agroforestry, Bossa, corruption, debt, food insecurity, Food Security, fruit trees, Haiti, hunger, Laurent Lamothe, mango, mango trees, mining, Mining Companies, Morne Bossa, Petrocaribe, President Clinton, Prime Minister Lamothe, rice, USAID, Venezuela
After having been reprimanded by a World Bank envoy regarding the over one billion US dollars, which Haiti owes Venezuela, as of November 30, 2013, ($1,247,940,147.14), Prime Minister Lamothe decided that Haiti can pay off this 25 year low interest loan by sending coffee, grapefruit, and mangos to Venezuela. (He forgot about avocados).
We still fail to figure out how this can work, unless he intends to plant the trees on state owned land – if the state knows what land it owns, and it is not clear that it does. Or, if the state intends to become middle man and pay the coffee or fruit grower half of the market value. Or, will they form a sort of pyramid scheme whereby they swap the oil for the fruit, but in the end the full price of the oil will still have to be paid back, such that it will only put off the pay-back time. So, what is it? Where’s the payback plan?
Since the current middle men probably do not want to be put out of their market share by the state, this suggests that new coffee and fruit trees must be planted. They take years to bear fruit. Deforestation monies can probably be used to plant the fruit trees, as they help prevent erosion. But, they better get to planting them! In the meantime, allegations of government corruption must be examined in detail to try to find monies to start paying back the money to Venezuela.
Mangos vs. Mines
But, it got us to thinking about how much a mango tree would be worth? And, how would that compare to the proposed mines in Haiti? Haiti is very small, mountainous, and land is in short supply, especially arable land. As we have explained elsewhere, surface mining will damage soil and waterways, and under Haitian law and tradition, surface mines appear illegal anyway. Additionally, the Mining Conventions, allegedly being operated under, appear expired and of questionable legality.
Trees and hill chewed up by mining in Morne Bossa area. Property held by VCS Mining.
However, you notice that although property rights seem to be an almost impossible problem to solve in Haiti, the Haitian State has felt that they could hand over land to mining companies!
This is despite the fact that the landowner is to get 1/3rd of proceeds from any mines, which suggests that they would need to know ownership. Huge portions of Haiti have been handed over to mining companies for prospecting and smaller portions for mining. Probably the balance of Haiti has been handed over to oil and gas companies.
Still, let’s be conservative and give the amounts currently cited online by the various mining companies, even though they generally exceed the amounts allowed under the mining law (maximum of 100km2) for a mining concession. Majescor says that they have 45km2 under permit (4,500 ha). VCS mining says that they have 125km2 under permit (12,500 ha). Newmont-Eurasian reportedly have 324km2 (32,400 ha) under permit at La Miel. The Grand Bois property held by Eurasian is 24 to 25 km2 (or 2,500 ha). These numbers are low compared to the amounts of land they have claimed to have under permit at various times. There appears to be another company or two active in mining in Haiti, as well. The above numbers under permit for the 3 known mining companies add up to 519 km2 or 51,900 ha (128,248 acres).
It seems generally agreed that good quality Madame Francis (Francisque) mango trees can be planted at 200 trees per hectare (ha). On average they produce 600 fruits per year with a value of 50 to 100$ per year. http://www.oreworld.org/mango.htm On average this would be 75$. If the Haitian government is able to give 51,900 ha out to mining companies for surface mining, it seems that they either know who owns the property or don’t care. Hence, we assume that at least 51,900 hectares are available for planting mango trees. This would give us 10,380,000 mango trees, which can produce 75$ worth of fruit over a period of 30 to 40 years of productive life (compare to 20 to 25 years maximum for the proposed mines). Assuming 35 years of fruit trees and assuming that the price of mangos does not increase — and it will increase, then this land in mango trees is worth over 27.25 billion US $ compared to the much cited 20 billion $ for the mines.
If we assume that the new mining company Beta Societe d’Exploitation Miniere d’Haiti, SA (BMH, SA) is given 100 km2, then that would be an additional 10,000 ha, 2 million mango trees, worth an additional 5.25 billion $, over 35 years, for an estimated grand total of 32.5 billion dollars.
And, the mines are a non-renewable resource and destroy the fertility of the land. Mango trees are renewable and protect the land. At the end of 35 years, new mango trees can be planted.
