Chavannes Jean-Baptiste

Chavannes Jean-Baptiste

Haitian agronomist who founded the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP for its Creole acronym) to improve the living conditions of the rural population in his Caribbeancountry.

Jean-Baptiste Chavannes is MPP´s executive director, anorganization that helps rural workers with problems of soil infertility. The organization also stimulates regional economic development through the establishment of agricultural cooperatives. Papaye is a farming community in Hinche, the main city in the central region of Haiti, and the MPP is the most successful and most important community program on the island. Today, this movement has more than 60,000 members, including 20,000 women and 10,000 Haitian youths.
Today, Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Americas. Some 80% of the population lives in extreme poverty, 53% lack education and 75% depend on subsistence farming. This Caribbean country has experienced a massive deforestation and only 2% of the island’s land remains covered with trees. This level of deforestation has significantly affected the levels of soil erosion and left the land highly infertile, which increases the problem of food scarcity. At the same time, deforestation has been responsible for the instability of the land, which has led to more frequent floods and landslides that have claimed thousands of lives. This environmental degradation is the direct result of poor economic development and a history of colonial exploitation, military invasions, dictatorships and political violence.

Since the 1970s, sustainable development has been one of the most consistent goals in political, economic and social discussions aimed at improving the quality of life for the world’s poorest populations. In Haiti, economic, political and social conditions have converged in a deteriorated environmental situation where the very concept of sustainable development faces particularly significant challenges. In these adverse conditions, Jean-Baptiste Chavannes has helped found 15 agricultural and fishing cooperatives in various sites around Haiti. Although he is an agronomist by training, he has developed his skills as an agricultural technician, an educator, a community organizer and an administrator of cooperatives to be able to fulfill his tasks.

For more than 30 years, Jean-Baptiste has worked for soil conservation in Haiti. Along with his colleagues, he has dedicated himself to training farmers in sustainable irrigation techniques, development of natural fertilizers and pesticides and developing low-cost structures to prevent and control erosion. These initiatives have helped reduce malnutrition and dependence on food imports, as well as protecting bodies of water, and have helped reduce the levels of poverty in the central region of Haiti. In 1993 he received the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Award from BrownUniversity and in 2005 he was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.

Author: Harrison Flores Ortiz
Published: May 29, 2012.

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