Peasants, the state, and deforestation in Haiti's last rainforest


Material Information

Peasants, the state, and deforestation in Haiti's last rainforest
Physical Description:
vi, 151 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Monaghan, Paul Francis, 1960-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Deforestation -- Haiti   ( lcsh )
Environmental degradation -- Haiti   ( lcsh )
Peasantry -- Economic conditions -- Haiti   ( lcsh )
Rain forests -- Haiti   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis, Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 2000.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 146-150).
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Paul Francis Monaghan.

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 025860792
oclc - 46516971
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
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        Page v
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    Chapter 1. Introduction
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    Chapter 2. The setting
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    Chapter 3. Household organization
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    Chapter 4. Farming system
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    Chapter 5. Indicators of wealth: Livestock ownership and wage labor
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    Chapter 6. Peasant household stratification
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    Chapter 7. Origins of wealth stratification
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    Chapter 8. Conclusion: Lessons from Malfini
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    Biographical sketch
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Full Text








I would like to thank my wife, Joan Flocks, for all she has sacrificed and

contributed to this dissertation. Her unwavering support and editorial discipline have

brought this project to completion and made it much more readable. My doctoral

committee and especially my chair, Dr. Marianne Schmink, were very patient, made

extensive revisions to the first draft and helped me to focus on politics and peasant

stratification. Dr. Schmink has provided guidance since she was a member of my

master's committee in 1989. I received crucial help on the statistics and tables from A.J.

Shriar and Patrick Bradshaw. Jim Sloan of the UF Department of Geography did the

figures. All errors and omissions are mine, however.

Others who have supported me include my family, my children and in particular,

my mother, June Monaghan and Joan's parents, Jerry and Wilma Flocks. They never got

tired of my evasive response to the question, "When do you think you will finish?" It is

because of their support and many hours of childcare that I finally have the answer.

Finally, I want to thank the people of Malfini and those throughout the Macaya region

who have welcomed me over the years, answered my unending questions and always

invited me back. I hope that together we will one day see the communities of Macaya

become as beautiful as the forest that they helped to preserve.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ........................................................... ii

A B STR A C T ............................................................................ v


1 INTRODUCTION ................................................................ 1

A Village in the Upper La Hotte Mountain Range ........................... 1
Research Design .................................................................. 7
Haitian Peasant Differentiation .................................................. 16
Chapter Outline ................................................................. 21

2 THE SETTING ................................................................... 25

Introduction ............................ .................. .. .... ................... 25
Physical Setting of the Upper La Hotte Mountains ........................ 28
Human History in the Upper La Hotte Mountains ........................... 39
Village of Malfini ................................................................ 43
C conclusion ................................... ............... .. ..... ................ 52

3 HOUSEHOLD ORGANIZATION............................................ 54

Introduction ............................. ............... ............................ 54
Household Membership Patterns ................................................ 55
Domestic Labor Tasks ............................................................ 59
Transformation of the Traditional Household ............................... 64
C conclusion ............... ................... ................... ..................... 67

4 FARMING SYSTEM ............................................................ 71

Introduction ............................. ....... ... .. .. ... ... .. .. ................... 71
Agricultural Calendar ............................................................. 73
G arden Types .................................................................... 75

Principal C rops .................................................................. 80
Strategies of Land Access ..................................................... 87
C conclusion ............................ ............... .... .......................... 89

AND WAGE LABOR .................. ....................................... 92

Introduction ................................ ................... ....................... 92
Local Livestock Production ....................................................... 94
Livestock Ownership Patterns .................................................... 100
Labor Mobilization ................................................................. 102
Patterns of Traditional and Wage Labor ....................................... 104
C conclusion ................................ ......................... .................. 109

6 PEASANT HOUSEHOLD STRATIFICATION............................... 111

Introduction ................................... ..... ....... ..... ...................... 111
Housing and Livestock as Indicators of Wealth ................................ 113
Housing Construction .............................................................. 114
Testing the Wealth Index Validity ................................................ 116
Household Characteristics and the Wealth Index ............................... 119
C conclusion ................................ .................... ....................... 130

7 ORIGINS OF WEALTH STRATIFICATION................................. 132

Introduction ................................ ......................................... 132
Migration History ................................................................... 133
Political Connections to State Land .............................................. 135
C conclusion ................................ ............... ..... ....................... 139

8 CONCLUSION: LESSONS FROM MALFINI.............................. 141

Introduction ............................... .......... ...... .... ..................... 141
Summary of Chapters ............................................................. 142
Conservation of the Macaya Forest ............................................. 143
Future of the Haitian Peasant .................................................... 144

REFERENCES ........................................................................... 146

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................................... 151

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Paul Francis Monaghan

December, 2000

Chair: Dr. Marianne Schmink
Major Department: Anthropology

This dissertation analyzes important changes occurring in a remote Haitian

village, which I call Malfini. This case study illustrates current problems facing the

Haitian peasantry, focusing on the political relationships that are at the heart of these

problems. The three changes are an increased economic stratification among peasant

farmers, an increased use of wage work instead of traditional labor organization and a

rapidly disappearing environmental base due to erosion and loss of soil fertility. Malfini

is located on the margins of the last remaining rainforest in Haiti, and continued

environmental degradation will result in a severe loss of Haiti's biodiversity.

I conducted ethnographic and survey research over several years and compiled

data from this research in this case study. In 1997, I conducted a household survey that

focused on demographic features, income indicators and agricultural production. I

analyzed those data to answer several research questions. These questions include the

following: Is the gap between poor and wealthy peasants measurable, how would such a

gap affect traditional farming patterns and what are the origins of such a gap in Malfini?

I created a measure of household wealth that could predict the extent to which a

household bought or sold labor and invested in livestock or cash crops. In order to

explain the origins of these measurable differences among households in Malfini, I tested

household variables such as the age and gender of household head, internal dependency

ratio, migration history and connection to the state land system.

Households with connections to the state tax bureaus in the lowland towns have

direct access to the state-owned forests of Malfini, and this became the best variable for

predicting current wealth. The ability to directly lease state land is the result of political

connections between Port-au-Prince and an elite living in the hinterlands of rural Haiti.

The Duvalier dictatorship gave state land leases to members of its rural militia. Thus,

holding such a lease became a matter of politics. Although it has been more than a decade

since Jean Claude Duvalier left the country, the legacy of political ties to the land in

Malfini continues to affect conservation and development programs in the region.


A Village in the Upper La Hotte Mountain Range

The village of Malfini (the Haitian Creole word for the common red-tailed hawk)

is located below Pic Macaya (2347 meters), the second highest mountain peak in Haiti.

Macaya is called the poto mitan of the southern Massif de La Hotte mountain range,

referring to the heavy post that supports the ceremonial structure (hounfo) for Voudon

dances. It is a powerful symbol, as the Voudon deities (Iwa) wait in the poto mitan until

they hear the call of their particular drum rhythms played during the ceremony, before

joining the worshippers below (Herskovits 1937). The upper slopes of Macaya, hidden in

the clouds much of the year, receive from 4000-6000 mm of precipitation annually,

sometimes in massive floods from hurricanes (Woods and Ottenwalder 1992). Five major

rivers flow off Macaya in every direction (Figure 1-1) like the poles that branch off the

roof of the hounfo. Approximately one million Haitians live and farm below the slopes of

the massif, in the watersheds and lowland plains formed by the Port-au-Piment, Roseaux,

L'Acul, Ravine du Sud, and Glace rivers (Erlich et al.1985).

Rapidly ascending from the Caribbean Ocean, the slopes of the La Hotte are the

most important physical features of the southern peninsula of Haiti. Coastal and alluvial

plains are small and intensively farmed. A majority of peasants in the South farm on

steep hillsides (Street 1960). Most of the towns in this region dot the coastline or have

developed around the fertile plains of the Macaya watersheds. These towns used to be



Map Scale

Figure 1-1 The southern peninsula of Haiti



active ports from which coffee, indigo and cotton were exported, but they declined

substantially during the years of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1986).

The largest and most fertile lowland plain below the La Hotte mountain range is

Les Cayes, which supplies the nation with beef, rice and sugar cane (Erlich et al. 1985).

At the time of the Haitian revolution, Les Cayes had more than 100 sugar plantations and

the surrounding hillsides of the southern coast were planted in coffee (Fick 1990). The

slaves who worked on these plantations played essential roles in the rebellion of the

southern peninsula (Fick 1990). Today, the plain still has a high potential for greater

agricultural production if irrigation were improved (Erlich et al. 1985). The past three

decades of deforestation in the upper La Hotte watersheds threatens any plans for

improved irrigation as well as coastal roads and bridges, homes located on the riverbanks,

and a hydroelectric generator (Coffey et al. 1984).

Plantation owners had not cleared the forests and soils of the highest La Hotte

watersheds when the revolution broke out in 1791 and the land reverted to the state after

the plantation system was destroyed. Later, recipients of presidential land grants,

squatters, homesteaders and renters with annual leases from the tax bureau settled in the


Peasants living in the lower watersheds of Macaya climbed higher up into the

slopes, bringing their tools, farming techniques and crops from the lowlands with them.

Some also brought their political connections, which they used to control land, the

primordial element in the Haitian peasant economy (Smucker 1982). Almost a third of

all residents currently living in Malfini have moved into the upper La Hotte since the

1960s, clearing the last of the forests (Cohen 1984). Many of these individuals and their

families are now squatters on state land.

This dissertation will describe three interrelated transformations in the political

ecology of Malfini over the past 70 years: the increased concentration of wealth among a

few families, the growing importance of wage labor, and the rapid degradation of the

forest environment surrounding the village. These three transformations directly affect

efforts to conserve the remaining forests surrounding Pic Macaya. Malfini is located in

the buffer zone surrounding the Macaya National Park. At an estimated 5000 hectares,

the park contains the largest continuous area of montane rainforest in the nation.

Fragmented forest and old growth stands surrounding the village host some of the largest

populations of endemic species on the island of Hispaniola (Woods and Ottenwalder


The forests of the upper La Hotte watersheds were relatively unpopulated until

the 1960s, long after most watersheds in the country had already been denuded (Erlich et

al. 1985). Three aerial photographs taken between 1957 and 1984 document the period

of destruction of Haiti's last rainforest (Cohen 1984). The remaining forest resources and

the rich soils beneath the canopy are at the heart of the conflict between conservationists,

local farmers and logging interests (King and Buffum 1996).

Of the three transformations--wealth stratification, increased wage labor and

deforestation--wealth stratification is the most important because it predicts a variety of

behaviors, from cash cropping to capital accumulation and tenancy (see Chapter 6). In

order to explain the measurable differences in wealth in Malfini, several independent

variables are tested using analysis of variance (ANOVA). These variables include


household characteristics such as gender, age, migration histories and tenure patterns

used to acquire state lands.

Malfini provides a case study of wealth stratification among Haitian peasants

whose origins can be traced to the original settlement and distribution of state-owned

land in the Macaya forests. The widening gap between a rural elite and the poor majority

modifies traditional views of the Haitian peasantry, giving it class divisions similar to

those found in the city (Fass 1988).

Wealth is an important variable in explaining the increased use of wage labor.

The marketplace has been integrated into the daily food and work habits of the Haitian

peasantry. Wage remunerated labor and market sales are increasingly important to

household survival (BARA 1995). Wage labor is replacing reciprocal forms of labor

mobilization for an increasing number of Haitians, even as traditional forms, such as

cooperative work squads, persist and adapt to wage payment.

Wealth is also an important variable in describing the patterns and effects of

deforestation. Deforestation is a comparatively recent phenomenon in the upper La Hotte

watersheds. Increased emigration of low-income and landless farmers from the 1960s to

the 1980s caused most of the damage to the forests of La Hotte (Cohen 1984). During

this period, a small number of politically connected local families and absentee

landowners from downstream villages and market towns often controlled access to most

of the forest (McLain and Stienbarger 1988). The poorest peasants still depend on the

state lands and therefore they suffer disproportionately from the erosion of soil and from

the ban on farming state lands that was implemented when the Macaya National Park was


The causes of wealth stratification are explored in the variables of household

development cycle, dependency ratio, gender, length of time since migration and political

connections to state land. Household development cycle provides a somewhat significant

association with wealth, which supports the findings of other researchers (Jaffe 1990;

Wiens and Sobrado 1998). The most significant variable, however, is political

connection to state land.

Although the variable of length of time in the village since migration would

appear to be significant in determining wealth if the assumption is made that the longer a

peasant has lived in the village, the more resources he/she has, this is not the case. It is

true that the most recent migrants, both young and old, come to Malfini with the fewest

resources and assets by any measure. They live on the poorest quality land and depend

on tenancy and patronage relations for survival. They cannot afford to educate their

children or invest in the internal market system and have little chance at upward mobility

within the village. However, the oldest families in Malfini (heirs to the presidential land

grants of the 1800s) have levels of income similar to those of the most recent migrants

(see Chapter 7). Nevertheless, it is important to consider length of time since migration

because this variable is related to the variable of political connection to state land. When

emigrants into Malfini are divided into three historical categories--the descendents of the

original presidential grantees, the politically connected individuals of the early 20th

century and the temporary migrants from the 1960s to the 1980s--data show that the

wealthiest and most politically connected peasants in Malfini arrived during the second


Some families that arrived during this middle period of migration had connections

to urban-based absentee landowners and to state land officials. In the 1960s, many

members of these families joined the Duvalier rural militia, the Tonton Macoute, which

was the most important source of power in the countryside (Smucker 1982). They used

these political connections to monopolize control over vacant state lands, which were

covered in old-growth forest at the time, and they eventually bought up the privately held

inheritances of the original settlers. The data demonstrate how households with a direct

lease from the stand land bureau (a measure of political connection) have a significantly

higher income status and subsequently greater investments in agriculture. This variable

of political connection to state land provides a stronger explanation for observed variance

in income than any internal household characteristics.

I conclude that Haitian politics and the distribution of a corrupt government's

spoils largely account for the differences in wealth documented in the village. I analyze

the quantitative data by looking at the household's role in a political structure that persists

10 years after the end of the Duvalier dictatorship. This history and the stratified social

structure have affected the success of conservation efforts imposed by outsiders since

Jean Claude Duvalier declared the upper La Hotte watersheds a biological reserve in


Research Design

This dissertation is based on ethnographic and survey data gathered to explain the

divisions of wealth in Malfini. I collected quantitative household data during a 1997

survey, measured wealth for each household in the sample (111 homes) and tested

associations for the skewed distribution of wealth and its effect on agricultural production

patterns (wage labor, cash crops and livestock). Indigenous cultural and social features

such as gender, life cycle and migration history qualitatively shape agricultural

production and wealth and are helpful for analysis, but these variables do not predict the

overall level of wealth as measured by the index. When a variable measuring household

political connections is tested using analysis of variance (ANOVA), there is a significant

relationship to current wealth. This variable reveals how the history of the Duvalier years

contributed to the patterns of wealth distribution, the expansion of wage labor and the

deforestation of the upper La Hotte.

I divided the research into three stages. From 1988 to 1996, I visited Malfini

periodically and conducted a census and unstructured interviews. In 1997, I returned and

conducted an intensive survey of 111 randomly selected households that yielded the data

set analyzed in this dissertation. I then compiled the data into quantitative variables using

a desktop statistics program (SPSS 1998).

The preliminary research during 1992-1996 revealed patterns of socioeconomic

differentiation associated with changes in two features of the labor system- the reciprocal

labor squad and the livestock guardian contract. These observations seemed to indicate a

departure from existing literature that emphasized the undifferentiated, homogenous

nature of the Haitian peasantry, and suggested some important changes were underway.

A third phenomenon, one that characterizes Malfini and all of Haiti in general, is

the rapid pace of deforestation. In Malfini, this recent deforestation appeared to be

associated with the historical process of migration and land settlement; particularly in

regards to the way state-owned lands had been monopolized by a minority of farmers.

