As the Nutritionalist scolded Schwartz his mind drifted. He thought about the history of foreign aid in Jean Makout county. International Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) began arriving in the 1950s by the 1970s there were more than a dozen and by the 1990s there were seventeen. Some of the largest NGOs with offices around the globe and tens of thousands of employees were represented in the small Haitian county:
Included among them were the largest charities in the world, multinational corporations with headquarters in developed world centers of power, cities such as Washington DC, Paris, London, and Hamburg; organizations that in their entirety included thousands and even tens of thousands of employees and operations in 168 countries around the globe.
Their corporate names conjured images of human compassion and assistance, such as British Child Care (UK), Bureau of Nutrition and Development (Dutch), InterAid (French), World Vision (USA), Compassion International (USA), CARE International (originally based in USA). Others bore names denoting their affiliation with he Western world's major religions, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (USA), The Baptist Mission (USA), The Mission to the Greeks (USA), Unevangelized Field Mission (USA), and Catholic Relief Services (USA). Others were affiliated with the most powerful International organizations in the world, such as UNICEF and the World Food Program, both of the United Nations. The most important and powerful were sponsored by the major developed world governments: CARE International, funded in Haiti almost entirely by the US government, and the organizations which sponsored the survey; Agro Action Aleman and PISANO, both funded by the German Government, and Initiative Development, funded largely by the French Government. (Travesty in Haiti, P 67-8)”
Today is Haiti diary book day : Current book is Travesty in Haiti, by Timothy Schwartz, Chapter 5: You can see our book list is here.
Travesty in Haiti is an insiders view of NGOs and foreign aid; or what Schwartz comes to call the "Poverty Industry." "Indeed, what I discovered and what I try to show in this book is that it was precisely the aid that was sabotaging the capacity of the Jean Makout economy[...]" (Travesty in Haiti, P 69). (To protect the identity of people in the book names and locations have been changed.) Schwartz spent ten years in Haiti; fifteen months in Haiti completing fieldwork for his doctorate degree in Anthropology and the remainder working for Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
The accounts I present herein come from my own experiences while living, researching, and working in Haiti over a period of ten years...I have changed names of people and places...The reason that I have made an effort to disguise people and places is because what I hope to accomplish is not to embarrass or denounce individuals or to attack specific charities. Nor do I aim to damage the industry of charity. What I hope to do is to call attention to the need for accountability for I believe that the disaster we call foreign aid --"disaster," at least, in the case of Haiti --comes from the near total absence of control over the distribution of money donated to help impoverished people in the country. (Travesty in Haiti, P2)
Schwartz's first job as an Anthropologist was to conduct a survey of Jean-Makout county for the NGOs. Three of the NGOs which served the county teamed up to complete a database of information they could use to solicit more aid money from donors. Technically, he worked for all three NGOs but he reported to PISANO which is controlled by the German Government. The survey was massive as it covered all of Jean-Makout county.
A couple weeks after Schwartz turned in the report the Germans invited him to meeting to discuss his findings. He knew the Germans weren't happy as soon as he walked into the room. His report pointed out that aid projects in Haiti often did not work. He used the 5 broken windmills as an example:
The wind generators stand like monuments atop a hill overlooking the city of Baie-de-sol, the capital city of the province. They are the first thing one sees approaching the city, five majestic windmills, each one capable of producing 50,000 kilowatts of energy. But they are useless, vandals having long ago ripped out their electrical guts. (Travesty in Haiti, P 66)
If he had known the five windmills were a gift from the German Embassy he probably wouldn't have used them as an example of the failure of foreign aid in Haiti. It is not that he didn't try to find out about the windmills before including them in the report. He did. It wasn't easy finding out about the long forgotten windmills. He did find out that a foreign NGO installed the windmills in the 1990s.
That is all I got. But it was enough because it is the typical story regarding development all over Haiti: "It is broken, can't be fixed, and nobody knows anything else about it." And that was the whole point. To me the wind generators epitomized foreign aid. Their guts ripped out, never having functioned for longer than a blan sat watching [. . .] (Travesty in Haiti, P 66).”
