Thursday, July 16, 2009

A lesson from KPL

I hope our blog coverage of KPL isn't getting old. Their work is just so relevant to Haiti's economic situation (and I'll be working fairly closely with them in my new job). I wanted to share this article, written through a participant on an MCC Haiti learning tour on food security that took place in March. This article does an excellent job of connecting the work that KPL does here with the local food movements in the US and Canada and the global impact of our daily choices, while also acknowledging how much we can learn from countries like Haiti.

Kore Pwodiksyon Lokal
is connecting all of the dots in Haiti
A commentary on behalf of the National Farmers Union Ontario
By Grant Robertson

There are a growing number of people in Canada that recognize the importance of local food – and that’s a good thing. However, sometimes those, including farmers, who support local food production often do not connect the dots to the wider economy. They support the buying of local food but then do not give any thought to the wider costs to themselves of buying clothing, for instance, made in some sweatshop half a world away.

Haiti is one of the most impoverished places on this planet. Haitians have endured several centuries of domination and exploitation by one nation or another – with its giant neighbour to the north, the USA only being the most recent. Haiti’s once lush forests now only represent some 2% of original. This loss of tree coverage has contributed to desertification destroying fertile farm land contributing to deadly mudslides in the aftermath of being hit by a number of hurricanes and tropical storms. In 2008 there was civil unrest caused by the high price of food (most of it imported).

You might think that Haitians have little to teach us about food production or economic recovery. And to be honest, I was probably in that camp until I was given the chance to see a documentary about Kore Pwodiksyon Lokal. This Buy Local Haiti organization has recognized that Haitians are best served as a people by buying the products of their nation’s farmers, but also clothing producers and others. Bev Slater, long time NFU and food security activist puts it this way- “Haitian farmers recognize that producing and buying local food and local goods protects the environment and improves their economy. KLP, the local production non-government agency has recognized that it is the urban people that need to hear the message that they must buy local produce and locally manufactured goods if they want to help Haiti recover from an environmental disaster.”

KLP produced a number of television commercials aimed at non-farming communities. You can view these creative ads online at http://www.youtube.com/user/korepwodiksyonlokal. They do a good job of linking personal well-being, economic health, and community strength as ways to combat the devastation caused by globalization, poverty and weather disasters.

Those of us in the developed world have a long and rather undistinguished record of presuming to tell those in the global south how they should think, act and determine what is important to them. Far too often we tell them what crops and products they should grow even though they may not meet local needs. What they do though is create massive profits for transnational corporations. Yet in countries like Haiti local farmers and others are working together because they recognize the long term answers are to be found at home. Haiti is not alone in this as many countries around the world are showing those of us in more ‘developed’ countries the way.

The truth is that many of the problems facing farmers in Haiti and around the world are the same as the ones facing Canadian farmers, and many of the answers can be found in the same place. We have much to learn from groups like KLP – it is time we started listening.

You can find out more about Kore Pwodiksyon Lokal at http://buylocalhaiti.blogspot.com

Grant Robertson is the senior elected official with the National Farmers Union-Ontario. As Ontario Coordinator Robertson is also a National Board Member of the NFU. Grant and his family farm near Paisley, Ontario. The author can be contacted at grant@bmts.com


-Lexi posting from Ben's account

2 comments:

Karissa said...

Great article, Lexi. I especially enjoyed watching the videos that were used as promotion. Was that the primary distribution point or are there other methods being used to promote buying local? I'm wondering how effective video is for mass promotion...

Ben said...

For KPL, video has been an effective tool because TNH (Haitian National Television) has been airing all of these videos for free! And even better, they recently decided to stop airing commercials for imported rice. How cool is that?
-Lexi

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