This led me to question how these processes might be linked to political change, and to

the socioeconomic changes I had observed. I questioned the accepted notion of peasant

isolation from politics in Haiti, and set out to investigate the profound social and political

bases of deforestation in Malfini.

The research questions addressed in the field study were:

(1) To what extent were peasant households in Malfini differentiated by

wealth, and how was this differentiation manifested?

(2) In what ways did wealth concentration lead to transformation of

traditional labor relations (labor squads and livestock guardianship),

into wage labor forms?

(3) How was wealth concentration related to historical patterns of

migration, political patronage, land tenure and deforestation?

To discover the answers, the household questionnaire focused on measures of

wealth, labor activity and the household connection to political power through the state-

owned lands.

Site Selection

I chose Malfini as a research site after considering logistics, contacts in the

community and available housing. Malfini is a permanent village with schools, churches

and a bi-weekly market. In 1997, there were approximately 300 households in Malfini

and in nearby "satellite" housing clusters closely tied to the village. The village is located

less than 200 kilometers from Port-au-Prince and several kilometers from Pic Macaya.

Fragmented broadleaf forest and large stands of Caribbean pine forest with giant fern

understory surround the village. In the early 1980s, international and local

conservationists began establishing the Macaya National Park. Malfini and dozens of

similar villages had as much as 30% to 50% of their land base closed to farming and

pasture (Monaghan 1988).

From 1988 to 1996, I visited many of the villages in the upper La Hotte

watersheds. These site visits included two short-term trips with multidisciplinary teams

of researchers, which resulted in descriptive reports of agricultural activities in the area

(CFET 1996; Woods et al. 1989). The purpose of this research was to characterize the

farming systems found in villages surrounding the newly created Macaya National Park,

assess the needs and capabilities of local communities and suggest interventions for non-

governmental organizations.

During the summers of 1988 and 1990, I lived in Malfini, getting to know

individual families and hearing about their losses since the establishment of the park

boundaries. A period of political turmoil in Haiti, including an international embargo,

from 1991 to 1994 prevented my return until the spring of 1996. This coincided with the

Haitian government's decision to begin its own program of conservation and

development in Macaya with the assistance of the World Bank. I lived and studied in

Malfini during the historical establishment of a national park. This was a conservation

effort unprecedented in Haiti and it shaped my research, results and conclusions in this


Household Survey

In January 1997, I completed a household census of Malfini and enumerated

more than 300 households. I drew a random sample from this list and interviewed 111

households. Each interview lasted from 40 minutes to 2 hours. Some hosts offered a

meal or a cup of coffee and an invitation to return. Although I knew many of the survey

respondents personally, I hired a local farmer with experience as a community organizer

to help with introductions and to put people at ease about the survey. This person

formerly worked with a non-governmental organization located in the village and had

experience in forming small groups to participate in development and conservation


In addition to the survey, I made frequent visits to households that I had known

since 1988, went to the markets twice a week, participated in community meetings and

attended social gatherings such as funerals, holidays, dances, and cockfights. Most days

during my walks through the village, I visited with work parties and discussed their

schedules and the costs of labor and meals. I also conducted transects through more than

100 gardens, noting ownership, crop composition and landscape type.

During each survey, I noted housing construction and income indicators such as

presence and type of furniture and concrete drying platforms (glasi). This information

became useful later in establishing a socio-economic index for each household. The

survey questionnaire began with a list of household membership, including children that

had died or migrated. Determining ages was very difficult given the limited time for

completing the survey and the fact that most respondents did not have any idea of their

exact age or the ages of their children. The age of the head of household had to be

estimated and then later categorized into four broad groups (20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50+).

Children's ages were somewhat easier to record because I could compare a child

to their cohorts. However, the exact age of young children (less than 12) could not

always be determined because many suffer from slow or stunted physical development

(BARA 1995). The children's age groups are more important in indicating the

contribution they make to household labor. Infants and children younger than 7 cause the

most strain on household producers. As a result, older siblings must often bear the

responsibility of caring for young children during the day. Older children and adolescents

(8 to 14) are also able to carry goods to market and to move cattle to pasture. Teenagers

can wield hoes alongside adults, enter into livestock caretaking contracts, and be trusted

to make overnight trips to buy and sell produce at a regional market. The estimated

consumption and production weights for children and adults are explained in Chapter 5.

The inaccuracy of peasant responses to questions about the size of their land

holdings has been well documented and researchers have gone to great lengths to collect

land tenure data (McLain and Stienbarger 1988; Murray 1977). In Malfini, land parcels

are not square and each is slightly different because of rocks in the soil, boulders, trees,

and forest fragments. For example, 80% of a 10-square-meter space might be covered in

patches of karst limestone formations, but hidden within the treacherously sharp rocks are

tiny pockets of soil that are valuable for the horticultural style of peasant farming.

Gardens are often planted inside the sinks of these jagged karst formations, sometimes

running down the inside walls of sinkholes as far as the gardener can reach. Crops are

concentrated at the lower elevations in the karst to take advantage of the collected soil

and organic matter and moisture.

While I often corroborated my estimates of garden size with farmers and key

informants, I did not record exact measurements. Instead I conducted walking transects to

provide a cross-reference for gardens reported in the survey. Other gardens were visible

in the yard of the household. The measure of a carreaux (1.29 hectares), the most

common land holding reported, is divided up into sixteenths. One-sixteenth is called a

ventsank and is .08 hectares or approximately 100 paces across. Gardens usually fall

within a range of eighths, half-carreaux and more than 1 carreaux.

With limited time to complete my fieldwork, I focused my attention on the

amount of labor invested to prepare gardens. The ability to mobilize extra-household

labor, through work groups, work exchange and wages proved to be a good measure of

household wealth. To insure accuracy, the labor questions were limited to the preparation

of soil and planting of gardens in the spring of 1997. The lengthy planting season for the

spring garden extends from the driest period in late November to April, the beginning of

the heaviest rainy season. The spring garden is the largest and most important in the

agricultural calendar, with the greatest variety of crops and labor invested.

Local farmers were able to recall the economic and physical effort they mobilized

from others outside their own household for a garden. Squad members knew exactly how

many of their cohorts showed up on a particular day and they mentally kept a tab of how

many days had been purchased for cash or credit and how much liquor and food had been


Data Analysis

The third stage of research included analyzing the data and forming new

variables. I entered household characteristics such as gender, age, number of dependents

and migration history on an SPSS database program (SPSS 1998) and combined variables

to create new characteristics such as socio-economic level, a dependency ratio and

primary mode of labor mobilization. I coded each head of household by the type of lease

they held on state lands. I also ranked and quantified the land and forest types used by the

household, along with livestock ownership and tenancy. In all, I coded 175 variables for

each household.

The primary question at this point was to determine the best measure of

differences among households and then test different factors to explain the differences. I

combine socio-economic characteristics such as livestock value and the cost of housing

materials to form an index of wealth for each case. Table 1-1 presents the distribution of

wealth in Malfini with categories set at four different intervals.

Table 1-1
Four Categories of the Wealth Index_____________
Wealth category Income N % Of Avg. days Avg. # pounds of
Range -total purchased labor cash crop planted
Very low $15-80.00 42 37.8 15 9 lbs
Low $110-290.00 19 17.1 7 14 lbs
Medium $360-665.00 38 34.2 30 20 lbs
High $745.00+ 10 9.0 172 27.5 lbs
Total $270.00 111 100 33 10 lbs

The index provides a qualitative distinction of household types. The very low

and low categories exhibit the following characteristics: (1) Homes have dirt floors, a

straw roof and no latrine; (2) any animals the household raises usually belong to another

owner; (3) cattle, the most important path to agricultural success, are absent in 90% of

households (in contrast, cattle are found in 30% of the medium-income and in 100% of

the high-income households); (4) agricultural work in the fields of other farmers for

either wages or exchange occupies most of the adult males' time; and (5) there is little

chance for a complete education for any of the children in the household.

Although household composition characteristics varied widely, I determined the

most important variables to be the differences in female- and male-headed households

(are female headed households poorer?), the dependency ratio of consumers to producers

(do more dependents make a household produce more or less?) and the development

cycle of the household (do older households have more wealth?).

Each of these characteristics deals in some way with the labor available for a

household. Measuring the dependency ratio in the household is important for providing

data on labor availability and how it changes over the course of the life cycle. I created

the ratio by assigning consumption and production weights to individual members of

each household. I chose the actual numbers after observing domestic activity in the

village and comparing the weights used in two other studies (Jaffe 1990; Jorion 1984).

The dependency ratio is based on demographic explanations for household

differences (Durrenberger 1984). The ratio recognizes the contribution that all members

make to the household but considers children as a burden on household consumption.

The ratio is useful for allowing comparison of households that might be different in many

other ways. A high ratio of dependents to adults correlates with two stages of the

development cycle. When adults range in age from 30 to 50, household size and labor

availability expands, as does investment in farming. During these years, households are

more likely to hire more labor but have only a slightly better chance at investing in

livestock and cash cropping (see Chapter 6).

The variables of gender, dependency ratio and development provide some insight

into wealth disparities within economic groups. For example, they quantify the

difficulties that women and the elderly face in mobilizing extra-household labor or the

benefits of having teenage sons to help prepare gardens. These characteristics however

do not predict whether the household will be sending the sons to high school in the city or

relying on their labor in the fields.

I conclude that while Malfini households may have qualitative differences due to

membership, these features account for only a small portion of the differences in wealth.

Chapter 5 shows that the variable with the greatest association with current wealth

indicators (a p-value of .043 at 90% confidence level) is whether the head of household

was a direct renter or a sub lessee of state lands.

Haitian Peasant Differentiation

Haitian society is so sharply divided into a rural majority and an urban elite that it

was once described as a two-caste system (Leybum 1941). In the 19th century, the lines

between the fair-skinned, European-influenced elite and the Creole-speaking peasantry

were based largely on color and culture. In the early 1800s, the former slaves of Saint

Domingue, many of them born in Africa, arose from the ruins of an abandoned plantation

economy (Mintz 1974) and established the Haitian peasantry. The small group of the elite

consisted of colonial landowners, mixed-race merchants, and black army officers who

had been paid in land grants instead of wages. The agrarian elite was unable to

reestablish the plantation system and, as a result, abandoned the countryside and

eventually dominated foreign trade and government. The peasant masses were

deliberately excluded from equal participation in trade or politics, but they did establish

themselves as smallholders, tied to their family inheritance, as Lundahl describes:

The land reform (of the 19th century), also contributed to an almost hermetic
separation of the masses from the elite. By setting the agricultural laborers free
and by supplying them with land [president] Petion satisfied the two most ardent
desires of the ex-slaves. Having achieved these two objectives, the latter withdrew
into subsistence cultivation (gradually supplemented by production for the
market) and expressed no desire to take part in national politics. (1979, p. 289).

For most of the 19th century, the majority of rural Haitians were physically

separated from the outside world. They developed strong, indigenous traditions during

these formative years, such as a syncretic religious system that governed many aspects of

daily life, a highly structured internal market system largely run by women, and an

informal land tenure system that successfully kept scarce land resources within families

(Herskovits 1937; Mintz 1974; Murray 1977). Despite nearly two centuries of

overwhelming economic and environmental odds, the Haitian peasantry has survived and

is still a majority of the population.

While the caste model has long been abandoned (Nichols 1985), several

generalizations about the Haitian peasantry remain. First, the strength of class relations is

minimized while relations based on Voudon, cooperative work parties, household loyalty

and rules of inheritance are emphasized (Bastien 1961; Murray 1977; Simpson 1942). In

Malfini, these traditional relations are still important, but class relations surrounding

production have increased anyway. Second, the peasantry as a whole is considered

remote and isolated from politics and the state. This consideration reverts to the

historical split between the elite landowners and the rural masses in the early 19th century

(Lundahl 1979). I will discuss each of these generalizations in the following sections.

Class Relations

Urban Haiti is highly stratified. There are state and bureaucratic classes, a middle

class, which includes returning investors from the Diaspora, a working class that includes

wage earners in the assembly industries and a large informal sector consisting largely of

people involved in the marketplace (Fass 1988). A small elite largely composed of old

Haitian families, controls two-thirds of the wealth in the country through the

manufacturing, real estate and import industries. These class divisions are replicated

somewhat in rural areas where wealth is also unevenly distributed. The rural elite often

has second homes in the working class sections of Port-au-Prince. Their children have

high school educations and jobs in the assembly industries. Some successful families

have members that have immigrated and are living in the United States.

Despite the expansion of class relations, ethnographic and survey research in rural

Haiti (Malfini included) provides evidence that a traditional peasant culture still exists.

The early research, dominated by descriptions of Voudon, gave way to analysis of

peasant politics, local accumulation, conjugality and land tenure (Jaffe 1990; Lowenthal

1987; Smucker 1982; Woodson 1990). Taken together, the later studies challenge the

concept of an undifferentiated Haitian peasantry maintained by the traditions of religion,

family organization and shared poverty yet provide little evidence of actual class

divisions among the peasantry (Lundahl 1979; Jaffe 1990). Wealth and resources are

redistributed somewhat through cultural norms of equal inheritance, intra-family

sharecropping and cooperative labor. Even when tenancy is prevalent in a community,

the fact that households have multiple tenure relationships and commonly sharecrop

within economic strata minimizes the differences among households (Murray 1977).

Political Isolation

The second generalization is that peasants are virtually excluded from

participation in government or politics (Smucker 1982). Very little of the revenue

extracted from rural Haiti by the state is returned in the form of services. Health care,

schools, roads and agricultural extension do not exist in most parts of rural Haiti (Wiens

and Sobrado 1998). Nevertheless, the Duvalier regime was firmly rooted throughout the

countryside for 29 years, establishing a repressive structure controlled by the military

(Smucker 1982). This suggests that the state was giving something back to certain

individuals and groups in the rural areas who were loyal to the Duvalier government.

This study will explore the distribution of vacant, state-owned forestland during the

Duvalier regime. The unequal distribution of this resource has resulted in a stratified

village economy and an unfair burden of land degradation on the poor.

With recognition of the diverse economic classes, and the end to most color

politics, the generalization that the peasantry is isolated must also be challenged. Mere

footpaths connect the most remote mountain villages in Haiti, yet residents in these

villages have daily economic links with urban markets. These close ties affect

agricultural work, cropping patterns and food consumption. The physically isolated

Haitian peasantry of the 19th century produced the country's export crops (coffee, cotton,

sisal); paid Haiti's indemnities to its former owner, France; and provided the majority of

GNP until the 1970s. Today, 700,000 peasant families still drive the economy, providing

most of the food and fuel used by the urban sectors, producing significant foreign

exchange and serving as the primary market for imported wheat, rice and cooking oil.

The integration of the peasantry into the national economy has always been governed by

the imbalance of political power in Haiti. The peasantry is not isolated from national

politics, merely disenfranchised.

As this dissertation will show, the political conflict of post-Duvalier Haiti and its

relation to Haiti's environmental crisis cannot be analyzed using models of rural

homogeneity and the persistence of cultural institutions (Lundahl 1979). Since 1986,

repression and violence against populist and democratic organizations has been

widespread, including land conflicts that pit peasants against one another. The origins of

this conflict are rooted in the 30 years of Duvalierist politics in the countryside (Smucker


This dissertation measures the internal divisions among the peasants of Malfini

and tests different explanations for its origins. Socioeconomic divisions are significant

features of deforestation of the upper La Hotte watersheds and the increase in wages and

commodities in agriculture. Recent surveys of food security and income in rural Haiti

show that a higher proportion of produce is sold at market, more income comes from off-

farm activity and more of the diet is composed of purchased grains (BARA 1995).

The Haitian peasantry is becoming more reliant on cash and wage labor and more

stratified into classes of landowners and workers. As a result, class distinctions have

become more important than past relations based on Voudon, the gender division of

labor, mutual assistance and village social pressures. The emerging class relations are

built on the more exploitative traditions such as patronage, child servitude (restavek) and

a corrupt legal and political system (Blaikie 1985).