He snapped a picture of the windmills, entitled it "Unsustainable Development" and put it in the report.
The Nutritionalist for the German NGO was particularly incensed by his report. "You seem to be saying that development is useless. [. . .] Why don't we just pack up and go home?" She snapped. It was only later that he learned that the windmills were a gift from the German embassy.
The failure of foreign in aid in Haiti was indisputable as far as Schwartz was concerned. As he blocked out the angry German Nutritionist the aid system began unraveling in his mind and patterns became clear.
In the 1950s, When NGOs first arrived in the the county it had "banana plantations, and refrigerated ships that regularly visited the Jean-Makout harbor and hauled the produce to Miami: a 5000 acre sisal plantation; tobacco farms; a major rum distillery; and a sugar cane plantation"(Travesty in Haiti, P 68). The peasants sold goat and cow hides, castor bean oil, coffee and aloe to export houses. "But by the 1980s all that was all gone."
At the behest of the US, the International Community began funneling the majority of aid dollars through NGOs rather than through the Haitian Government (more about this in chapter 7); this resulted in a grossly unjust balance of power between the large International NGOs and the Haitian Government. Funds available and controlled by international NGOs dwarfed the finances available to the cash-strapped Haitian Government. Between 1994-2000, just two of the many NGOs, [i.e., CARE International (US) and PISANO (German)] spent $36 million in Jean-Makout county. The Haitian Government spent $1 million. By 1997, NGOs provided all of the 30,000 temporary jobs and 400 of the 650 full time salaried jobs.
Schwartz noticed the paradox. The more money NGOs spent to aid development in the county, the worse off the conditions in the county actually got: real income per capital fell form $54 in 1977 to $22 in the 1990s, malnutrition increased, life expectancy decreased. "Indeed, what I discovered and what I try to show in this book is that it was precisely the aid that was sabotaging the capacity of the Jean-Makout county’s economy, the social and medical systems, and the people living there to overcome the growing crisis that confronted them (Travesty in Haiti, P 69).”
On the surface, NGOs appeared to help and to the short time visitor to Haiti the NGOs looked as if the NGOs were racing to stop an impending catastrophe. The Offices were well equipped with computers, internet service, and highly educated Haitian and foreign staff and consultants.
However, even with all the amenities of the modern world and the brightest and best educated staff available, the NGOs continued year after year to repeat the same failed projects.
But beneath the surface it was a fiasco. Massive reforestation projects had consumed millions of dollars but when I investigated they turned out to be decades long failures. Irrigation projects meant for the poor turned out, when I investigated, to be owned by congressmen and senators, doctors and nurses, engineers, and lawyers, some of whom were living in the US.(Travesty in Haiti, P 70)
Schwartz tells of NGOs massive failed seed distribution project. The rainy season in Jean-Makout county is three months. This fact was ignored by the NGO agronomist when s/he distributed seeds that required a longer rainy season to the peasants. Those who planted the seeds lost their entire crops, were driven deeper into poverty and became more dependent upon foreign aid. The NGOs With full knowledge of the disastrous outcome of the seed distribution project continued the project unchanged for four years! (USAID still distributing seeds that are harmful). There are similar programs and projects for everything in Haiti from reforestation to literacy programs.
Same failed project, Again. Seeding Reconstruction?
There are 5 Parts here is Part 1 - “Project corn”
“It made really tall plants! It looks good from afar, but up close you could see that it was useless,” Pierre said. “It had no ears.”
Pierre gestured to a now-empty field where he had planted the “project corn” he got from a $126 million dollar, US government-funded program called WINNER (Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources). According to its website, one of WINNER’s goals is to help famers “increase their productivity and to double their incomes in five years” through the use of better irrigation and techniques, and by using better seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs provided at only a tenth the of actual cost through “Farmer’s Stores” run by local farmers organizations.
