Agrarian Change and Peasant Prospects in Haiti

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Haiti is one of the poorest and most severely hunger-stricken countries in the world (GHI 2013). Its contradictions are jarring: although Haiti has the largest relative agrarian population in the Western Hemisphere and relatively less land inequality than the rest of the region (Smucker et al. 2000; Wiens and Sobrado 1998), it is extremely food insecure. Almost 90 percent of the rural population lives below the poverty line (FAO 2014; IFAD 2014), and Haiti relies on food imports for 60 percent of national consumption (OXFAM 2010). Some scholars argue that the spread of commodity relations, persistent rural class differentiation, and dispossession means that most peasants can no longer reproduce themselves outside of markets, having been transformed into petty commodity producers with many households depending upon some degree of off-farm earnings (Bernstein 2001; Araghi 1995). Others, however, claim that peasantization is far from inevitable, and stress that peasants continue to persist with varying relations to markets, still constitute a large share of humanity, and are actively fighting to defend their livelihoods (Ploeg 2009; Borras and Edelman 2008; McMichael 2006). At the broadest level, this dissertation explores contemporary struggles facing Haitian peasants in the belief that while they face extremely adverse circumstances, their continuing decline is far from inevitable. On the contrary, this dissertation is premised on the conviction that improving the livelihoods of peasant farmers is fundamental to reducing poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.