Undifferentiated population growth, ignorance and poverty are often cited as the

reasons why peasants cause deforestation (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987). In Haiti, to

claim this would be to ignore the historical exploitation of Hispaniola's natural resources

by many different populations, from the indigenous to the colonists. The social and

economic relationships between the state and foreign powers and the local elites have

shaped environmental degradation. The case study of Malfini shows how Duvalierist

political forces weighed in during a period of rapid deforestation by altering power

relationships in the community and giving stewardship over the state lands to a minority

of farmers. Now that Haiti's natural resources are all but gone, the environmental

degradation is also places an unequal burden on the rural population.

Chapter Outline

The chapters in this dissertation are organized from the general conditions of the

physical environment to specific individual behavior that eventually affects this

environment. Chapter 2 describes the geological and human history of the Macaya

region. Chapter 3 describes household structure and domestic labor in Malfini. Chapters

4 and 5 describe the farming systems in Malfini and the differences among the village's

households. Chapters 6 and 7 present several independent variables for a statistical

correlation with the inter-household differences. In the Conclusion, I argue that while

preserving Macaya is critical for biodiversity in Haiti, forest species are most threatened

by the socioeconomic patterns found in villages such as Malfini.

In Chapter 2, the origins of the physical landscape show the two criteria that make

the Macaya region so unique. The La Hotte range, which makes up most of the southern

peninsula of Haiti has geologic origins from the Central American isthmus, followed by

millions of years as an island never entirely submerged by the rising oceans. The

dramatic uplift of the La Hotte range provides the conditions for diverse humid forest

types, from very humid forest on limestone, to high elevation rain forest (Figure 2-1).

The history of human settlement in the Macaya region provides the key to

understanding the origins of the current patterns of land use. Settlement was historically

late in comparison with most of Haiti's hillsides. Migration was spontaneous but also

patterned by local political forces. Today, the best quality land and those most suited to

agriculture are concentrated in the hands of a few local peasants and some absentee


Chapter 3 provides details of Malfini's household membership patterns and

important domestic tasks performed by the household such as childcare, provisioning of

water, fuel and food and cooking. This chapter focuses on the transformation of the

traditional extended family "yard" into a residential unit that is more individualistic and

based on the nuclear family.

Chapter 4 describes the farming system of Malfini, which has conditions similar

to what most peasants face in Haiti. While the ecological conditions and the variable

mountain weather would seem to affect all villagers equally, the data show that

households are distinctly different in terms of agricultural activity.

Chapter 5 focuses on the two most common ways Malfini farmers invest in

agriculture--hiring labor squads and pasturing livestock. I detail the traditional

organization of the squad as well as the shift in squad activities to wage remuneration.

Livestock guardianship contracts are presented as an inter-class strategy that links

households in the village. Both Chapters 4 and 5 demonstrate how the village is stratified

at every level, from land ownership and quality to planting dates, cash crops and market


In Chapter 6, I introduce an index of household income as a quantitative variable

to identify households within the village. I assign each of the households in the sample a

dollar amount ($10 to $2000) that estimates the value of its housing and livestock

holdings. The index accurately predicts the extent of farming undertaken by the

household, and correlates with other wealth indicators such as land ownership and

education levels. I then test three independent characteristics for an association with the

variation in household wealth. The internal characteristics do not account for all of the

variation in income among households.

In Chapter 7, I test two additional variables for an association with household

wealth. The first, length of time since migration into Malfini, shows some interesting

patterns with how much wealth the household has at present. However, there is not a

linear relationship between length of time in the region and wealth, as those who have

been in Malfini the longest are not the ones with the greatest wealth. The last variable I

test is the response to a question that I asked every respondent, "Did you rent state lands

directly from the tax bureau or sublease from a local landlord?" This variable, which

measures whether a household had the political connections to the state to rent directly, is

the clearest predictor of wealth today.

In the Conclusion, Chapter 8, I analyze economic stratification, wage labor and

deforestation in light of the importance of political connection to the state lands. I

discuss the implications of this factor for community development and conservation

efforts. One implication of the stratified access to the forested hillsides of La Hotte has

been that only a small number of households have been able to clear more land and

accumulate wealth. Wealth and the amount of deforestation caused by the household are

not directly related. Although the wealthier and better-connected peasants can gain

access to more forested state land, it is easier for conservationists and the state to single

out these few households and to co-opt them. This would be more difficult to do if every

household in Malfini had a direct claim to a state parcel. Because so few families control


access to state lands, they eventually were able to restrict use of the most forested

hillsides and greatly slow the rate of deforestation experienced in the 1980s.

This dissertation shows the importance of linking historical and micro-level

analysis to understand the underlying forces leading to socioeconomic and ecological




The village of Malfini is centered on a high elevation plateau (between 900 to

1300 meters) located above the coastal foothills (Figure 2-1). The coast of southern Haiti

is visible from many vantage points in Malfini. The pine-covered ridges of the La Hotte

mountain chain tower above the village and Pic Macaya is hidden. During the past 40

years, residents from every watershed below Macaya have climbed through the vine-

tangled forests above 1500 meters and have cleared forest for gardens in the rich soils.

They arrived in work squads and family groups, planting subsistence foods and cash

crops, and building makeshift tents (ajoupa) to get out of the rain. Housing clusters and

neighborhoods are scattered throughout the rocks and foothills of the plateau, continuing

up the slopes toward the peak. There are no homes above 1300 meters, but gardens are

still found as high as 1800 meters. Most of the population throughout La Hotte lives in

areas that are only accessible by foot trails and some of these trails are so steep that even

pack animals cannot reach them.

The steep slopes of the La Hotte mountain chain have a unique geological history

that is paralleled by the unique colonial and post-revolutionary history of the area (Fick

1990; Woods and Ottenwalder 1992). The uppermost watersheds were settled relatively

late and the forest surrounding Macaya was largely untouched until the 1960s (Cohen

1984; Street 1960). The original titleholders of the land in these upper


Pine Forest
^1^^^:^ ^^ ^ Mixed Forest
greater than Hardwood Forest
Figure 21800 meters
K--/ a rst

\^_ ^ ^{ y^ Coastal
Plateau Range
800-1200 meters 0


Figure 2-1 A diagram of the village of Malfini in the Upper La Hotte mountains

Figure 2-2 The nine administrative departments of Haiti

watersheds abandoned the area during the revolution of 1791-1804 and ownership

reverted to the Haitian government.

The village setting unites the physical environment (the geology, soils, forests and

climate) with the different farming techniques used by households. At first glance,

factors influencing farming patterns seem as fragmented and diverse as the patchwork of

forest types around the village. These factors include a variety of land tenure

combinations, micro-climatic conditions, seasonal market price fluctuations and different

methods of labor mobilization. However, actual farming patterns follow socio-economic

lines, demonstrating the unequal access to resources that characterizes the village.

Three different types of owners hold the land of Malfini and the surrounding

hillsides: local owners, absentee owners and the state. Local owners generally do not

have title to their land. They build their homes on privately held lands and farm this land

themselves. Wealthy absentee landowners own large parcels (more than 100 acres) on

the hillsides overlooking Malfini. These families often live in urban areas. Some are

former coffee speculators now living in Port-au-Prince. They collect rent through local

managers (geran) who pay an annual fee to the absentee owner, then sublease the land to

their neighbors. The largest landholder in the whole region is the state, but there is no

clear understanding of the boundaries of state lands and the state has never monitored the

use of its lands. A large portion of state-owned land in the highest regions of Macaya has

now been set aside for conservation. Even though many temporary migrants from distant

villages no longer come to Malfini to plant gardens because they are banned from

farming inside the boundaries of the Macaya National Park, hundreds of squatters remain

on land inside the park's borders.

The mountains have historically been an isolating force in shaping the patterns of

settlement. The locals of Malfini did not climb into the highest forests until after the

1950s (Cohen 1984) when a combination of market demand for black beans and the need

for land caused the peasants to expand their farming endeavors into the most remote

state-owned land. The state tax offices (bureau de contribution) rented the Macaya

highlands to local farmers who in turn subleased them to landless migrants from

surrounding villages. Because of the forest resources and fertile soil, the mountains later

became Malfini's connection to the outside through the state and the absentee


The first part of this chapter describes physical conditions in the upper La Hotte

mountains such as the geology, soils, climate and forest types. The second part details the

history and the institutions that have shaped human interaction with the environment in

the village of Malfini. I use household data on family migration histories to help

reconstruct the historical settlement and subsequent distribution of land, resources and

power. The administrative and institutional boundaries of the village, such as its place in

the regional market system and its role in the history of the Macaya National Park, are

also detailed. Extra-local forces, such as the national economy and the politics of land in

Haiti partially explain the problems local farmers have in accessing land and labor and

controlling the harvest.

Physical Setting of the Upper La Hotte Mountains


The peasants of Haiti are confined to a land base that is steep and mountainous.

The landscape is subject to heavy erosion and is actually unsuitable for long-term food

crop cultivation (Erlich et al. 1985). Five mountain chains crosscut the 27,000 square

kilometers of Haiti. A greater percentage of Haiti's land base is in mountains than any

other in the West Indies. Four large agricultural plains, several wide river basins and

coastal areas combine to make approximately 40% of the land suitable for agriculture.

The dramatic uplift of the ocean floor that created Hispaniola during the Eocene created

mountains with steep slopes. Slopes greater than 20% characterize 63% of total land area

in Haiti. Since 1978, nearly every watershed in the nation has been completely

deforested (Erlich et al. 1985)

According to some geologists, Hispaniola was formed by two or three chains of

volcanic peaks rising from the northern subduction zone of the Caribbean (McFadden

1986). The 300 kilometer-long southern peninsula is composed of a pair of mountain

ranges, the Massif de la Hotte to the west and the Massif de la Selle at the eastern end.

They are part of an E-W anticline that forms Jamaica and Navassa Island, then submerges

and rises again rapidly (1000 m) to the Masinthe Mountain on the southwest tip of Haiti

(Street 1960).

The origins of the mountains and plateaus of Malfini are found in deep-water

marine limestone with intrusions of volcanic basalt or lava flows from the late

Cretaceous. In the early Tertiary, the sea became shallow and by the Miocene, a left-

lateral fault developed in the peninsula that is still active today. In the last nine million

years (since the late Tertiary), the separate mountain chains collided with a landmass to

create the island of Hispaniola. The karstic landforms and lateritic soils of Macaya date

back to this geologic event.

The deep-water marine limestone slopes constitute the Demisseau formation. A

high elevation plateau of younger marine limestone called the Macaya formation

surrounds these slopes. This is the approximate location of the village of Malfini (Figure

2-1). The basaltic volcanics and sedimentary rocks of the Demisseau produce steep

mountain slopes, exposed cliffs and narrow, dendritic ravines. This is in contrast to the

flat, or rounded hills and ravines formed by the surrounding Macaya limestone at lower

elevations (Woods and Ottenwalder 1992).

Karst is located primarily on the plateau (900-1200 meters) that surrounds the

peaks of the La Hotte, but a small, isolated amount of karst is scattered on the upper

ridges of the massif. The Macaya formation is believed to have originated in the Late

Cretaceous or 80-70 mya (McFadden 1986:11). Doline sinks formed in the highly

weathered karst cause a rolling, uneven topography on this plateau. This produces a

pattern of small valleys (approximately 10 meters across) with deep oxisols, surrounded

by low hills of sharp limestone rock. A lower montane humid forest evolved on the karst;

today it provides most of the cooking fuel, building materials, and freshwater springs

used by locals. The hills and valleys of this forest, part privately owned and part state-

owned, provide microenvironments that are crucial to the success of the local farming


Towering over the foothills and plateaus are steep mountain peaks rising

dramatically to more than 2000 meters. These rapid changes in elevation, along with an

extremely humid climate, produce the variety of forest types that make this region unique

in the Caribbean (Woods and Ottenwalder 1992). According to the landscape

classifications developed by Leslie R. Holdridge, who did doctoral research in Haiti in

the 1940s, there are five vegetation formations that occur in the upper La Hotte: a tropical

lower montane wet forest; a subtropical wet forest; a tropical montane wet forest and two

formations of rain forest--tropical lower montane and subtropical--both distinguished by

precipitation of over 4000 mm annually (Woods and Ottenwalder 1992:54).

These formations can be grouped into three broad agroecological categories in

the upper Macaya watersheds: relatively fertile plains of karst rock (900 to 1250 meters)

with a highly fragmented diverse moist broadleaf forest, steep foothills (1300 tol1500

meters) which used to be covered in mixed hardwoods and pine, and a high-elevation

pine forest (1800 to 2200 meters) on the basaltic ridges of the Massif de la Hotte (Figure


A lateral fault line down the middle of the La Hotte chain creates watersheds with

steep, unstable hillsides. Landless squatters who have left Malfini and other villages in

the lower watersheds in search of land often farm these canyon walls, which have an

average slope of 60%. The most remote regions of this mountain chain historically served

as a refuge for displaced slaves during the plantation era and later for poor farmers from

villages like Malfini (Fick 1990). The collapse and exposure of bedrock due to active

vertical tectonics makes this fault very unstable. Farmers and their children have died in

landslides induced by hurricane rains on several times within the past 20 years. Hillside

farming in all of the watersheds of Macaya has led to deforestation and soil erosion and a

decrease in the quality and flow of water downstream (Cohen 1984).

The Haitian State and absentee landowners primarily shape the land tenure

patterns for much of the plateau, the forested foothills and the highest ridges of the La

Hotte. However, local owners still hold the best agricultural soils on the lower plateau.

The state is the largest landholder in the area, followed by absentee owners who mostly

live in urban areas or other watersheds, local owners and finally smallholders with

undivided family inheritance. The local owners control access to the majority of absentee

owner land in their role as managers or leaseholders. They serve as managers for the

absentee owners and the tax bureau, paying each a set fee every year and collecting rents

and shares from their neighbors who do the farming. Some of the managers have

encouraged farmers from other villages to relocate to Malfini and sharecrop in the newly

opened state lands.

Most of the intact broadleaf forest and the higher elevation mixed cloud forest

occur on land that belongs to the Haitian State. Some private land contains valuable

forest fragments and secondary forest regrowth in former gardens. A significant amount

of private land with good forest cover has been incorporated into the Macaya National

Park, resulting in claims disputes with local farmers that have been ongoing since the


The geologic history of the upper La Hotte has produced distinct landscapes and

agricultural opportunities for the local farmers. The diverse roots, tubers and squash that

grow in the narrow spaces of the jagged karst, for example, maintain the household until

farmers can harvest cash crops from the barren slopes of basalt. When gardens are

fallow, farmers use the slopes and plateaus for pasture.

One remarkable aspect about human settlement in the mountains is that it has

changed the geologic formations in just a few decades. The removal of vegetation has

led to numerous landslides on the slopes of the La Hotte range, bedrock and limestone

karst have been exposed and ravines have collapsed. This has caused decreases in

subterranean water flows, and the filling up of streambeds with large rocks and sediment.

Where karst has been broken up and converted to quicklime or mined for construction

materials, the geologic features are transformed by hand.

Lowland residents depend on settlements in the humid mountains such as Malfini

to provide seasonal pasture for livestock and furnish markets with staple foods, cash

crops, charcoal and construction materials. The cost of this watershed exploitation very

often falls on the lowland villagers themselves who are in the path of torrential flooding

when hurricanes pass over Macaya.


The two geologic formations, Macaya and Demisseau, provide the parent material

for the two general soil types in the region. Brown ultisols characterize the steep basaltic

slopes. These soils have good native fertility, but are coarsely textured and well drained.

Soils are thinner and more eroded higher up the hillsides. These ultisols have washed

down to the plateau on one side of the la Hotte ridge and so a portion of the agricultural

plains used by the village is characterized by the deep ultisols. These ultisols are located

primarily on state-owned land and landless squatters use them intensively. Because of

their coarse texture, they are susceptible to droughts and drier than the oxisols further

down the plateau. This plays an important role in how farmers time their planting and

choose crops for these soils.

