The eradication of the Haitian Creole pig population in the 1980s is a classic parable of globalization. Haiti’s small, black, Creole pigs were at the heart of the peasant economy. An extremely hearty breed, well adapted to Haiti’s climate and conditions, they ate readily available waste products, and could survive for three days without food. Eighty to 85 percent of rural households raised pigs; they played a key role in maintaining the fertility of the soil and instituted the primary savings bank of the peasant population. Traditionally, a pig was sold to pay for emergencies and special occasions (funerals, marriages, illnesses), and, critically, to pay school fees and buy books for the children when school opened each year in October.
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 a period of 13 months.
Two years later, the new, "better" pigs came from Iowa. They were so much better they required clean drinking water (unavailable to 80 percent of the population), imported feed ($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 didn’t taste as good.
Needless to say, the repopulution program was a complete failure. One observer of the process estimated that in monetary terms, Haitian peasants lost $600 million. There was a 30 percent drop in enrollment in rural schools, 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. Haiti’s 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 must be privatized. The peasants shake their heads and remember the Creole pigs.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a former president of Haiti.
Sponsor a Pig Party!
Grassroots International, a US-based development and human rights organization, and TF publisher Robin Lloyd, have teamed up to produce a video, Haiti’s Piggy Bank, about the eradication and repopulation of the Creole pig. Grassroots is working with its Haitian partner, the National Peasant Movement of the Papaye Congress (MPNKP), to provide Creole pigs for peasant groups, improve veterinary services, and support leadership development.
For $45, supporters in the US can buy a pig for a gwoupman (group of peasants). They can also throw a "Pig Party," including screening the video with friends and neighbors, discussing the ramifications of this early example of negative globalization, and raising money for a good cause. For a Pig Party Packet, including the video, contact:
179 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02130-9901