I could tell about all these failed projects and most bizarre of all, I could tell the same stories several times over for they have been repeated in Jean Makout and throughout Haiti for over half a century: The same projects, often in the same places, and always with the same result, failure. (Travesty in Haiti, P 70-1)
School scholarships, food programs, and farm equipment was often used by Haiti's elite or middle class. The poor never saw any of it.
By the 1970s, foreign aid was the country’s only source of wealth. Professionals, contractors, teachers, politicians, craftsmen all became beneficiaries of foreign aid dollars through the NGOs. Haiti's best and brightest focused on NGOs.
Between the 1950s and the 1970s foreign aid had become the only significant source of wealth in the country and because of the associated corruption, negligence and near total absence of any accountability, it had become a monster. [...] Politicians, school teachers, craftsman, contractors, they were all feeding at the trough of foreign aid. It the singular economic force, the pace setter, the final and only front in the war being waged against a disaster that in retrospect I try show in this book was largely the making of the NGOs themselves. (Travesty in Haiti, P 71)
NGOs are not accountable to the governments or people they supposedly serve. Instead, they are accountable to their donors. Moreover, international NGOs receive the vast amount of funding (at least 70%) from donor governments. Donor governments put strict conditions on how the aid is spent (more about this later in the book). NGOs have an inherent conflict of interest: their job is to help the poor, if they succeed they are no longer needed.
These huge multinational NGOs entire budget is contingent on the continuation of poverty. They collected money from donors by showing pictures of Haitians near starvation and in dire need of "help." Donors and donor governments responded. The US and France were shipping huge quantities of food aid to Haiti. The money and food sent had to be picked up and distributed:
The money and food were sent to urban centers and then passed on to technicians, engineers, and doctors all of whom were being paid handsome salaries to help defeat the massive crisis confronting the county. But the aid was being squandered on shoddy, poorly thought out and even damaging projects in which no one was held accountable; the food was being indiscriminately distributed during harvest seasons when it was not needed, crashing crop prices for Jean Makout peasant farmers whom the NGOs where supposed to be helping and in an ironic twist of good intentions, the food aid was, as will be seen shortly, increasing malnutrition. Indeed, food aid was perhaps the single greatest factor in destroying the peasant economy and creating the disaster [...] (Travesty in Haiti, P 71-2).
On the other hand, Schwartz argues that medicines and vaccines did help the people in the county.
Schwartz views Haiti through his personal experience. He didn't seem to realize that a white, educated, employed (Haiti has 70-80% unemployed) NGO worker is not representative of the Haitian poors' experience. He investigates issues that related to him or his field, i.e., food aid and NGOs. He views Haitian history, politics through his experience and/or his limited understanding of what he has experienced. As such, his descriptions of historical events are based on his experience and limited understanding. Unfortunately, he gets much of it wrong. However, this book is probably pretty representative of the views of NGO workers. According to a twitter friend of mine, who was on an academic panel with Schwartz last year, he admits that this is true. Schwartz now works as a consultant for NGOs.
The peasants organized and fought back: "The peasants fought back against the obvious corruption and abuse of them as bait for aid they never saw. They fought for the aid and they fought to change the situation." (Travesty in Haiti, P 72)
The story of the Haitian pig
The fight began earlier in 1983 when Jean Makout farmers stood by aghast as teams led by blan -- foreigners, in this case from the USA -- and accompanied by Haitian soldiers searched out and slaughtered their pigs, a USAID-led multimillion dollar solution to an African swine fever epidemic on the island.* With US veterinarians supervising, Haitian military swept through the countryside [...] (Travesty in Haiti, P 72).
This was especially harsh considering the central role the Creole pigs played in the peasant economy. The pigs were used as savings accounts. The pigs were sold to pay for weddings, children's school tuition, crops, unexpected medical bills and other necessities. The pigs were an essential part of the peasant economy. The pigs were their safety net.