In the lower part of the plateau, near the center of Malfini, there are deep alluvial

deposits of oxisols with limestone parent material coming from the surrounding karst

hills. Although less fertile than the ultisols, the oxisols have better structure and are less

eroded. These soils produce most of the cash crops in the village. They are dark red with

neutral pH due to the limestone parent material. Their depth also varies from the low

rocky hills that have suffered some erosion to the deeper alluvial plains and basins owned

by the local landowners.

Scattered around the plateau and bordering it on all sides are the small rounded

valleys that are formed by the coning of the karst. The hills forming these valleys consist

of loose limestone rock protecting them above and in the valley are gardens, pasture and

secondary growth broadleaf forest. After repeated cultivation without adequate time for

regeneration, the thin forest soils in the valleys are subject to wind and water erosion and

more of the jagged karst is exposed. Each season, farmers continually loosen the rocks

with a pickaxe and pile them up, just so they can use the mere handfuls of soil remaining



Forest patterns on the la Hotte range generally follow the two major geologic

features. The steep slopes have either an open pine forest (Pinus occidentalis) or a

complex mosaic of pine forest overstory with mixed broadleaf species such as bwa

tremble (Didymopanax tremulum). Walking through the undergrowth is impossible

without a machete to cut the clinging vines and thick bamboo (Smilax havanensis and

Arthrostylidium haitienese). Below these formations on the slopes, the lower plateau has

a karstic rock formation with diverse, wet forest on limestone, primarily composed of

hardwood species and low shrubs (Figure 2-1).

Each year some 2000 to 4000 mm of precipitation falls on the forest formations

of Macaya. Rainfall generally increases with elevation but decreases in the peaks near

Macaya. The pine forest at the very top of the mountains that surround Pic Macaya (2347

meters) is actually slightly drier than the forests below.

The hardwood forest on the lower elevation limestone has a greater number and

diversity of endemic plants and animals than anywhere in the Caribbean (Woods and

Ottenwalder 1992). Most of the population lives in this limestone-strewn plateau and in

the little valleys formed by the coning of karst formations. The soils on this formation are

used to grow food and cash crops and the forest on limestone yields more resources to

locals of all strata.

The relatively flat plains of Malfini sit in the middle of the hardwood forest on

limestone. These plains were cleared long ago and converted to pasture grass, but the

surrounding karst hills still contain fragmented hardwood forest in various stages of

regrowth. The highest endemicism of plants, birds, amphibians and mammals in the

entire La Hotte region is found in this moist forest. Biologists have documented 133

different orchid species (38 endemic to the La Hotte mountains) mainly within ten square

kilometers of hardwood forest (Judd 1987). Considering that all of Hispaniola has less

than 350 orchid species, this means that 40% are in the hardwood forests surrounding

Malfini (Woods and Ottenwalder 1992).

The hardwood forest that still exists on the privately owned karst hills is generally

intact, with large overstory trees. Retention of this forest is probably due to the strategy

of much longer fallow periods (4 tolO years) and less intensive cultivation. The state

parcels in the hardwood forest on limestone were depleted much more rapidly and now

most of this land is covered in pasture grass.

Not all state land is overused however. A landlord class in a community located

about 300 meters below Malfini farmed and subleased 3 to 5 square kilometers of state-

owned hardwood and paid for it at a different regional tax office than that where Malfini

residents paid. This land became incorporated into the Macaya National Park in 1983.

Park rangers forced the sharecroppers and landowners to abandon this land and it has

begun to regenerate. The community that abandoned this stand of forest is quite proud of

the contribution they have made to the park, while Malfini locals have encroached into

the margins with their gardens and livestock.

Most farmers in the region cultivate in the karst landscape where they have built

their homes, and then walk up into the La Hotte slopes some 2 4 kilometers to plant a

different type of garden. These farmers construct ajoupa in the hills so they can remain in

their fields until their farming is completed. Some of the highest rainfall rates in the

Caribbean (up to 4000 mm) are in these middle elevation hillsides (1250 to1600 meters),

and most of the steep slope agriculture takes place in the highly disturbed forest, ravines

and barren ridges.

Before 1983, these slopes above 1500 meters were particularly valuable for

seasonal black bean monoculture, one of the most lucrative crops in the region. The cash

cropping of black beans has declined considerably in the past 10 years, due in part to the

park restrictions on farming and to the erosion and overuse of soils. Since the park

boundaries were established, black bean production now takes place mainly at lower

elevations and yields are lower.

At the highest and most inaccessible regions of the La Hotte chain, such as the

summit of Macaya (2347 meters), and the narrow ridges (1800 meters to 2000 meters)

there is an open pine forest formation, composed of giant Pinus occidentalis that can be

up to 40 meters tall and 2 meters in diameter. This third formation is often used for

logging in addition to agriculture, so it supports an industry that pays higher wages than

agricultural labor. The most remote pine forest regions, such as the vertical cliffs where

the endangered Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) nests, are threatened more by

uncontrolled fires than by direct clearing by farmers (Woods and Ottenwalder 1992).


The La Hotte range receives a trade wind from the southern coast and rain-filled

clouds are almost continually moving over the mountains. Rain falls in steady patterns

and torrential floods. The southern peninsula is frequently in the path of tropical

disturbances during hurricane season, with five major storms passing near Malfini or

directly over it since 1954.

Rainfall can be year-round, but has a bimodal pattern, which peaks in May and

October. There are somewhat drier seasons lasting from June through July and

December to March where short droughts are more likely. In general, too much rain is

more of a problem for La Hotte farmers than drought. Rainfall patterns shape the cycles

of the local cropping system. The dry winter months are for land preparation and

planting. Farmers then wait for the March and April rains, hoping it arrives on time

because they risk losing their crops otherwise. Farmers with the means to hire labor will

plant earlier in the dry season because this provides them with a better chance to use all

of the spring rains. The second important cropping date, during the summer, corresponds

to a shorter dry season followed by fall rains.

Due to the tropical weather regime, the rains in Macaya can also fall relentlessly

at any time. Even during the dry months, a stalled tropical wave or a cold front can bring

a week of rain up from the coast of Haiti. If an event like this occurs just as a 90-day crop

of hillside beans is beginning to flower, then farmers will lose their crop.

Villages on the hillsides of the La Hotte range are directly exposed to the

damaging winds of hurricanes. The most destructive hurricanes in the area were Hazel in

1954, Cleo in 1964, Allen in 1979 and Gilbert in 1988. Heavy rains worsen the effects of

erosion on the steepest slopes, destroy crops and seed banks and weaken and kill

livestock. Flood damage downstream from Macaya is common as riverbanks shift,

destroying homes and washing out the coastal roads.

Higher than normal winds destroy the flimsy housing and roofing in the village,

and knock down important tree crops such as plantains. Because of the hurricanes Hazel

and Allen, the coffee culture that supported farmers in the mountains just beneath the

Macaya plateau never fully recovered. Farmers did not replant coffee and shifted

production exclusively to food crops. The effect of these storms on the regional coffee

economy is one of the reasons why cash-strapped farmers looked up and migrated toward

the open lands of the La Hotte forest. The extensive damage to the tree cover by

hurricane Hazel is often cited as the beginning of extensive charcoal production in Haiti

(Erlich et al. 1985). Locals who lived in the lower Macaya watersheds recall how the

rivers were full of timber after that storm.

The most important factors in the evolution and survival of rare species in La

Hotte are the steep and rugged mountains hidden behind the cloud cover. However, the

clouds also hide nutrient-rich forest soils, a scarce resource for Haiti's farmers. The

forest that was 100% intact in the U.S. Army photographs of 1956 was reduced to only

4% by 1984 (Cohen 1984). This has occurred even without the benefit of roads to

connect the village with regional markets. The most pervasive forces behind landscape

change are the clearing of forest by hand for swidden gardens and the uncontrolled

burning for hillside cropping on steep slopes. Direct exploitation of forest resources has

been only a secondary factor. Had deforestation continued at the rate of 3.4% per annum,

the 5000 hectares set aside in 1983 for the Macaya National Park would not exist today.

The next section will describe the village history and institutions that shaped settlement

in these forests.

Human History in the Upper La Hotte Mountains

In spite of the isolation caused by the mountainous landscape, the southern

peninsula has played an important role in the history of Haiti. Thirteen years after the

revolution began in 1791, the decimated economy and population of French St.

Domingue became divided into a Northern Kingdom and a southern republic. In the

North, General Toussaint Louverture (president from 1796 to 1803) and General Jean

Jacques Dessalines (president from 1804 to 1806) attempted to resurrect the plantation

economy using forced labor. The resistance of the ex-slaves ultimately frustrated them. In

the South, General Alexandre Petion (president from 1806 to 1818) tried a different

strategy and began to redistribute the abandoned plantation land to former members of

the army, government employees and political allies in parcels from 6 to 30 hectares (16

to 80 acres).

Petion's policy led to desertions of plantation laborers from the North and General

Henri Christophe, who succeeded Dessalines as president in the northern kingdom from

1806 to 1820, was subsequently forced to provide his soldiers with grants of land

(Lacerte 1978). However, Christophe also used land as a political tool when he supported

a southern peasant rebel known as Goman (Jean-Baptiste Perrier). Christophe gave

Goman, a former slave, the title of Count of Jeremie in exchange for Goman's support

against Petion. Goman and his followers were possibly motivated by a belief that the

black general Christophe would defeat the southern mulatto, Petion (Nicholls 1985).

Goman's rebellion in the department of Grande Anse lasted almost 20 years (Figure 2-2).

He even established a small kingdom in the La Hotte mountains called "Grand Doko"

and avoided capture by the army until the death of Petion in 1818.

The presidency of General Jean-Pierre Boyer (1819 to1843) began with a

successful military campaign against the rebels of Grand Doko. Popular history says

Goman jumped into one of the ravines of Macaya rather than surrender (Heinl and Heinl

1978). By the end of Boyer's presidency in 1843, Haiti was united into one nation, forced

labor ended for a second time and nearly 500,000 acres of land were distributed to


Whether it was Petion who "decided the agrarian future of Haiti" (Lacerte

1978:46) or the ex-slaves who redistributed the land themselves after the revolution

(Lundahl 1979: Murray 1977), the transformation was profound. In one generation, Haiti

became a subsistence-based peasantry that produced coffee and other export crops on

their household plots. The new peasantry brought their lowland agricultural techniques

(slash and bum) and their crops up into the steep mountains. Each generation divided the

family inheritance until the average land holding became less than 1.5 hectares.

The growing peasantry was historically dependent on imported food items and

consumer goods (such as dried fish, flour, soap and clothing) so they combined

subsistence agriculture with the production of export crops to raise cash. The peasantry

underwrote the national economy by generating surplus and foreign exchange for the

ruling classes, the state and the army. Through customs duties and taxes on exports of

mahogany, logwood, coffee, cotton and cacao, the peasantry paid off the 19th century

indemnity to France (150 million francs) for its recognition of Haiti's sovereignty.

While the South underwent a revolution in the organization of labor for

agricultural production from 1804 to 1843, the environment experienced its own changes

even before the rebellion of 1791. Sugar made the colony of Saint Domingue the most

successful of Europe's slave colonies in the Caribbean, but there was a major shift to

coffee production in the second half of the 18th century. This shift initiated changes in

settlement patterns. The rapid expansion of coffee in Saint Domingue until 1791 had

significant effects on the society and the economy (Trouillot 1985). In contrast to the

sugar plantations worked by gang labor on the lowland plains, coffee production was

managed by smaller groups of slaves in the highlands. The legacy of both crops remains;

sugar is still an important crop in the Cayes plain below La Hotte and coffee is still

grown in the yards of hillside homes in a semi-wild fashion

Coffee in the upper elevations of La Hotte did not arrive until relatively late in the

history of the colony. In 1781, large plantations of coffee were expanding in two

locations below 1000 meters in the La Hotte range (Street 1960). By the end of the

century, the entire southern peninsula had been ceded to coffee plantations, but most of

the land was still forested when the revolution began in 1791. In addition to the coffee in

the hillsides and sugar plantations on the coasts of southern Haiti, indigo and cotton were

produced in the low coastal mountains below 500 meters (Street 1960). The small

coastal towns such as Port-au-Piment, Dame Marie, and Tiburon, that encircle the

southern peninsula, were once thriving ports.

In the watersheds of La Hotte, most of the forest was still intact when the

revolution interrupted the expansion of coffee plantations. It was the expansion of the

food-producing peasantry in the 19th century that finally pushed farming higher up the

slopes (Street 1960). At the time of the slave rebellion, natural resources such as lignum

vitae, mahogany and logwood were being cut down and exported from the southern

peninsula, although they contributed only a small amount to total exports (Lundahl 1979).

During the 19th century, the harvest of forest resources intensified along with the

production of coffee and food crops by small peasant households.

Finally, in the late 20th century, state lands at the highest elevations were

deforested for charcoal, construction materials and gardens of black beans--an important

source of protein in the Haitian diet. The lowland sugar mills, vetiver (Anatherum

zizanoides) essential oil factories and alcohol distilleries all consumed wood from the La

Hotte mountains for fuel.

In general, forest resource extraction (even for charcoal production) is a

secondary cause of deforestation in La Hotte. The main force has been the need for land

by the growing peasantry. Between 1956 and 1978, the years that the United States army

took aerial photographs of La Hotte, the forest was cut by hand, sometimes burned and

then cultivated and fallowed. This cycle did not even occur 10 times before an estimated

85% of the Macaya forest disappeared (Cohen 1984)

Village of Malfini

Malfini is an average size village of 300 households. There are a handful of

churches, each with their own elementary school, a polling station and a biweekly

market. There are nearby hamlets that are closely tied to the village and permanent

residents and recent arrivals farm next to non-resident migrants who arrive each planting


Defining the actual borders of Malfini is a subjective exercise. Some outlying

housing clusters that are considered part of Malfini are distant. One such cluster was

located several hours away by foot, but is it was linked to Malfini by its close historical

ties and its use of the village's marketplace. Households in this cluster were thus

included in the research. Most residents of the distant neighborhood farmed in both

locations and there were strong kinship ties between the two settlements. Most of the

hillsides above the plateau (higher than 1200 meters) are much too steep for pack animals,

so walking long distances to reach gardens or marketplaces is a part of everyday life in

this region. Besides having a common marketplace and farming system, the village and

its outlying housing clusters are all located close to the remaining forest fragments and to

the boundaries of the national park.


By the 1960s, the physical limitations of the mountains and the division of the

original land grants into smaller and smaller inheritances began to push migrants to Port-

au-Prince (Locher 1984). The Department of the South lost 10% of its 1971 population to

Port-au-Prince. A growing urban informal sector, manufacturing jobs, domestic work and

educational opportunities motivate this rural-to-urban migration pattern and these

migrants are generally women. The state lands of the La Hotte mountains have provided

one of the few rural destinations for migrant farmers during the past 30 years. The state

also owned land near the Dominican border, in the La Selle mountain range and on the

island of La Gonave. Rural emigrants who are farmers seeking new land and forest

resources are usually males (Locher 1984:331).

The plains, karst hills and steep slopes of Malfini were each settled in slightly

different patterns by migrants arriving from the lower watersheds. Two waves of

migrants populated the rolling plateau with the most fertile and deepest soils of the

region. The first wave had ties to the recipients of government land grants (known as the

Gran Don) of the 19th century. The second wave came from the successful coffee regions

down river from Malfini. One grantee originally owned almost the entire plateau, but he

then divided it among his heirs. The heirs eventually sold the land to the newly arriving


The identities of the original colonial owners that named the upper watershed only

exist today in the land records of the state. Most local place names refer instead to the

landowners that appeared in the 20th century. Local landlords named hillsides and

ravines as they opened them up for farming by sharecroppers. Household histories in the

region confirm that these watersheds were settled long before the 1930s, but low

population density and shifting cultivation with sufficient fallowing periods allowed for

secondary forest regrowth. According to visitors in the 1920s, agriculturalists and loggers

had not penetrated the higher forests directly above Malfini (Ekman 1928).

