The Haitian farmers that cultivated the nearly 600 acres (240 hectares) of land that is now the Caracol Industrial Park are throwing their hands in the air. Two years after their land was taken to build the park, promises have not been kept and they feel the compensation they received was dishonest.
Four hundred and nine farmers used to cultivate beans, corn, plantains, and eggplants, are criticizing the Haitian government for promising them large sums of money when the land was taken from them and then in reality giving them a small amount that covered less than two months of their living expenses.
These small-scale farmers used to cultivate anywhere from one to seven acres, but the majority had less than one hectare*, or two and a half acres.
Pierre Vincent explained, “I had half an hectare of land and it was the source of life for my entire family. We planted beans, manioc and mangoes, and with this produce we ate and sold enough for what we needed, especially paying school fees for our children.
“Now the Haitian government threw us off our land and gave me compensation in the amount of 50,000 gourdes ($1,250 US) that is supposed to cover two years of lost harvests. They promised us that the elderly would find houses and new land, but as of now we are still waiting and see no proof of this.”
Pierre Philomis, 48 years old, explained, “When the government’s representative came to talk to us, he said they would compensate us each year for each harvest we have lost, up until they give us new land. I had one half hectare that I used to cultivate and they gave me only 47,000 gourdes ($1,175 US) and this money is finished already. Now schools are getting ready to open and the price of food is rising.”
Alexis Innocent is a member of UTE, the Technical Implementation Unit, is a representative of the government for the Caracol project and responsible for relations with the farmers but Mr. Innoncent was unwilling to speak in an interview. Mr. Innocent said the Haitian government would give the people new land, but this land requires preparation before it can produce food and this will cost $7,000 US to prepare each hectare of land.
The promise of new land to replace the land taken from these farmers is one that Carobert Conpère finds hard to believe. He is one of the farmers who worked the land, and he raises many questions that have yet to be answered, such as: “Why did they give me 19,000 gourdes ($475 US) for the harvest I will lose over two years and yet they will invest $7,000 US just to prepare new land for us to cultivate?
“Why didn’t they invest the money they are promising to use to prepare the land to be cultivated in building the industrial park somewhere else? Why when we ask them to give us the money so we can prepare the land ourselves do they refuse?”
To conclude his analysis, Corobert said he feels that what the Haitian government has done with the farmers is reminiscent of the Creole pig debacle, “because they took the land out of the farmers’ hands to build factories that won’t take people over 32 years old, and I am more than 60 years old.”
Several dozen famers met together and threatened to block the road to enter the industrial park on November 1st if the promises the authorities made to them are not respected. They say that until the government gives them new land to cultivate or grants them compensation that respects their dignity and is in proportion to what could make from working their land,they feel the land where the park was constructed is still rightfully theirs.
*1 hectare = 2.47105 acres