The peasants were to be paid for their losses but by most accounts military attachés kept the lion's share of the reimbursements and gave the peasants little and sometimes nothing for their dead pigs. (Travesty in Haiti, P 72)
The Organization of American States (OAS) led a pig re-population effort. The Haitian pig had adopted to the environment. The Creole pig was small and black. OAS planned to introduce similar, economic, Caribbean pig. But the US insisted on using an Iowa pig which of course needed a lot of US corn, water and care; given the poverty of people in Haiti, to sustain this pig costs far to much and would eat (literally) into their income to keep the pig alive. Another failed project.
*according to Paul Farmer (he thought, see video) there were no cases of swine fever in Haiti.
In the early 1980s an outbreak of African swine fever hit the neighboring Dominican Republic. Officials feared the flu might spread throughout Haiti and to the United States, where it could devastate the pork industry. The United States Agency for International Development, known as USAID, and the Haitian government led a campaign to exterminate Haiti's pigs. Farmers who were compensated received pigs imported from the United States that were far more vulnerable to Haiti's environment and expensive to keep. In the year following the slaughter, levels of enrollment in schools were dramatically lower throughout Haiti's countryside.
Change Haiti Can Believe In - Part 6 (Dr. Paul Farmer)
Uploaded by ijdhhaiti on Nov 29, 2009
Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, talks about Haiti's deforestation and the U.S.-backed extermination of the Creole pig.
Schwartz explains that Haitians fought back and resisted but they lacked the weapons to hold off US and Haitian forces.
In another horrific incident that occurred in June 1987, armed gangs paid by local landowners killed some 140 peasants who were demonstrating for land redistribution in the northwestern region of Haiti.
According to Schwartz, Jean Marie Vincent, a close friend of Jean-Bertrand-Aristide and a Catholic priest and liberation theologists used one of the grants to organize political action groups to fight for land reform and social justice.
His agro-political action groups, called gwoupman, pressed for access to irrigated land that a few powerful and wealthy local families controlled but sharecropped to other impoverished peasants.
... organizations called the anti-gwoupman were formed and it was not long before all hell broke loose. On July 23, 1987 gwoupman and anti-gwoupan clashed.... (Travesty in Haiti, P 72
Schwartz claimed the landowners formed gangs to defend themselves and that the massacre began with landowners and peasants fighting farmer against farmer. While this is an excellent book regarding food aid and the role of NGOs, in some areas Schwartz did not do sufficient research and he gives a distorted picture of history. Schwartz's description of the massacre is the only one I've read that claims the peasants were armed. His description puts the macoutes in best light possible.
Witness account Jean-Rabel massacre
On July 23, 1987, under Henri Namphy’s military govern ment, Patrice witnessed the brutal killing of seven of his friends. His life was spared only by mere chance. The slayings were a part of what is known as the Jean Rabel Massacre – a massacre spurred by poverty and unequal land distribution in which nearly 200 people were killed. The memory of that day continues to moti vate Patrice to defend the human rights of Haiti’s farmers and all those who have been historically marginal ized in Haiti.
Wiki Jean-Rabel massacre
The Jean-Rabel massacre took place in Haiti on 23 July 1987, near the town of Jean-Rabel. At least 139 people were killed (one of the self-proclaimed assassins claimed 1042). It was carried out by "paramilitary groups led by macoutes and acting upon orders from a local land oligarch, Rémy Lucas". Several days earlier Henri Namphy had visited the area and "publicly supported the Lucas family and their rights to the land they claimed". Many of the dead were members of the Tet Ansamn land reform group.
Arrest warrants were finally issued on 13 September 1995, and in January and February 1999, Rémy Lucas, Léonard Lucas and Jean-Michel Richardson were detained for a short period.
Schwartz inaccurately claims that the massacre marked the end of peasant resistance. But the point is for better or worse, since the time of the massacre the direction, will and political organization to resist were gone. (74) Schwartz has an anti-Aristide bias that is evident throughout the book. However, the Lavalas administrations (both of Aristide's and Preval's first) were able to get modest land-reform. And the fight did not end in 1987!
Failed projects were continued and repeated, aid money went to middle-class and elite, the NGO system dwarfs the Haitian Government. There is no accountability and tens of thousands of jobs (i.e., a whole industry) is dependent on continued poverty.