The third wave of migrants included some of the poorest peasants to arrive in

Malfini. Some of these migrants stated that they left their home communities and family

parcels because their neighbors persecuted them. Others came because the local

landowners in Malfini invited them to become tenants. About 10% of the household

heads sample arrived in Malfini in the 1960s as child servants (restavek) or adult

laborers. They later established households of their own in Malfini, despite the lack of

inheritance or even capital to purchase land.

The third wave of migrants, many of whom were seasonal, began a new stage of

clearing in the La Hotte forests above 1300 meters. Local landowners and a few coffee

speculators from the lower watersheds primarily controlled access to the forest. Rights to

the leases for state lands are "inherited" as if the land were owned by a family. Many

"heirs" to the state land live in Port-au-Prince and still receive income from local

managers who pay them a fixed annual price. The local managers have the right to

sublease or sharecrop the land or use it for pasture and their own gardens.

The local landowner class had solidified its position through its allegiance to the

Duvalier rural militia in the 1950s. Local oral history claims individuals within this class

used their position to defraud private owners of titles to their land and take advantage of

the class of smallholders during difficult economic times. This was especially true after

the devastating hurricanes and the hungry seasons that followed. Despite the low original

population density and the availability of cheap land on the plateaus and foothills of La

Hotte, many of the small farmers fell into debt and eventually transferred the titles to the

best private lands to the local landlord class.

Land Tenure

There are three broad categories of land tenure in Malfini, with subtle variations

within each category. State-owned parcels comprise the majority of land on the plateaus

and slopes. Individuals and families that have occupied a parcel of state land for many

years will rent, sharecrop and even pass down usufruct rights as if they held title to the

parcel. The second largest category includes privately owned land with title. This

category includes both large parcels of 50 hectares or more, held by absentee landowners,

as well as household plots. The third category includes land that is undivided family

inheritance. Actual use of the third category land is negotiated through non-formal

means by dozens of farmers who bear the name of the original owner but lack any title to

the land.

In all three categories, there may be some subleasing or sharecropping but this is

more common on the privately held, titled lands and on the larger parcels of state land.

Those farmers who share an undivided inheritance with family members can usually use

their land only by direct continuous use or occupation.

Approximately one-third of Malfini residents are landless, and many are

technically squatting on state lands today. Most of the children in these households are

unlikely to break out of this stratum and regain a land portfolio that they can pass on to

future generations. An important feature of state lands is that they are held in usufruct

without any title yet are subdivided among heirs by squatters and landlords in a

community recognized fashion (McLain and Stienbarger 1988). This results in an active

struggle by both those with and without power over the use and control of the

"commons." The dual systems of legal and customary land tenure are typical in Haiti and

tenure on the state lands follows local rules for access.

Administrative Boundaries

Haiti is divided administratively into nine departments (Figure 2-2). Each

department has a major city or market town as its seat of government. The Macaya ridge

of the La Hotte mountain chain splits the southern peninsula lengthways into the

Department du Sud and the Grande Anse. Each department is divided into communes

and the boundaries are often formed along the many watersheds of Haiti. Government

offices for each commune are located in a lowland provincial town, often the site of a

regional market. Each commune has a tax office that separately administers the state

land, which falls within the boundaries of the commune. Farmers in Malfini formerly

rented state land from three separate tax offices.

Within each commune, there are several administrative sections rural

corresponding to county-level (municipal) government. The section rurale is the lowest

level of government jurisdiction (Smucker 1982) and previously, each of the more than

300 sections throughout Haiti was policed by a rural sheriff or Chef Section, who was a

member of the Haitian Army. In a parallel position to the Chef Section was a

representative from the Duvalier political/military institution, the VSN or Voluntaires de

la Securite National. Popularly known as the Tonton Macoute, the President appointed

the local VSN commanders (Smucker 1982). The VSN were dismantled throughout

Haiti after the uprooting (dechoukaj) that followed Jean Claude Duvalier's departure

from Haiti in 1986. Yet, the former Tonton Macoute in Malfini are still respected

residents. The office of the Chef Section was also an institution notorious for its human

rights abuses and extortion of the peasantry. President Jean Bertrand Aristide dismantled

this institution in 1991, which was a contributing factor to the coup that sent him into

exile for three years.

In 1995, with the help of the United Nations, Haiti began to implement the

democratic reforms first outlined in the 1987 Constitution. Currently, each village within

a section has elected representation on section councils, known as CASEK. The section

councils are responsible for assessing community needs and garnering community

participation in government plans for future schools, roads, and services. Local

institutions have been so prevalent in rural life that even in the most remote regions,

where government or NGO services are non-existent, local people can still identify what

commune and section they belong to because of the police, judicial and tax institutions

that affect their lives.

Regional Market System

Malfini is the site of an important regional market that meets twice weekly. This

marketplace, which formerly served as a cockfighting pit on Sundays, now helps define

Malfini as a community. During the Duvalier era, it also contained an outpost manned by

the local VSN. These officials would collect various "taxes" at the marketplace, settle

disputes and occasionally use the outpost to detain people.

The market is crucial because the people of Malfini are cash-oriented producers,

and a proportion of all their crops go to the marketplace. Poorer households tend to sell a

greater proportion of their harvests and make food purchases at the market. In the upper

La Hotte region, much of the population's diet comes from grains produced in other

regions of Haiti (corn, millet, and rice) and imported items (flour and cooking oil). The

price structures and transportation costs associated with these staple foods affect locals.

During the international embargo of Haiti from 1991 to 94, price inflation of these staples

was particularly high.

Families that are able to lease land to sharecroppers are guaranteed that food

provisions will be delivered to them for their negotiated share (usually 30%). This makes

landowners less dependent on the marketplace for provisioning food for the household.

The wealthier peasant families also tend to become the more successful traders in the

marketplace and they play an important role in purchasing the local agricultural products

that will be transported downstream in bulk. They control the retail of most goods locally

and provide credit for consumption needs. The majority of families that lack savings are

subject to the annual cycles of debt and repayment, the schedule of the cropping cycle

and months with no harvest and dependence on the market for food.

Market women travel on foot or with pack animals throughout the rugged

landscape of La Hotte. There are larger regional markets downstream and usually only

the professional market intermediaries visit them regularly. On market days, professional

intermediaries who live downstream come to Malfini and they buy produce in bulk and

transfer it to the next largest marketplace. For most peasant households, going to the

market often means carrying some items from the garden or livestock to sell for cash.

Food purchased in the marketplace is also sold door-to-door (kenkay) in the more

remote settlements, often on credit. Most small-scale marketing is characterized by

participants "eating the benefits." Small-scale marketers often use their trips to the

market to purchase items (cooking oil, soap, rice, cornmeal) that can be resold for enough

profit to pay for what is consumed by their own household.

Changes Since the Creation of the National Park

The unique biology of the La Hotte mountains has attracted scientists since the

French naturalist Louis Claude Marie Richard first collected plant specimens there in

1787 (Woods and Ottenwalder 1992). During the American occupation of Haiti, several

botanists and ornithologists began documenting the incredible diversity of this region.

The Haitian state had title to some of the largest forests remaining in the mountains of the

La Selle and La Hotte ranges. Naturalists Wetmore and Lincoln climbed the mountains

near Malfini in the 1930s and they could barely penetrate into the dense forest, but what

they found was magnificent:

Above our camp on Macaya, rain forest extended to 1,800 meters elevation,
where it was replaced by a stand of tremendous pines 4 to 6 feet in diameter, their
lower limbs cloaked in moss and epiphytes, and the ground beneath covered with
dense growths of dripping bracken. (1933, p. 6).

For the families living in Malfini at that time, these descriptions show they had

not left the plateau at 1200 meters to farm the upper slopes. A journey that naturalists

described as working with a machete for two days to cut through the undergrowth is now

a 30-minute stroll through steep meadows with low grass.

By the late 1970s, when Dr. Charles Woods began his work in the upper La Hotte,

only a small fraction of the original forest remained (Woods and Ottenwalder 1992).

Woods and other conservationists supported a move to designate the forest surrounding

Pic Macaya as a reserve. Two studies done by the United States Agency for International

Development (USAID) documented how quickly the forest cover was being removed and

how changes in water quality and quantity in the Macaya rivers threatened irrigation

works and a hydroelectric station (Cohen 1984; Lowenstein 1984). The Haitian

government agreed to declare the region a reserve once the actual cost of continued

deforestation was made clear. Nearly all of the funding for projects and conservation

efforts in the reserve for the next ten years came from USAID and the University of

Florida and local Haitian contractors administered the project.

Unfortunately, the Haitian state spent the next fifteen years in political turmoil

and government management of the forest of upper La Hotte changed only slightly from

the 1950s. Land use patterns in the village did change because of the closure of some

5000 hectares of forest and forest fragments. State restrictions on farming and livestock

pasturing in the highest ravines displaced hundreds of farmers from gardens all around

Pic Macaya, the heart of the park. Farmers responded by exploiting the surrounding

forest (the lower montane hardwood formation) more intensively and by migrating to

more distant mountain watersheds at the tip of the peninsula.

Local politics have shaped the creation of the national park and the distribution of

funds for development and conservation. The park has caused a decline in income for

most of the community, yet some households have gained. The educated children of the

landowner class filled the need for educated community organizers, labor crew bosses

and nursery supervisors. A significant portion of the rent formerly earned on state lands

is now lost, but the landlords today have the same control in the labor market and access

to the best lands in the village.

Development projects in the region invested money in the village, hiring local

people as park guards, improving roads and paying people to plant trees and build

administrative headquarters for the park. Yet, by the time the project funding ended in

1996, there were only minimal changes in the village economy; some individuals had

built homes or sent their children to schools with the money they earned and a few of the

improved livestock strains still remained. The state's management of the park since 1996

has had little effect on the local economy as development projects have been continually

delayed (US National Park Service 1999).


This chapter has shown how the geologic and natural history of the upper La

Hotte region provides distinct landscapes for farming. Over thousands of years, geologic

forces created the steep slopes, soils and forest resources that were largely untouched

until late this century. In less than 30 years, social and economic institutions removed

much of that landscape. This process of deforestation has been largely shaped by the

distribution of wealth and power in the community and in changes in the market for

peasant-produced goods.

The market shift away from perennial crops such as coffee led to more emphasis

on destructive hillside crops such as beans and corn. Hillsides that are prone to erosion

provide year-round pasture for livestock that is consumed in urban areas. Urban-based

consumers demand most of the forest resources that contribute to environmental

degradation of La Hotte. Absentee landowners extracted wealth from the hillside farms of

upper La Hotte, and contributed to patterns of overuse without adequate fallowing or soil

conservation measures. The creation of the Macaya National Park and the closing of the

highest lands, had the result of speeding up the rate of deforestation in the diverse

broadleaf forest along the park boundaries.

In the upper La Hotte, the availability of extra land, which could generate income

through renting, sharecropping and pasture, helped separate one stratum of peasants from

the rest of the community. For an additional group of urban-based absentee owners, this


land augmented their incomes through the appropriation of surplus labor from the poorest

sharecroppers. Because the state was the largest owner of land in La Hotte, the way in

which it managed land distribution was the greatest influence on land use and later class

division in the community of Malfini.



This chapter describes peasant household organization in Malfini and the daily

domestic work carried out by nearly every adult and child. It begins to show that the

basis for household stratification is not some internal characteristic but is related the

household position in the community. The different approaches taken to agricultural

production (specifically the buying or selling of labor) show a concentration of wealth

that cannot be seen by looking at organization of individual households. The

disappearance of the traditional extended household is perhaps to be expected given that

these are migrant families that have been reconstituted in a new setting, away from

traditional ties. What is not expected is how a majority of households have come to

depend on the wages and labor of the male head.

A household (lakay) is a collection of mostly related individuals who share food

from the same cooking pot and sleep under the same roof. It is the primary unit of

production, consumption and decision-making in Haitian agriculture. The collective

pooling and distribution of labor and resources define membership in a household

(Schmink 1984; Yanigasako 1979). All members in the household must contribute their

labor to make the garden successful, transport the harvest to market, prepare food, raise

children and properly bury the dead. This chapter will describe the membership patterns

of most households in Malfini and the important domestic labor they perform. I will then

analyze the transformation of the co-residential unit from a traditional multi-family

compound (lakou) to a more individualistic household based on the nuclear family.

The details of family cooperation are proof that solidarity continues to exist in the

peasant household (Bastien 1961; Herskovits 1937; Simpson 1942). However,

households are also sites of unequal and exploitative relationships (Yanigasako 1979).

These patterns become even more pronounced when households are compared with one

another. Chapters 4 and 5 analyze the inter-household collaboration and exploitation that

drives the agricultural system and the mobilization of labor.

Household Membership Patterns

Although most households are centered on a conjugal relationship between two

adults and their children, they also usually contain a variety of kin and non-kin members.

The variety of combinations is due to generational changes, migration, polygyny, female

serial monogamy and the children produced by these relationships (Lowenthal 1984). In

a town located in one of the lower watersheds of Macaya, a researcher counted 33

different combinations of household membership with the nuclear family (23%) being the

single most common pattern. (Jaffe 1990:66).

Diverse and fluid membership patterns also characterize the households in

Malfini. The people living under one roof are often a mix of kin and non-kin members,

multiple generations, children from previous unions and temporary visitors. However, the

majority of households (76%) are formed around the consensual union of a man and

woman. The couple usually has some children together, or they have brought children

into the household from previous relationships. If the man is present most of the time,

the community recognizes him as the head of the household. Few women are heads of

households, but the financial status of female-headed households is no different from

similar male-headed households (see Chapter 6).

When adult children still live with their parents in multigenerational households,

the designation of head of household in this study refers to the adult who is making

agricultural production decisions for that household. It does not imply that the adult

children do not have their own gardens and animals. In cases where the oldest adult in the

household is absent from most daily farming activities (e.g., they did not start a spring

field garden in 1997), then an adult child in the household is considered the decision-

maker and their production decisions are recorded. If an elderly widow is still active in

farming, her labor and livestock investments are recorded as well as the productive

activities of her adult sons still living with her.

Men and women in a consensual union may not always reside together. There

are female-headed households in which the woman is raising children for a spouse who is

living permanently with someone else (8%) or who is working part of the year outside of

the watershed (6%). Women may also be absent from the household when they migrate

to live with children who are attending a secondary school in the lower watershed (4%).

Only 2% of men in the sample were separated from their spouse and currently not living

with another woman. Each of these men had one of their children in the household with


There are few cases of widows and widowers who are heads of household (8%)

and no widows or widowers live completely alone. Fewer than 8% of all other

households include elderly parents living with their grown children. Sometimes the

parent has a separate house in the yard that their sons have built for them. While still

important in the household, the elderly parents have retired from farming and depend

largely on their children to cultivate a small plot for them, while they provide the land

and most of the labor after planting. Some adult children and their former spouses have

nearly abandoned their elderly parents. In the poorest elderly households, there are

several men in their late 60s who still belong to daily labor squads and women in their

70s who weed gardens for wages. However, age, as gender does not predict the wealth of

an individual. The wealthiest peasants in Malfini are patriarchs who are 65 and older and

who are all still actively farming and fathering children.

In addition to working together and sharing the food, the nurturing and raising of

children, grandchildren, orphans, godchildren and stepchildren distinctly characterize the

peasant household. Haitian peasants consider children an asset and in this study, they are

present in 86% of households with an average number of 2.9 per household. In 36% of

all households, there are four or more children. More than 60% have young children less

than 7 years of age, and 13% have nursing babies. Families with a high number of young

dependents and an adult who is not capable of a full workload are the most at risk for

nutritional and medical problems (BARA 1995).

In a majority of households, there are children from a previous consensual union.

