Haitians - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. About 65 percent of the labor force are small landowners engaged in agriculture (one of the highest proportions of peasants in any country); only about 7 percent are in manufacturing. One percent of workers are involved in construction and 27 percent in other sectors. Agriculture is precarious because the countryside is 95 percent deforested, and 25 percent of the soil is undergoing rapid erosion. Haiti's primary products are coffee, sugar, rice, and cocoa. Its light manufacturing enterprises produce shoes, soap, flour, cement, and domestic oils. Its export industries produce garments, toys, baseballs, and electronic goods for the U.S. market. Despite this small-scale industrialization, the annual per capita income is estimated at $380. The current instability of the government is having deleterious effects on the national economy.

Industrial Arts. Many people engage in part-time craft work, particularly in the manufacture of wood utensils, tools, and furniture. Formerly, many of these items were destined for the tourist trade.

Trade. Most commercial exchange is carried out in open-air markets. The market women are justly famous both for carrying heavy loads of merchandise and for bargaining with great skill. Haiti's economy is closely tied to that of the United States; a sizable portion of its exports go to North America, and it is dependent on governmental and nongovernmental U.S. aid.

Division of Labor. In rural areas, men generally handle agricultural production, and women take charge of the produce. The women depend on the men to provide a product to sell, and the men depend on the women for domestic labor.

Land Tenure. A crucial problem facing the newly independent Haiti was access to land. Having failed in its attempt to reinstate the plantation system of colonial Saint Domingue, the government distributed much of the land among the former slaves. Currently, from 60 to 80 percent of the farmers own their own land, although few have clear title, and the plots are fragmented and small. Fairly large plantations do exist but not nearly to the same extent as in Latin American countries. The state owns land, but the government has rarely shown a sustained interest in agriculture.

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