In short an industry of poverty emerged, on i which the University educated consultants in the field and the masses of foreign charity bureaucrats back in teh city and overseas derived their salaries, not from curing the poverty, but from its existence.
Please join us as Schwartz reveals the inner-working of NGOs and foreign aid in Haiti.
United States overseas food aid began in 1954 with passage of Public Law 480. It was not principally meant as humanitarian gesture. It was intended to promote US foreign policy, business, and agro-industry. Until very recently, there was no effort to conceal this objective. In 2000, three of the five reasons USAID gave on its website for food aid were: 1) expand US trade; 2) develop and expand export markets for US agricultural business; and 3) foster and encourage the development of US overseas enterprise. The website also boasted having used food aid to transform Egypt from an exporter and competitor of US agricultural produce to a net importer and consumer while at the same time creating an industrial sector with some of the lowest wages in North Africa, i.e., urbanization and vast slums of impoverished workers. However, since that time, USAID has come under heavy fire from organizations such as Oxfam and the rhetoric has been carefully purged from the USAID website. (Travesty in Haiti, by Timothy Schwartz, P xxvii)
Here is a good review of the book by a longtime Haitians activist. An Ezili Dantò Book Review: TRAVESTY in Haiti : A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking A book by Timothy T. Schwartz, Ph.D.
...Travesty in Haiti takes on the powerful and speaks an explosive truth about the do-gooders in Haiti that, as this reviewer and Ezili's HLLN knows well, would not interest most mainstream book publishers. It's a difficult topic but Dr. Timothy T. Schwartz makes the complex and weighty topic of foreign aid to Haiti, Christian missions and the impact of "charitable" works in Haiti interesting, humorous and readily understandable. With this book, Timothy Schwartz has made a significant contribution to the plight of the Haitian people in the struggle against the institutional poverty pimps and Haiti's deliberate containment-in-poverty.
Schwartz has rendered a service here not because there’s authentic value in being a foreigner’s FIELDWORK. For the sum of the parts do not equal the whole and being someone’s fieldwork is in itself a condescension. But Schwartz’s book reports on his own tribe’s corruption in Haiti and that, indeed, is of value to Haitians.
Thank you NY brit expat for editing diary!
This is the Justice, Not Charity! Haiti book diary. RunawayRose and I are writing these book diaries because we became shocked by the truth of Haiti’s history and what really is needed to help the Haitians after the earthquake.
RunawayRose and I alternate chapters. If anyone is interested in joining our group, writing Haiti Book Diary more diary writers would be great.
A moment to acknowledge a victory for Democracy and peoples' movements around the world: After 7 years exile and in the face of vigorous US objections Aristide returned to Haiti: See Democracy Now! full coverage of his historic return.
Haiti’s Future: Repeating Disasters- Bill Clinton &Collier Report neoliberal sweatshop plan
 The plan mainly called for the country to open access to the world market by: 1) using its cheap labor to attract foreign investments in the export assembly industry or garment production, which would be carried out in Free Trade Zones; and 2) prioritizing the production of selected agricultural goods for export, mainly mangoes. In Haiti and its diaspora, there was substantive opposition to this plan on the ground, though this was virtually ignored in mainstream media. Haitian grassroots organizations and long-term advocates called for a more humane approach that would be less detrimental to Haiti's future. The Collier plan would only maintain the recirculation of foreign capital. Those fortunate enough to land one of the 125,000 jobs the plan sought to create would have to contend with exploitative labor relations aimed at reinforcing the concentration of wealth at home and abroad.
The shift from government to NGO funding has become so commonplace in Haiti that it has reached the point where less than one cent of every aid dollar is given to the Haitian government. This strategy is the continuation of a political project whereby state institutions are bypassed, putting essential services in the hands of unaccountable, unelectable, and non-transparent organizations—many of which are suspected of seeing continued poverty in Haiti as a lucrative business opportunity.
Bill Clinton’s Heavy Hand on Haiti’s Vulnerable Agricultural Economy: The American Rice Scandal