This is due to the patterns of successive conjugal relationships resulting in children who

remain with their mother. Often a woman's first conjugal union is short-lived and may

occur while she is still living with her parents. This is usually followed by more long-

term relationships. The first child usually follows his/her mother and grows up in her

household, often with little or no contact with the father. It is up to the mother and the

siblings to divide the food and the workload evenly within the household. If a caretaker

parent dies, a child may have to move in with an estranged parent and half siblings.

Although the motherless child is still technically an heir to his/her father's land holdings,

the mother is usually an advocate for her child's inheritance rights. A motherless child

living with a stepparent and half-siblings does not have an easy life and losing one's

mother is akin to becoming orphaned, the lowest status in the village.

The role of children as non-wage labor is crucial in those households that do not

send their kids to school. This is apparent in the practice of using children as household

servants (restavek), which is one of the more exploitative mechanisms for mobilizing

labor in the Haitian peasant household. Restavek is a traditional social arrangement

between two households of different economic status. The child comes from a poorer

household where dependents outnumber available resources and goes to work in the

wealthier household. In exchange for his/her labor, the child will have a better chance at

eating every day. One measure of the low status of a restavek compared to the other

children in the household is that they will rarely attend school. Restavek as young as 8 or

9 years old care for livestock, prepare meals and wield a hoe alongside the men in the

fields. A child perceived as lazy or incompetent may be sent back home.

The use of children as servants is common in peasant villages, yet most restavek

migrate to work in urban households. In Malfini, 11% of adults had been restavek while

growing up, 11% of all households sent their children to be raised in another household

and 6% of households locally were currently using a domestic servant. Migration of

children to Port-au- Prince is often based initially on domestic service with eventual

opportunities for upward mobility through apprenticeship and the informal


Domestic Labor Tasks

Each household in the community has the same basic domestic labor needs:

childcare, laundry, collecting water and fuel wood, and provisioning and preparing food.

Most other tasks, from gardening in the yard to marketing, can be categorized as

agricultural or income generating. In contrast to the shared labor that takes place in the

fields, men do not contribute as much to domestic tasks. Women and children make the

most important contributions to domestic work. This does not exclude men from the

domestic sphere as they will often cook and perform childcare duties. There are

exceptions in some households where men, women and children may not perform

culturally assigned tasks but will mobilize others to carry out these tasks.

In the domestic realm, women primarily do the washing, marketing and cooking

with the help of children. Children have the primary responsibility of carrying water.

Men are most often responsible for cutting firewood. Throughout the agricultural cycle,

men and women perform an equal number of essential tasks in the fields, although men

perform the heavier tasks such as wielding a machete or hoe to prepare the soil.


Raising children is often combined with food preparation and domestic chores.

The main childcare providers are the mother, female relatives, such as grandmothers and

most importantly, other siblings. While boys quite often are the primary caregivers for an

infant sibling during the day, when they become adults they are rarely at home to watch

their children. The obligations of adult males means that work in distant fields or the

gardens of another, or moving livestock to pasture keeps them away from the household

during the day.

Adults rarely bring young children into the field or to the marketplace. Mothers

provide undivided attention to their children while nursing, and during that time need

assistance to perform all the domestic tasks for the rest of the family. In Chapter 6, the

childcare burden is tested as a factor predicting garden investment. A higher dependency

ratio due to young children in the household should predictably put a strain on available

resources. Yet, the evidence presented shows that incomes are no lower for households

with a higher number of dependents.

Water and Fuelwood Collection

Water for villagers comes mainly from natural springs that trickle out of the

limestone rock. There are less than a dozen sources of drinking water for the whole

village. Several are at the bottom of steep ravines, which are difficult to climb, especially

with a full bucket of water. Each household needs at least one five-gallon bucket of

drinking water per day and often more. It can take up to an hour to walk or climb to a

spring, perhaps wait in line, slowly fill the bucket using a bowl and then carry it safely

home. Young children, most often adolescent girls, are responsible for getting water. If a

girl or boy is unavailable, an adult woman in the household will carry the water.

Deforestation and continuous farming in the ravines above the springs and rivers has

decreased the access to water throughout the community, and the labor costs to retrieve

water have increased.

Households depend on a variety of resources gathered from the forest but the

daily supply of dried fuelwood is the most important. Anyone in the household can

retrieve firewood while returning from distant pastures and fields. However, it is

considered a man's responsibility, and it often requires the use of a machete to chop up

fallen tree trunks. There is little charcoal used locally, although many Malfini peasants

produce it and sell it in the market where it eventually makes its way to urban consumers.

While charcoal may be a superior cooking fuel to wood, it will never be as inexpensive as

the abundant deadwood found in the fragmented forest.

Collecting, chopping, transforming and carrying other wood products from the

forest surrounding the village are primarily male labor activities. Men cut the saplings,

poles, and grass from the hardwood forest for housing and roofing. The yam crop

requires about 100 trellising stakes for every acre of climbing vines and these come from

the fastest regenerating forest species. Men use machetes to chop away at the original

canopy of giant hardwood species to burn in kilns and produce quicklime (lacho). Men

and boys cut lighter pine to sell in the marketplace and they perform most charcoal

production. When the pine logging industry is active, men provide all of the labor, from

the skilled positions of sawyers to the porters that carry planks on top of their heads to the

truck depot downstream.

Food Provision and Preparation

Food and necessary household goods come from kitchen and field gardens, from

neighbors and now, more importantly, from the marketplace. Anytime a household

purchases goods it must raise some cash, usually by harvesting something from the

garden and transporting it to the marketplace. Women have primary responsibility for

food budgeting and they supplement this with small plots of leeks, onions and thyme,

which propagate easily and provide a quick market return. In addition to grain, flour and

beans, a household needs salt, dried fish, cooking oil, garlic, pepper, cloves, sugar and

sometimes meat. Other crucial items are soap, matches, kerosene, medicines, and cheap

used clothing. Perhaps the greatest change in the market basket has been the increased

purchase of grains for consumption (BARA 1995).

The market is also the source of credit for part-time traders. Full-time

intermediaries supply goods in bulk for women who sell retail from out of their homes.

Part-time or seasonal trading includes women who at some time or another buy a large

bag of rice or a gallon of kerosene and sell small quantities to their neighbors. The

earnings are small, sometimes only pennies, but they can cover the cost of the portion

consumed by the household, blurring the distinction between the domestic and market


Once food is provisioned, it is prepared over a fire, usually in a single pot. A

household member must clean and peel root crops and sift grains and dried beans for

debris. If the household does not a have a store of cooking oil or salt, it must be

purchased from a neighbor who is retailing it. Food is most often roasted or boiled, but

manioc is processed in the form of bread, a time-consuming tradition that the women in

the village maintain. There are some days when household members purchase prepared

food or, if they are working a neighbor's field, sustain themselves on the meal the

neighbor serves them. Cheap foods such as raw sugar, fried dough, bananas, mangoes

and eggs are available for purchase, particularly on market days.

Haiti's internal marketing system was once considered the exclusive domain of

women. It was thought to be used equally by all households and to be a place with nearly

perfect competition (Lundahl 1979). In reality, most women do not participate in

marketing on a full-time basis. Marketing is a highly specialized and capitalized sector

of the economy. In addition, women do not play a significant role in many aspects of the

market, such as transportation or livestock sales. Peasants across all strata in the village

do sell their agricultural goods in the market, but the similarity ends there. Some are able

to transport their produce down to regional markets with better prices. The role of the

marketplace has also changed to become equally important as a place to secure food and

often receive credit. The purchase of food makes up the bulk of household expenditure

throughout the year, more than educational costs, agricultural investment, or even healing

and funerary expenses (BARA 1995).

Few jobs are gender-specific in Malfini. Although men rarely do laundry and

women rarely turn the soil with a hoe, I observed both of these situations over the years

in Malfini. More often, men and women in different households will exchange any

gender-specific tasks with one another through bartering (Smucker 1983). Women

ostensibly have control over much of the harvest and primary responsibility for childcare

and feeding the household members (Lowenthal 1984). Adult males are more likely to

spend time working in the gardens of other households, particularly in preparing the soil.

Other tasks that are gender-specific are pine logging (male) and most retail

marketing (female). There is also a variety of cottage industries which are gender-

specific, but these are merely low-paying supplements to farming. These cottage

industries include: preparing foods to sell by the roadside, cutting small trees for housing

posts, buying coffee in bulk and preparing the beans, healing through traditional bone

setting and massage and producing charcoal and quicklime production in the hardwood


Men and women share most agricultural tasks during the cropping cycle. Sharing

agricultural and domestic tasks shows the cooperative nature of the Haitian peasant

household. Nearly every peasant in Malfini, from the 7-year-old child to the oldest

widow, is engaged in labor-intensive horticulture in his or her own gardens and in the

gardens of others. Although some wealthier farmers may spend less time in producing

than in hiring labor and marketing goods, they are still actively involved in agriculture on

a daily basis.

Transformation of the Traditional Household

The traditional domestic unit of the Haitian peasantry was a co-residential

compound of houses (lakou). Under the recognized authority of a matriarch or patriarch

who distributed pre-inheritance land grants, the adult children built their homes and

raised their families in a common "yard" (Simpson 1942). The master of the lakou (met

lakou) controlled the land and used it to mobilize labor through his adult children

(Murray 1977). The traditions surrounding pre-inheritance grants for multi-generational

households still exist, even if the children do not live as close to their parents as they did


The lakou has evolved into autonomous households, which pursue individual

survival strategies (Smucker 1982). This transformation occurred for a variety of

reasons: fragmentation of the land base, greater distances between gardens, migration to

the city and the concentration of land wealth among fewer households (Smucker 1982).

In Chapters 4 and 5, I argue that the individual household is more concerned with

mobilizing labor than it is with the traditional occupation of acquiring land.

The family-held parcel of land is the most permanent asset in the village and the

only one that can be passed down through many generations. While housing may be the

single largest purchase over a peasant's lifetime, even stone and mortar homes are

relatively temporary, lasting no more than 20 years. A household's "portfolio" of

different land parcels consists of both spouses' holdings. Heirs have usually not formally

divided these holdings and they make informal arrangements for land use. The children

of both spouses then divide the land portfolio. Although children from a father's

previous relationship technically have the same rights as their half-siblings to inheritance,

they will generally not get the same access to land, unless the stepmother agrees to it.

Even if the family has become dispersed, the family landholding still includes an

ancestral lakou, where most of the children in the lineage were born, where homes are

built and rebuilt, and where wakes are held and tombs erected. A site that has been used

for generations usually has a canopy of useful trees from seed varieties that are many

generations old. The lakou, even if it is smaller and more individualized, is still the

setting for daily life, where household members raise their children, process and consume

their harvest, and keep their livestock at night. Most of the social interaction in the

community takes place in the lakou, from public disputes to market transactions.

In the traditional multi-residential compound, the division and re-division of a

limited land base among all the families remaining in the lakou eventually caused its

decline. The fragmentation of land ownership and the struggle to claim smaller parcels

led to a more neolocal pattern of establishing new households. Now, the adult children

and their common-law or "visiting spouse" will eventually save enough money and

move to a separate site on a pre-inheritance grant of land (Murray 1977).

Before establishing a separate residence, young couples will often remain at their

respective homes, continuing to "visit" with their spouses even after they have begun to

have children. When a couple moves away from the parental lakou they have more

independence and they generally move closer to their widely scattered gardens and

pasture. Residence and continued land use enhances family rights to these non-

contiguous and often distant land parcels.

In the absence of surveyed and notarized legal titles, local customary rules govern

land transfer and use. The heirs will resist titling inherited land as well as any attempts to

sell it outside of the family. The transfer of land over generations provides all recognized

children with a share of the patrimony and can lead to conflicts and fragmented

production. The problems of partible, bilateral inheritance are made worse by the lack of

formal land surveying and titling (Murray 1977). Conflicts arise when both men and

women have children from different spouses over a lifetime, sometimes from other

communities. One common problem occurs when a father dies and there is no title for the

last common-law spouse he had. In such a case, the widow has no claim to the deceased

spouse's land and his children from all his relationships may struggle over access to his

land. If the man was using a parcel that he shared with his brothers, they might use his

death to reestablish their rights to the land and exclude his widow and children.

Family land may remain undivided for many generations as the heirs work out

arrangements for its use as gardens, pasture and fallow. If a parent does not directly deed

land to a child, the adult child may have the option to purchase his/her inheritance before

the parent dies. A child may often do this to help a parent pay for anticipated funeral

costs or the health care bills that weaken and impoverish many elderly parents. If

legitimate title to the land exists or if the parcel has been surveyed and the deed

notarized, this pre-inheritance sale will stop challenges by other heirs.

Homes established on private land are found most often on a pre-inheritance

grant or an undivided family holding. Theoretically, all children inherit equally, but

women are at a disadvantage (they must pay someone to prepare gardens) and if they

migrate and return, their claim to a portion of the inheritance is weaker. Migration

stimulated by the jobs and education available in the cities acts as a force against the

extended family lakou if the migrants do not return to the community. Yet, some

migrants do return to their family household. Occasions when migrants return are when

they have not been successful in the city, if they are treating an illness using a traditional

healer, during the holidays, or to help with the start of planting seasons. Successful

migrants who return with financial resources use this income to build houses, plant

gardens or purchase livestock that the relatives in the lakou will raise.

Many of the settlers that have recently come to the upper La Hotte have

relinquished their claim to patrimony in their village of birth and therefore many are

virtually landless squatters. In the state forests where they have settled, they have

developed their own customary laws based on the traditional lakou. What was formerly

land subleased from the state can now be transferred to one's heirs as long as it is

cultivated regularly. This continues although they have no legal claim to the land.


The cultural traditions of work in rural Haiti emphasize not only family solidarity

but also inter-household support and cooperation. Peasants rarely perform any labor task

alone. Women cook with visitors and family surrounding the warm hearth. On

Saturday, women gather near the springs to wash laundry. Children often walk in pairs

to fetch water. Most adult males in the village work with a squad of their peers several

days a week.

In addition to sharing the drudgery of work, households help each other through

gifts, reciprocal exchange, joint ventures, shared childcare and the unspoken rule that

whoever is visiting during mealtime is offered a bowl of food (Simpson 1942). Shared

work, kinship, marriage, friendship and patronage all provide important links between

individual households. The exchange of goods and services with one's neighbors softens

the qualities of individualism, jealousy and superstition that pervade many relationships

among the peasantry (Smucker 1982).

One or more of the following characterizes all households: 1) A division of labor

exists among the membership in terms of tasks and responsibilities. 2) There is

inequality within most households, related to age, gender and other qualitative features.

3) The household pools its resources (part of the definition of the unit) but this pooling is

often incomplete.

These three characteristics are sometimes contradictory, but they demonstrate

both the cooperative and conflicting nature of the Haitian peasant household. Household

structures and family lineage tend to limit conflict within the household and across

networks throughout the village. In the struggle for land and resources, these kinship-

based ties can also be the basis for conflict and division within the community.

The solidarity and cooperation of the lakou still exists even when there is no

longer a multi-family compound or yard. Extended families often live under a single

roof. If adult children have erected a home in the yard, it is temporary until they can

build something more permanent away from the lakou.

Households perpetuate the traditions of cooperation, mutual support and equal

distribution of resources by extended family and non-kin members. These traditions

successfully provide a non-legal, customary access to land, opportunities for women in

the marketing system and, at least in principle, inheritance for all offspring (Murray


The autonomous household today is much more concerned with mobilizing and

selling labor. As a functional unit, the household must mobilize the labor to clear and

plant land in gardens, and assign the tasks of provisioning and preparing food and

collecting water and fuelwood. Household labor is now often supplemented in order to

perform these tasks. As the traditional lakou disappears, its traditions of solidarity are

expanded to include social networks throughout the village. The tradition of non-wage

exchange among kin and neighbors persists in Malfini as most male heads of household

belong to a reciprocal labor squad. Kinship and reciprocal labor arrangements help the

poorest families counteract the pressures of land scarcity and market dependency. The

rotating squad secures affordable labor for poorer households as well as assuring some

payment for work in wages.

