IFAD are extending the scheme to increase domestic food production following the earthquake.