As we have discussed elsewhere, only a percentage of profits from mines would go to the Haitian government and that is generally only if the company declares a profit (and if mining is admitted to!). It takes time for trees to bear fruit, but it takes longer to build a mine. Infrastructure can be an issue for fruit transport, but not as much as for a mine. Mines cause deforestation and erosion. Fruit trees can constitute reforestation and prevent erosion.
Additionally, there are at least 2 oil and gas companies licensed in Haiti. They are allowed a maximum of 300km2 each. Since no traditional oil and gas was found in past explorations, we must assume that they are planning on doing non-traditional forms of exploitation such as fracking. Especially in the context of Haiti’s karst geology, there is a high probably of widespread water pollution and ultimately soil pollution from this.
These oil and gas companies would be allowed around 600 km2 or 60,000 ha under contract, and if cancelled the land could be used for an additional 12 million mango trees, which could bear 900 million US $ worth of mangos per year and 31.5 billion $ worth over a 35 year period, assuming the price of mangos does not increase (but it will, meaning the value may increase). The grand estimated total, over 35 years, for turning mining and oil and gas prospects to mangos trees, would be 64 billion $, not accounting for the increasing price of mangos, which means this figure may be higher.
The Genius of Fruit Trees
As you see, agriculture can be far more valuable than mining and Haiti doesn’t have extra land to spare or lose. The genius of fruit trees is that they can stop erosion and feed people. Mangos provide needed vitamin A and C. Avocados are very filling and help stabilize blood sugar and perhaps prevent diabetes. Fruit trees are miracles.
There are over 10 million people in Haiti. There are currently an estimated 10 million mango trees in Haiti. If the average mango tree produces 600 fruits per year this is roughly two mangos per day of a fruit which could provide desperately needed Vitamin A and Vitamin C to Haitians. However, only about 10 percent are of the Madame Francis commercial variety. http://www.oreworld.org/mango.htm
Haiti FEWS, Food Security October 2013: Class I (green) Minimal Food Insecurity, II (yellow) Food Stress, III (orange) Food Crisis, IV Emergency, V Famine
Estimate of Food Security Oct. to Dec. 2013. Phase of Acute Food Insecurity: 1. None or Minimal (green), 2. Stress (yellow), 3. Crisis (orange), 4. Emergency (red), 5. Catastrophe-Famine
Estimate of Probable Food Security January to March 2014. Phase of Acute Food Insecurity: 1. None or Minimal (green), 2. Stress (yellow), 3. Crisis (orange), etc.
Tiny Haiti really cannot afford to give its land over to mining. Fruit trees can grow well at altitudes of proposed mines. We seriously doubt that starving Haiti should be exporting food, although this would be preferable to mining, both financially and environmentally.
Haiti has over 10 million people (10.17 million (2012) on 27,751 square kilometers of land or 6.8 million acres. Most is mountainous. Compare to South Dakota, mostly plains, with 41 million acres of crop and pastureland (165,931 sq km), and less than one tenth of Haiti’s population (SD pop: 833,354 (2012). See: http://sdda.sd.gov/farming-ranching-agribusiness/
Haiti (dark gray) land area compared to South Dakota
South Dakota’s farm cash receipts totaled $4.8 billion in 2004 and its exports were estimated to be more than $1.2 billion. http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/factsheets/WTO/states/sd.html
Now, note that South Dakota exports the amount that Haiti owes Venezuela in debt, BUT the money goes to the farmers, etc. and only taxes would go to the state. The same is true for Haiti, unless Prime Minister Lamothe has in mind state farms. Even then, money must be paid for workers, transportation, and any inputs. Or, as we said, making the state the middle-man.
Haiti Land Area (dark gray) compared to Arkansas and Mississippi.
Much has been made of President Clinton, former governor of Arkansas, apologizing for USAID Rice, aka “Miami Rice”, running Haitian rice farmers out of business. USAID offered cheaper rice to the urban poor, however, but the rice was sold for less than Haitian rice farmers could produce it for. Arkansas has less than a third the population of Haiti. Although Arkansas has mountainous parts, the Mississippi Delta region seems largely turned over to rice farming.
