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Wes Jackson and Jean-Bertrand Aristide


I’ve been working my way through Wes Jackson’s Becoming Native to This Place (along with MLK’s Chaos or Community) and got to thinking of on-line snippets of Haiti President Aristide’s From Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization. Wes Jackson quotes "marginal" scientist Dr. A.L. Hagedoorn who first published "marvelous" Animal Breeding in 1939. Hagedoorn "had a great distrust of the middlemen in science. He favored direct cooperation between geneticists ‘with an experimental background, helping to build up the science, and real animal breeders.’"(p.45)

Aristide’s explanation of the World Bank punishing the poor by killing all their Creole Pigs and pushing princely Iowa pigs comes to mind when Jackson writes about Hagedoorn’s philosophy.

His philosophy is to make each breed of animals as good as possible to fill is niche in the symbiosis-group in which it exists. Hear this:

The animals and plants, and the human race breeding them, belong together in one symbiosis-group, adapted to the country and climatic conditions. It would not be possible to exchange members of one group for those of another group without disturbing the equilibrium.

The Hopis and Zunis of Arizona in the desert have one domestic animal and thy have a special kind of maize, and both are specially adapted to life in the desert. The maize can be planted at a great depth in hills containing a number of plants, with considerable distances between hills. The sheep are very small and hardy, adapted to desert conditions by thir extremely small size. One sheep weighing a hundred pounds has only one head and one set of legs; two sheep, weighing a hundred pounds together, have two heads and two sets of legs, so that they can be in two different places to hun the scanty herbs, and for this reason in conditions where the sheep of fifty pounds can just live, a hundred-pound sheep must necessarily starve.

It would not help the Hopis if "good" breeding-stock of bigger size were sent ot Arizona and New Mexico to "improve" the local Indian sheep. Those three organisms, the sheep, the drough-resistant maize and the Indian agriculturalists belong together in their symbiosis-group in the desert.(p.45)

Both in Holland and Germany practically all the goats are kept by very small farmers and labourers. The goats are small and they give very little milk, but they have the advantage of requiring only the coarsest feed – potato peelings, coarse hay cut along the roads, etc. The young females are bred the first autumn. Both in Holland and some parts of Germany, Swiss goats were imported. Thos goats give six and more quarts of milk daily, but they require the best of care, excellent hay and grain, and very good pasture in summer. Goats of this kind were used extensively to "ameliorate" the native labourer’s goats. Very soon it was noticed that many people could not afford to keep those goats, especially as the females had to be kept for almost two years before they produced any milk; and as the goats were kept by the very poorest people, who could not afford to spend any money on feed for the goat, the result was a complete failure of the experiment. In one set of two villages in Germany the grading to Swiss goats was tried in village "D," whereas in village "R" no attempt at "improvement" was tried. The result was that, wereas in village "R" all the small labourers kept goats,  in village "D" only the innkeeper, the preacher adn the teacher kept goats, and the labourers and farmers had given them up as impossible.

At least 80 or so years ago the World Bank didn’t just come in and kill everyone’s goats, then funnel subsidies to Big Agriculture by pushing huge Swiss sheep on everyone. Of course the world bank may prefer the labourers and farmers to be as dependent on Free Trade Zone ‘employment’ as possible to drive down wages. Susan George’s The Lugano Report might even convince us that the policy makers actually want poor areas starved out and depopulated – well, not actually want it but take other concerns more important than poor people’s survival.

In 1982 international agencies assured Haiti’s peasants their pigs were sick and had to be killed (so that the illness would not spread to countries to the North). Promises were made that better pigs would replace the sick pigs. With an efficiency not since seen among development projects, all of the Creole pigs were killed over period of a thirteen months.

Two years later the new, better pigs came from lowa. They were so much better that they required clean drinking water (unavailable to 80% of the Haitian population), imported feed (costing $90 a year when the per capita income was about $130), and special roofed pigpens. Haitian peasants quickly dubbed them "prince a quatre pieds," (four-footed princes). Adding insult to injury, the meat did not taste as good. Needless to say, the repopulation program was a complete failure. One observer of the process estimated that in monetary terms Haitian peasants lost $600 million dollars. There was a 30% drop in enrollment in rural schools, there was a dramatic decline in the protein consumption in rural Haiti, a devastating decapitalization of the peasant economy and an incalculable negative impact on Haiti’s soil and agricultural productivity. The Haitian peasantry has not recovered to this day. Most of rural Haiti is still isolated from global markets, so for many peasants the extermination of the Creole pigs was their first experience of globalization. The experience looms large in the collective memory. Today, when the peasants are told that "economic reform" and privatization will benefit them they are understandably wary. The state-owned enterprises are sick, we are told, and they must be privatized. The peasants shake their heads and remember the Creole pigs.

The Aristide snippet above is also available on the thirdworldtraveler site. His EyeOfTheHeart Site seems to have disappeared. That’s where I first read the four-legged prince of Iowa story thanks to and introduction from the Jubilee movement in Japan.

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