Ethnographic data demonstrates the contradictory aspects of family and

neighborhood solidarity and homogeneity existing alongside relations of inequality and

exploitation. The traditional access to inheritance may discriminate against women and

against those who migrate for work; fraudulent land claims are common, as are usury and

child servitude. The duality of inter-household solidarity and village stratification exist

together in a small village where nearly every individual is related through extended

kinship to several other households.


As income stratification becomes more distinct and wage labor more prevalent,

kin and non-kin farmers both join in squads and sell their labor together. The patronage-

like relations with those households that control most of the land in Malfini and hire most

of the wage labor facilitate the transition to wage labor relations. The mobilization of

labor for agriculture is explored in more depth in the next two chapters.



This chapter details the planting calendar for different types of gardens and the

peasant production of the three important crops. The role that yams (Diascorea spp.),

sweet potatoes (Ipomea batatas) and black beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) play in the

farming system varies from one household to the next. The amount that a household

plants of each of these crops reveals qualitative data on economic stratification. I present

descriptive data showing that although seasonal weather patterns broadly shape farming

activities, individual strategies are more related to income stratification. This leads to

patterns in the household's sale or purchase of labor. I also analyze the strategies of

informal and formal land tenure which farmers use to access land.

The typical household farming system in the upper La Hotte watersheds is based

on a traditional swidden system with a fallow of pasture grass or forest regrowth for I

tolO years. Over the years, the fallow periods have become shorter and most of the

plateaus and hillsides revert to pasture grass with fewer endemic forest species growing

back. In the forest margins, and especially in the moist broadleaf forest, quick-growing

woody shrubs return to the rocky limestone for several years after the last harvest. The

extent of regrowth will increase labor requirements when it comes time to clear the land

again. Forest regrowth is cut with a machete, while the thick sod on the plateaus is cut

and turned over with a hoe.

Agriculture in Malfini is a combination of simple technology and inter-household

social relations that help guarantee that planting, weeding and harvesting are completed

on time. Many of the cultural rules and behaviors that organize agriculture are unique to

the Haitian peasantry. Some of the basic rules in Malfini include: following the cycles

the moon, reading the clouds over the La Hotte Mountains in the mornings and providing

workers with a good lunch and plenty of liquor. Men work side-by-side in fields

throughout Malfini, sharing the responsibilities and camaraderie of membership in a work

squad. Brothers, sons, in-laws and cousins work alternately in each other's gardens 3 to 6

days a week. The "president" of the work squad calls the workers to order before daylight

by blowing on a conch-shell (lambi) that is heard throughout the village. By the time

dawn breaks, two drummers will be keeping time and calling out verses for the line of

workers as they sing responses and lift their hoes in unison.

This peasant custom, in many ways unchanged since the turn of the century, is

becoming increasingly commodified. Agricultural land, the labor of workers and the

products they grow and consume have all become commodities. According to the World

Bank, more than 60% of rural income goes toward purchasing food (Wiens and Sobrado

1998). In a 1995 survey of households in southern Haiti, 42% of all the cattle raised were

owned by a household other than the one providing labor and pasture (BARA 1995).

Wages are replacing work exchange relations and households sell a greater percentage of

the harvest than they consume. This has led to changes in the labor relationships between

households and has solidified their division into different economic strata

Agricultural Calendar

Two rainy seasons and two dry seasons per year control the agricultural calendar.

The rainy seasons usually peak in May and October. The dry seasons start at the end of

November and in July. Some farmers start preparing their main garden at the end of

November and finish it by the end of March. There is increased activity before the

beginning of each rainy season as farmers prepare the soil and plant seeds in time to take

advantage of the first rains. The almost constant planting of gardens throughout the

agricultural calendar provides harvests of roots, tubers, and legumes throughout the year.

Sweet potatoes are ready in the spring, followed by black beans, manioc, and yams. For

various reasons, yams are central to the local system. They grow well, store easily and

have a high market value. The cloud-covered slopes of La Hotte provide year-round

pasture, and so the region becomes important when the rest of southern Haiti is in the dry

season and lowland pasture is limited. The humid conditions of the high mountains also

provide an extra season of black beans that can be planted in the fall.

There are periods of relative abundance, such as during the first black bean

harvest in April and the yam harvest in August. By December, all outstanding wages are

paid and each labor squad buys an animal to slaughter for feasting. The celebration at the

year's end provides the only opportunity for many households to eat meat for the entire


Rain dictates daily work schedules. Sometimes the rain falls so hard that a squad

gives up trying to work and everyone goes home. This is one reason why early

preparation during the dry season is more effective than extending the spring planting

from November to April. Those who have delayed planting and germination dates also

risk lower yields when the rains do not come as expected. Short droughts quickly dry out

the exposed clay soils where forests once grew.

The end of the rainy season in the fall coincides with the peak of the tropical

storm season and weeklong deluges can make the soil too wet for preparation by hand.

Days of unrelenting rain cause livestock illnesses and deaths, the loss of plantain trees in

yards and landslides on the hills that cause gardens and topsoil to be deposited into the


Despite the diversity in crops and planting times, there are difficult months.

Intense preparations from November through spring (with a short break around the New

Year) are followed by slower activity through the early summer. This coincides with a

period of reduced calories in the diet, called the "hungry season" (sewzon grangou), and an

increase in the proportion of carbohydrates purchased at the market (BARA 1995).

Before the first harvests in June and July, there are periods of widespread hunger in the

village, when the only foods available are boiled plantains, a few sweet potatoes and

manioc. This is due to both the lack of food crops that can be harvested and to the

absence of any crop that can be sold to purchase grains.

There is little work available during May and June when the heaviest rains curtail

most agricultural activity. This is the worst period of the sezon grangou. When there are

no sources of capital available, households rely on "social capital" (White and Smucker

1998) in the form of family obligation, godparentage, mutual exchange and patronage.

Future offspring from livestock may be sold on speculation, although the price will be

lower to reflect the advanced payment (Smucker 1983). In the worst case, the gardens

may be sold before harvest, sometimes in the month following the end of planting. Even

a household's kitchen garden with mature coffee trees may be leased out to a neighbor

for several years, including the harvest of coffee and the plantains that grow above them.

Unfortunately, in a small village where "everyone knows how you sleep" a household

that appears desperate enough to resort to measures such as these cannot expect their

neighbors to offer favorable prices.

The peasant credit system becomes a factor in production and resource control

during the sezon grangou. Those who have money to loan most often are market vendors

and local landowners, and they charge annual interest rates as high as 100% to 200%

(Smucker 1983). Local folklore in Malfini recounts the hunger that followed the great

hurricanes of the 1960s when households used their land titles as collateral for loans and

then never got the title back. Local landowners purchased some of the most productive

lands in the village "for the cost of a sack of flour".

Farmers anticipate unexpected expenses and hardships. Having a diversity of

crops and planting times are risk aversion strategies. Investing in livestock is usually not

for capital accumulation, but for insurance during the hard times. The major reason cited

for selling household livestock is to meet emergency needs (BARA 1995), such as the

cost of a funeral. Although elderly peasants may save up their money for a coffin and

store it in the rafters of the house to make sure they will be buried properly, when they

die there still may be no money available in the household for the funeral ceremonies.

Surviving family members will usually borrow the money for these expenses.

Garden Types

There are two types of gardens found in Malfini, the field garden and the kitchen

plot. Field gardens can also be divided into spring gardens and smaller, less diverse

gardens later in the year. The kitchen garden is known locally as "in front of the door"

(devan port). In this garden, squad labor is rarely used and crops are harvested

continually to sell for small amounts of cash or to be added directly to the cooking pot.

The household garden may be small, but it is critical to the survival of many households

throughout certain parts of the year. In the yard, perennial crops such as coffee (Coffea

arabica), castor bean (Ricinus communis) and heirloom varieties of yams grow under a

canopy of plantains (Musa spp.). The older household gardens provide cash crops,

medicinal herbs and foods prescribed for illnesses, and serve as a seed bank for locally

adapted varieties that may not be widely produced.

Table 4-1
Common Crops in the Household Garden
Crop Scientific name
Yams Diascorea spp.
Plantains Musa spp.
Taro Colocasia spp.
Cocoyam Xanthosoma spp
Coffee Coffea arabica
Castor bean Ricinus communis
Leeks & chives Allium spp.
Chayote Sechium edule
Squash Curcubita moschata

The household plot usually has the most intense soil management because of

composting of household waste, livestock manure where cattle, pigs, chickens and sheep

are tethered at night, and the dense canopy of trees and shrubs growing over it. It is often

the sole domain of the female head of household who invests in the production of spices

and leeks to raise cash for food purchases in the marketplace. Recently established

households, such as those belonging to young couples and recent migrants, have less

diversity in their kitchen gardens, which makes them more vulnerable economically until

the canopy of plantains and coffee can be established.

Preparation of the first garden begins near the end of the calendar year in order to

take advantage of the spring rains (Table 4-2). The rains intensify beginning in March

and reach their peak in May. The work on the spring planting is very intense for four

months or more, with much of the squads working for wages. Many squads from outside

the village are hired to meet local demand for labor in Malfini.

Table 4-2
Primary Field Crops and Planting Dates__
Crop Scientific Name Spring March July November
Sweet Potato Ipomea batatas *
Manioc Manihot escuelenta *
Black beans Phaseolus vulgaris *
Yams Diascorea spp *
Pigeon pea Cajanus cajanus *
Taro Colocasia spp *
Cocoyam Xanthosoma spp. *
Corn Zea mays *
Squash Cucurbita moschata *

The diverse spring planting has the greatest variety of crops, and is the focus of

the labor input data described here. Farmers typically use a long-handled hoe to build a

high furrow or bit, and then plant yams at the top of each hill. Approximately 2 to 3

months later, farmers place stakes throughout this garden and the vines of the yams will

climb to about 6 feet. They are susceptible to wind damage and so farmers prefer to plant

them in protected areas. Some 20 different varieties of roots, tubers, grains and legumes

are planted in this first garden of the year. There are almost a dozen varieties of yam, 3

types of sweet potato and 2 kinds of manioc.

The yams are planted first and then surrounded by sweet potatoes, manioc,

squash, beans and corn. Yam seed is expensive to purchase and farmers retain their

varieties for many years. The poorest farmers cannot afford to plant yams in the field,

and although they may have small amounts growing in the household garden, the spring

garden may be limited to the staple crops of sweet potatoes and manioc. The mounds

built up for sweet potatoes (bit patat) are lower but closer together than the furrows made

for yams. The sweet potato mounds require less labor for preparation.

The second type of field garden is started immediately after the main spring

garden has been planted. It is usually located apart from the yam garden, but it may be in

an adjacent field. The second type of garden usually consists of 1 to 3 crops, usually

sweet potatoes and manioc, and sometimes, black beans (see Table 4-2).

By the time the second dry season returns in July, another smaller, less diverse

garden is planted. This garden usually contains black beans, the most important cash

crop in Malfini. The fourth possible garden during the year is usually just sweet potatoes,

but if suitable land is available, such as the high elevation mountains, black beans can be

planted again. Each of the sweet potato gardens is important for providing cuttings that

will be planted in a new garden six months later. Each sweet potato garden also provides

a staggered harvest of food throughout the year.

These less diverse gardens do not require the same labor intensity or investment

as the spring yam garden. Because they provide food during the hungry months and

seeds and cuttings for future plantings, they can be just as important.

The two main gardens are generally distinguished by the differences in labor

required for turning the soil to build the bit yam. Finding land for the spring garden

involves either clearing forest regrowth or breaking up the sod formed by the grass

fallow. This is followed by squads of workers who build the furrows for yams and

sometimes additional furrows for manioc. Once a garden is prepared, the labor squad

moves on to the garden of the next member, leaving the owner and his family to do the

planting. Each crop that is planted on the furrow represents more days spent in farming

activity by the whole family or more days of individually hired labor.

A farmer may plant in one portion of the garden before the whole plot is fully

prepared. This is especially true if the farmer cannot find labor all at once and there is a

delay in finishing the plot. It is more possible to have staggered planting dates for some

crops than for others. Sweet potatoes are planted from November to March, yams are

best planted from December through February and black beans have one of the shortest

planting windows--from January through February. Individual farmers may plant early or

later according to soil conditions or the changes in the schedule of rains; however, the

later one plants, the greater the risk of crop loss or reduced yields.

Soil types, rainfall and the need for deep furrows to improve drainage shape the

work calendar. Most wage labor is expended on building furrows in the early part of the

year. Less labor is needed where grass sod has grown, than in the rocky limestone

outcrops. Many garden plots require some effort in removing and piling rocks after the

initial clearing and before the high furrow building. All crops need to be weeded after

about three months. The farmer and his family may do this or a squad of female laborers

may be hired. Because the first weeding coincides with the spring black bean harvest,

weeding and harvesting are performed simultaneously and the job is often paid for with a

portion of the harvest.

The spring garden consumes most of the productive capital and squad labor that

households use. It is the reason for much of the debt incurred for production throughout

the year. Much of the year's wage labor is mobilized early for the spring garden and most

days are sold for cash or credit. Squads may not begin exchanging days until March,

when the spring garden is completed.

The presence of taro varieties indicates the best quality soils, such as recently

cleared forest and the nutrient rich sinks in the dogtooth limestone. Yams are also a good

indicator of fertile soil. If a plot has some protection from the constant winds in Malfini

and the soils hold moisture well it will usually be planted in yams. Sweet potatoes and

manioc indicate the poorest quality oxisols. The intensive spring garden occupies a parcel

of land for several years. Manioc and the pigeon peas remain in the garden for up to a

year and a half. The land is then left fallow for an average of 2 to 5 years. Fallow

periods can be up to 10 years on forested parcels where regeneration of native species is

considered a positive indicator of soil fertility. Land that returns to pasture grass has

shorter fallows.

Principal Crops

The principal crops in the upper La Hotte region are well suited for both market

production and household consumption production. Root crops and tubers grow well in

the clay soils and wet conditions of upper La Hotte. Despite the bulk and weight of root

crops and tubers, they are easily marketable, nutritious and non-perishable. These crops

can be kept in the ground for a limited time and they do not spoil easily or become

damaged en route to market, which is important because the production system lacks

storage facilities. Most important to this cash-strapped region, these crops produce their

own seed supply and offer flexible planting and harvest dates all through the agricultural

year. The two greatest drawbacks to producing root crops and tubers are the amounts of

labor required to properly furrow the soil and the long maturation times, from 8 months

(yams) to 18 months (manioc).

Farmers across different socio-economic strata may plant from 3 to 9 crops in

their spring gardens (Table 4-2), but those households with the most resources tend to

plant the greatest diversity of crops. The factors that constrain crop diversity are

unsuitable soils, declines in soil fertility, inability to purchase timely labor and the lack of

cash to purchase seed. The qualitative differences in production of yams, sweet potatoes

and black beans are good indicators of household income levels.


The basis for agricultural success in Malfini is the spring yam garden. Yams are

as valuable as logging investments, cattle ranching and black bean gardens. The crop

requires comparatively intense labor for soil preparation, but as long as this input remains

inexpensive, a garden of yams will always yield something. Even if all yam varieties in

the spring garden fail, there is still valuable yam planting material, which a farmer can

sell for a good price or replant the following year. In contrast, sweet potatoes and manioc

are the staple crop for poorer households because they are inexpensive to plant and

planting material is easily tradable for labor.

Yams were a major crop in the lower elevation communities of the watershed and

migrants to Malfini brought the crop with them from the lowlands. There are about a

dozen traditional cultivars of yams with three principal market varieties: guinea

(Diascorea rotundata), plenn bit (Diascorea cayenensis) and panyol (Diascorea


To plant yams, a farmer must uproot the planting sett (tet yam) from the previous

year's garden and transport it to the new field. However, in 30 cases of the survey

sample, farmers bought tet yam by the basketful because they did not have enough from

the previous planting or they were expanding their stores of the more expensive varieties.

