haiti: strengthening food sovereignty

The threats posed by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not very well known in Haiti — or at least no one there speaks much about them. To raise awareness in all the relevant sectors, Friends of the Earth Haiti / Haiti Survie ran a project about GMOs and their impacts, and at the same time they began an action plan for food sovereignty.

haiti gmo'swhat happened: Starting in June 2007, this project was to last six months, and the group expected that deadlines could be met even though the project period coincided with the hurricane season.

Their main objectives were to sensitize and inform the population and decision-makers about the problems presented by GMOs. They also needed to drive home the urgent need for measures to prevent the entry of genetically modified products into Haiti. An important aspect of this goal was conducting assessments to determine whether GMOs were present in food products sold in Haiti. Finally, the campaign aimed to enhance food sovereignty by supporting the implementation of the action plan adopted at the February 2007 World Forum for Food Sovereignty meeting in Sélingué, Mali.

A number of activities were organized to reach the proposed objectives. Information was gathered about GMOs and their impact on health and the environment; this was used to produce various materials that were distributed among peasant organizations, local radio presenters and the general public. The group also began work on a survey that will be used to inform the public about the current status of GMOs in Haiti.

In addition, FoE Haiti organized workshops in four regions of the country, where they informed people about GMOs and their effects on health and the environment. They discussed the current status of the situation at the national level, described actions that could be taken, and compared these to what is being done in the rest of the world.

what we learned: An important need identified was the necessity to enhance national and family production so as to supply school canteens. This is a prime example of food sovereignty that should be addressed at a second step of this project, through a production program that would enable people to produce what they consume.

Of the objectives we set, 80 percent were achieved. The survey on the current state of GMOs in Haiti was not completed within the original deadline, however, the group expects it to be published during the first quarter of 2008.

What became clear is that six months is not enough time to generate real awareness about this issue. However, the beneficiaries of this project were satisfied with its results, and committed to continue spreading the knowledge they had gained, with the ultimate goal of putting pressure on the government to achieve better management of GMOs.

what next: Continued support is requested to start the second phase of the project, to allow Friends of the Earth Haiti / Haiti Survie to keep on spreading information and creating awareness, at all levels, about GMOs and their risks.

with thanks to our funders: the sigrid rausing trust

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