In fact, Bill Clinton’s home state of Arkansas is the top rice-producing state, accounting for about half of US rice production. About 1.5 million acres is under rice cultivation per year in Arkansas and contributes $1.8 billion to the state’s economy. http://www.usarice.com/doclib/125/5870.pdf So, an area about the quarter of Haiti’s land area is under rice cultivation in Arkansas. Arkansas has a population of 2.949 million (2012) or less than one third of Haiti’s 10 million. In 2008, Arkansas’ cash farm receipts totaled $8.3 billion and agricultural exports estimated at $3.2 billion. http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/factsheets/wto/states/ar.asp
Like Arkansas, Mississippi with 2.985 million (2012) people has about one third the population of Haiti. Unlike Arkansas, it is largely flat. Agriculture is its most important industry. Mississippi is a top rice producer, growing rice in the Mississippi delta. Mississippi’s farm cash receipts totaled $4.9 billion in 2008 with agricultural sales overseas sales estimated at $1.6 billion. http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/factsheets/wto/states/ms.asp http://www.usarice.com/doclib/188/219/3678.PDF
HAITI NEEDS A PLAN AND INVESTIGATION INTO CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
Haiti needs a plan as to how it intends to feed itself. Surface mining must be excluded from Haiti’s future from the vantage of feeding its people, possible export crops, and the environment. It needs a plan for paying back the 1.2 billion dollars plus to Venezuela, as well as any other debts.
We agree with the World Bank that there needs to be a detailed breakdown of line-item by line item of spending for the PetroCaribe project monies. This is lacking. However, we would extend that to an across the board house-cleaning, investigation into all monies spent in Haiti and a recuperation of monies from Duvalier. Besides PetroCaribe and Duvalier we think of alleged missing funds from the tax on incoming calls to Haiti, as well as allegations of misappropriation of funds by President Martelly’s wife and son. A judge died over that. Did he die in vain?
The $1.2 billion owed to Venezuela, as well as money owed to the World Bank or others, will not fall like manna from the heavens. It will not fall as mangos or grapefruits or avocados or coffee from the trees, unless there is a plan to turn some state-owned lands (preferably proposed mining areas) into fruit farms immediately. While the trees grow, any monies recovered from Duvalier, etc, can be used to pay Venezuela back. Haiti needs to re-examine whether it should continue to take monies from other countries until it has a means to pay it back. Rather it should focus on its internal economy.
Additionally, with elections two years late and allegations of corruption swirling around the Martelly-Lamothe team, it seems both stupid and unethical for anyone to give the Haitian government money. This is all the more true when it is a loan which must be paid back in the future, rather than a donation.
Where’s a real plan for Haiti which could work? We haven’t seen anything looking remotely like a plan since the late George Anglade’s Bourg-Jardin plan of decentralized market towns, where farm food could be easily walked to market. This was in the plan put forth for President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1990 or 91. And, if there is a plan it must be implemented. There can’t just be studies, the cost of which further in-debts Haiti, but rather actions must be taken.
References and Related Reading
“Haiti defends oil program, seeks to repay Venezuela debt with food
Posted:Thu, 05 Dec 2013 23:46:13 GMT
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 5 (Reuters) – Haiti has begun servicing its oil debt with Venezuela which now stands at $1.2 billion, and is exploring ways to make payments in kind with agricultural products rather than cash, a senior Haitian official said on Thursday.” http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/USenergyNews/~3/jEps7iDCXmM/story01.htm
“World Bank envoy criticizes lack of transparency in Haiti oil program
Posted:Thu, 05 Dec 2013 01:16:53 GMT
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 4 (Reuters) – The World Bank’s special envoy to Haiti voiced concern on Wednesday about how the government was using public funds generated by cut-rate Venezuelan petroleum imports, saying a lack of transparency was the biggest obstacle to the country’s economic development.” http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/USenergyNews/~3/ManLcf_v4rs/story01.htm
Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) Network: “HAITI Perspectives de la sécurité alimentaire, Octobre 2013 à Mars 2014” http://www.fews.net/docs/Publications/Haiti_OL_10_2013_fr.pdf
Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment
Haiti: “Mangos are an important source of income and nutrition” http://www.oreworld.org/mango.htm
Assessment of Haitian Mango Value Chain
Nora Patricia Castañeda, Fernando Rodríguez, Mark Lundy
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2011) http://www.crsprogramquality.org/storage/pubs/agenv/haiti_mango_online.pdf
Lundahl, Mats (2004). “Sources of Growth in the Haitian Economy”. IADB. http://www.iadb.org/regions/re2/HASourceOfGrowth.pdf
http://www.usarice.com or http://www.arkansasricefarmers.org