PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Although the multibillion dollar agricultural conglomerate Monsanto prides itself as the 2013 World Food Prize recipient for its efforts to end world hunger, the true victory lies among the grassroots social movements of the small Caribbean island of Haiti. Monsanto’s questionable agricultural practices create a trap for peasant farmers who buy the company’s genetically enhanced seeds and who are then forced to pay the economic, social and environmental costs associated with these patented hybrids. Haitian farmers came together and finally put an end to these manipulative money schemes.
Back in 2007, the four largest social movements in Haiti joined to form the Group of 4 (G4). The G4 includes the National Congress of Papaye Peasant Movement (MPNKP), Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP), Heads Together Small Producers of Haiti (Tet Kole) and Regional Coordination of the Southeast (KROS). The coalition, also known as “4 Eyes Meet” in Creole, consists of over 25 million rural farmers all united by common political strategies that provide a cohesive platform for peasants to voice their concerns, and to create space for mass mobilization and advocacy.
But Monsanto is not the only party threatening the livelihoods of the peasant farmers. The G4 was also formed partly in response to the Haitian government’s marginalization, persecution and overall neglect of the rural communities. The coalition has been incredibly resourceful and has successfully implemented measures that take the place of government responsibility in the form of education, infrastructure and health care assistance.
The peasant communities live interdependently, relying on one another for support and aid in times of scarcity and natural disaster. In response to the catastrophic earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, the G4 quickly mobilized, offering help and support to affected communities. Moreover, the coalition refused to accept Monsanto’s hybrid seed donations during the earthquake relief efforts. This opposition to corporate agricultural presence was a critical step towards food sovereignty. The farmers’ loyalty and solidarity are perhaps the most prevailing and lasting qualities that make the G4 such a success.
Haiti’s G4 collaborative efforts extend to international farmers movements as well. They contribute significantly to Via Campesina, the global peasant movement that has more than 200 million rural and peasant members in 79 countries. Via Campesina helps rural communities achieve seed sovereignty in hopes of realizing its larger goal of “food security” for peasant farmers around the world. Food security not only encompasses access to and availability of food, but it also establishes the right for communities to organize their own food systems.
The G4 also formed a proactive subgroup called the Dessalines Brigade, named after the Haitian independence leader Jean Jacques Dessalines. In 2007, the Dessalines Brigade cooperated with South American farmers, agroecologists and activists to share ways of protecting native seeds and local farming practices.
As a result of the G4/Dessalines Brigade’s domestic and international efforts and its commitment to food security, the coalition received the Food Sovereignty Prize in October 2013 at a ceremony in Manhattan, New York. According to Chavannes Jean-Baptist, a member of the G4 executive committee, “the Food Sovereignty Prize symbolizes the fight for safe and healthy food for all peoples of the earth.”
The G4 coalition is an inspiring example of a successful social movement driven by sustainable food security and unwavering solidarity. The movement provides hope and incentive for rural communities seeking security and sovereignty around the world. It also demonstrates the important role that communal grassroots initiatives play in challenging international corporations in the fight against poverty and hunger. The local communities know what they need to do in order to address social, environmental, and economic problems; it is a matter of giving them the opportunity and the power to do so.