The cost of a basket of planting material ranged from $10 to $20, depending on the

variety. The key factor in market-directed production is to harvest the crop in July and

August before the price starts to drop in the main market of Port-au-Prince. The heirloom

varieties of yams can be harvested throughout much of the year but they are only grown

in small quantities.

The amount of yams planted is a good indicator of both household income levels

and the amount of extra-household labor mobilized. Table 4-3 shows how the number of

baskets of yams planted by a household are related to both a higher use of extra-

household labor and a higher overall level of income (see Chapter 6 for details on income

level indicators).

Table 4-3
Yams as an Indicator of Wealth and Labor Mobilization______
Baskets of yams planted N % Extra-household days of labor Wealth index
____ ____used in the spring_______
1-3 12 26.0 24 $140.00
4-7 13 28.2 28 $211.00
8-13 12 26.0 57 $326.00
15+ 9 19.5 121 $742.00
Total 46________________________

Sweet Potatoes

Malfini peasants grow three varieties of sweet potatoes, distinguishable by their

flesh, which is tinged white, yellow or purple. Gardens of these varieties cover more than

half the agricultural land in the village. Sweet potatoes provide important carbohydrates

in the peasant diet nearly year-round. The crop takes a long time to mature, and sweet

potatoes planted the previous year will help families through the hungry months of April

through June. They also store well in the ground and children will be sent into fields that

are long abandoned to search for a few forgotten sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are boiled or roasted on hot coals and then peeled and eaten.

When families are working together in their gardens, fresh roasted sweet potatoes are

often the only food they will eat during the day. In addition to being a critical food crop,

the production of sweet potatoes forms community links among households. Households

may share sweet potatoes during mealtimes and households that need vine cuttings during

planting may get them as gifts or through credit, labor exchange or in anticipated

reciprocity the following season.

The number of sweet potato gardens a farmer plants throughout the year indicates

his/her socio-economic status (Table 4-2). Because of a long planting window, sweet

potatoes are planted almost year round, but as a rule, they must be established before the

heaviest rains. They should get at least one weeding, otherwise their growth will be

stunted and tuber production will be inadequate. They are an important part of the large

spring garden and are planted in a separate monocrop in March and April, immediately

after the spring garden is completed. While yams may cover only a portion of the spring

garden, all of the soil that has been turned will be planted in sweet potato cuttings. They

are also planted again between July and November.

Although sweet potatoes are low-risk and require less investment and labor than

other crops, some farmers still may not be able to mobilize the labor needed to plant. A

farmer who cannot plant in November will not have cuttings to plant in the March

garden. Therefore, whether a farmer must purchase cuttings is another good indicator of

economic success.

It is relatively simple to establish sweet potatoes. A small furrow is made with a

hoe, often just cutting the sod about 6" down and turning it over. The field is ready for

planting when the weeds and sod have dried out. Finding enough sweet potato vine

runners (bwa patat) to fill one's garden can be difficult. Using a knife, it takes a farmer

about a half-day's work to get enough bwa patat for one tightly packed bunch (paket),

which weighs approximately 15-20 lbs. A paket can be sold for $1 if it is uncut in the

field or for $2 if it is cut and packaged. The later it is in the planting season, the higher

the price. Eventually no more cuttings can be found locally and trips downstream to

another nearby sweet potato region may become necessary.

The farmer carries a paket to the field and lays out each individual bwa patat

(approximately 24 inches long) next to a furrow. The farmer's spouse and children will

often follow behind him and make a hole in the soil with a sharp stick, place one end of

the vine in the soil and then cover it up. Because of the humidity and frequent cloud

cover, the newly planted cuttings can survive for some time without an initial rainfall.

Within six months, new runners will be long enough to be cut for replanting in the

next garden. The initial planting will yield tubers after about nine months and can remain

in the ground for several months after that. The tubers are harvested using the same type

of sharpened stick used for planting, and they are often roasted to provide a meal on the

spot. If sweet potato gardens are not weeded on time or if virus and uneven rainfall

damage them, the tubers will not grow. Old gardens that have yielded one harvest

provide good forage for pigs. Sweet potatoes are increasingly sold while still in the field

so that pigs can be tethered in the garden to root them up.


Forty years ago, black beans were only the second most important legume grown

in southern Haiti, and red beans were the first (Street 1960). However, with increased

demands for black beans by urban consumers, the crop is now worth more for its weight

than coffee. Beans are an ideal crop because of their short season maturity and ready

market demand. If the soil chosen for black beans is fertile and the rains arrive on time,

the bean yields can be high, from 5 to 20 pounds of harvest for every pound planted.

Most of the upper elevation forest that was cleared in the La Hotte range was for

black bean production (Woods et al. 1989). Despite the initial yields of black bean

gardens in the newly cleared forest, the rapid degradation of the slopes has reduced yields

and raised the risk for planting black beans. Beans germinate, then flower, and mature so

rapidly that they are at risk for unseasonable weather changes in the mountains. A short

drought or tropical storm can wipe out an entire investment in beans, which are quite

expensive to buy during the planting season. They are also susceptible to diseases caused

by the humid conditions of the higher mountains. Malfini farmers do not have any

chemicals available to treat pests and diseases.

Beans are planted at the end of the dry season so they can mature before the

heaviest rains of May and October, but the most important garden for black beans is in

July. Those farmers who can prepare land and plant beans at the earliest dates are more

often successful. The amount of black beans a household is able to plant in July is

indicative of their available resources and ability to take risk.

Minor Crops

The remaining crops can be divided into consumption or cash crops, although all

food crops can be sold in the market if necessary. The most important cash crops planted

around the home are thyme, leeks and chives. Women usually purchase small packets of

leeks and chives for seed and then propagate them in raised beds. Through thinning and

multiplying the number of beds, they can yield a harvest in less than two months. The

size of a household's leek and chive gardens often expands with the income of the

household, sometimes reaching one-fourth of a hectare.

Coffee grows semi-wild around the older houses in the village, and while some

of it may be consumed, it is usually processed and sold in the marketplace. Malfini

peasants may also purchase coffee from other communities so they can carry it home to

process and resell to coffee intermediaries at a higher price. Peasants may also process

castor bean oil to sell locally and to processing factories downstream. Like coffee, castor

beans grow around the household and require little cultivation.

Malanga and mazonbel, local varieties of taro, are both good market crops and

highly valued foods. If good land is available, farmers will purchase seed stock at one of

the lowland regional markets and carry it up to Malfini. However, the small amounts

planted by most farmers nowadays (because of declines in soil fertility) make them less

important than yams, manioc or sweet potatoes. They are frequently found in

waterlogged soils in ravines and along streams, ponds and on the sides of sinkholes. Land

that is suitable for taro is highly valued by farmers and part of the folklore of the region is

the enormous taro that used to grow when the forests were first cleared.

Crops that are primarily consumed include chayotte, squash, a small amount of

corn, eggplant, and okra. While forest resources are important in the local economy and

as cooking fuel, there are few tree crops. The high elevations of the village prevent

widespread citrus production and there are no mangoes and few avocados grown locally.

The most important tree crops are plantains, followed by coffee.

With the wide variety of crops available in Malfini, each garden owner must make

environmental calculations about crop suitability for a particular parcel, estimate the

amount of resources to invest and try to meet the best dates for planting. In addition to

paying for labor and sometimes seed, the garden owner may also have to pay a price for

land, whether through rent or through sharecropping. Each farmer must navigate between

the physical features of production (the soils, climate and different crops) and the social

organization of production (the exchange and sale of labor, the land tenure and market

systems). This is the focus of the next section.

Strategies of Land Access

Land tenure categories were obtained for 88 parcels planted in the spring of 1997.

Approximately 26 % of the parcels farmed were held under some sort of tenancy, either

sharecropped or rented. Another 29% was land that was owned by the state but which

local people used without paying for it. Private ownership, in various categories of

ownership, from inheritance to purchase, made up the tenure category for 46% of the


The three types of landowners-state, local and absentee-hold land of differing

quality. For example, state lands are generally degraded, but there are many parcels in the

buffer zone with healthy stands of forest and fertile soils. The category of ownership and

security of tenure does not distinguish the productive capabilities of the parcel, nor

predict how much effort the farmer will invest in the garden.

There are three ways to access additional land beyond what the household has

inherited or purchased: sharecropping, renting or staking a claim to a state parcel. The

suitability of a parcel for a particular crop has become increasingly dependent on the

extent of soil erosion and loss of fertility and less on the tenure category. In general, the

cost of renting is not prohibitive, if a farmer has the means to invest in a garden.

Farmers who already have good land and the means to hire labor also rent the

most productive land in the village--the deep soils of the plateau. At the time of this

research, the rent for a 1-carreaux garden (3.3 acres) with good quality soil was

approximately $100 to $150 for one season. This is about the same cost one might have

paid for a calf or young bull purchased in the market. Lands that are sub-leased through

an absentee owner are generally also good quality. A manager (geran) who works for the

absentee owner controls access to these land parcels.

When I tested the three land tenure categories of the main spring garden for

different associations, the results were mostly inconclusive. Those households that

depended on state lands invested the least in their gardens and, as expected, had the

lowest income indicators. Those who accessed land through tenancy had the same

income levels as those that used privately held lands. However, those that used tenancy

to access land did use a significantly higher amount of extra-household labor (Table 4-4).

This is because those households that could afford to hire more labor could also afford to

lease or sharecrop additional land.

Table 4-4
Land Tenure and its Relationshi to Labor Mobilization
Tenure category of spring N % Extra-household days of labor used in the
garden ___ Spring
Tenancy 22 22.4 115
State owned 30 30.0 50
Privately held 46 46.9 166
Total 98 100_____ 1 ______

While good quality land that has long-term farming potential is limited, the space

for gardens is not the main constraint of local farmers: it is the lack of cash to access land

and make it productive. Households that are land-poor, but have a little extra income

because of urban-job migration illustrate this. The three adult males in the survey that

had recently worked in urban construction jobs invested as much as $200 in their spring

gardens, even though their homes and livestock holdings predicted a much smaller

investment. While most farmers in Malfini have landholdings that are limited in quality,

what they lack most is the capital to make agriculture productive and to use the good

lands that are available in Malfini.


The most difficult economic task that Malfini households face is having sufficient

cash or credit to pay market expenses throughout the year. Every household must

purchase food for its own members as well as for pregnant and nursing mothers, sick and

bedridden elderly, religious ceremonies and work parties. The annual costs of staples

such as sorghum, cornmeal, millet, sugar and flour and of luxury foods such as meat and

rice are greater than the short- term costs of illness, funeral expenses, or children's

education (BARA 1995). The money for these purchases must come from household crop

sales, wages, trading in the marketplace or from credit and loans.

The dual nature of most agricultural production, for food and for the income to

buy food, reveals the stratification of Malfini households. Those who can afford to invest

in activities that are purely market directed, such as large cash crop gardens, can also

afford to hire and feed squad labor. These households may also lease part of their lands

to sharecroppers and they receive food and market crops from their tenants. Those

households that work for agricultural wages depend on the cash to make up for their

consumption deficits. The upper and lower strata are intimately linked within the village

through patronage, tenancy and family relations.

The poorer strata grow a greater proportion of crops that are consumed by their

own households and these crops have a lower market value than the primary cash crops.

The household that expends its labor in sharecropping has to turn over part of the harvest

that it would normally consume. Sharecropping is just one more reason that peasants

must go to the marketplace to make up for the food deficit.

Village level stratification determines how households gain access to land, labor

and forest resources, which also determines some control over the agro-climactic

conditions. To increase the profitability of farming and lower the environmental risks of

crop failure, wealthier farmers gain access to the rich topsoil of undisturbed forest, or to

non-eroded plots with fewer rocks. Then they hire labor to prepare the garden early and

to weed it when needed. This ability to maneuver within the constraints of the physical

environment has become an indicator of class status.

The increasing domination by the Port-au-Prince market for food crops as well as

the expansion of the market system as a source of food for rural Haitians exploits

agricultural producers and rural consumers. Nonetheless, some local people play an

active role in the marketplace and become the intermediaries that bring urban goods to

the village and provide credit to rural consumers.

In Chapter 5, I analyze the economic stratification further by looking at the

livestock and squad labor sectors. In Chapters 6 and 7, I test the origins of this

stratification by using various independent household variables.



Chapter 4 provided a description of a farming system that rewarded those who

could diversify production, mobilize labor in a timely fashion and gain access to the best

available soils in the village. These peasants can reinvest their surplus income in bigger

gardens, livestock or marketing ventures. The description of the fannrming system included

ethnographic data showing the different success rates that Malfini households had in

meeting these goals. I concluded that the seasonal patterns and natural landscape of

Malfini does not produce uniform agricultural production and that households were quite

economically stratified. This chapter looks at two income-generating options farmers

have: investing in livestock and expanding gardens using wage labor. The data will

demonstrate how traditional forms of agricultural production such as livestock guardian

contracts (gadinaj) and squad labor are adapting to a cash-based economy.

Livestock have often been considered a form of peasant savings (Jaffe 1990).

Livestock are becoming a commodity and a market investment for those who can use

tenants to provide labor and pasture. The gadinaj tradition has adapted to this process. A

caretaker that used to receive one of the offspring in return for pasturing an animal will

now frequently receive a cash payment at the end of the contract.

The use of wage labor in farming is also increasing. Members in a traditional

squad used to exchange their labor, now they buy and sell much of their labor. Most of

the time, work squad members buy and sell labor within the squad, but one member may

buy the majority of available days. Households with higher incomes that are not

members of the squad are also contracting squad labor more often.

The data show a division in the community between squad members (who are

often also livestock guardians) and those individuals in the community that purchase

labor and invest in livestock. The exchange and sale of labor among the squad is

analyzed here, providing details of the way labor is mobilized for all economic strata in

Malfini. Most squad members for example, must hire their peers for some work, and

they often delay payment until the end of the year. In contrast, some squad members

have honorary positions and buy most of the days available but offer little labor in

exchange. The squads also contract their labor to the highest bidder in the village,

negotiating a rate for the group and a guaranteed amount of liquor.

Sometimes a gadinaj contract is combined with a work squad agreement. The

owner of a cow or bull often requires one day of labor from the guardian and his entire

squad (4-10 members) to secure a gadinaj contract. Known as "giving a day" (bay

joune), the donated labor can be required every year if the guardian wishes to renew the


Households combine different processes such as production for consumption,

cash cropping, non-wage family labor and contracted wage labor, and manipulating

various land tenure relations. When households participate in multiple class relations, it

makes it difficult to assign households to one class position or another (Deere 1990). The

variety of relationships within and between the households of the village give men and

women room to maneuver and adapt to the changes taking place in Haitian agriculture.

At the same time, the data presented here shows how access to natural resources and

farming inputs is rigidly stratified and how this stratification constrains households in


Local Livestock Production

In Malfini, peasants raise livestock almost exclusively for the marketplace.

Strategies may be long-term, such as raising a young animal for several years or short-

term, such as providing pasture for a full-grown animal in order to reach market weight

within one year. Yet, the purpose is to sell the animal, not consume it. Approximately

30% of households interviewed sold an animal to raise funds for the January 1997

garden. Those who did sell an animal used more labor than the average garden owner

(Table 5-1). This figure includes days mobilized through exchange, credit and cash at the

end of the day. Those farmers who reported selling livestock, especially cattle, for

garden investments also had a significantly higher income level (with a p-value below


Table 5-1
Significance of Selling Livestock for Garden Expenses_________
Did household sell an N % Mean number of days of Mean income index
animal for garden extra-household labor
expenses? _____mobilized
No 48 .67 33 $241.00
Sold pig 2 .02 127 $407.00
Sold goat 12 .16 129 $424.00
Sold cow or bull 9 .12 190 $674.00
Total 71 100_______________________

Of the 30% of households that sold an animal to pay for a garden, all but one still

had remaining livestock. The farmer who raises cash for agricultural investment does not

deplete his "savings" and does not have to start all over again. One household