The story of the island of Haiti is a compendium of the worst that can undoubtedly be inflicted in terms of societal and environmental over-exploitation. It’s easy to compare what was imposed on this territory just a little smaller than Belgium for 500 years with the way we each treat our own eco-systems, depending on our professions (purchasing being my case). Exploitation by force, without the search for value creation, without regeneration in both the literal and figurative sense, can only bring destruction and disaster. In Haiti, the situation continues to deteriorate, as a warning of the consequences of what we are inflicting on our ecosystems. History certainly informs the future, but we are dunces who refuse to learn.
Here, in a few lines, is the tragic story of this Caribbean territory, a summary of what awaits us on a global scale.
At the time of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the island, we are told that around 80% of its territory was forested. Intensive coffee cultivation during the French colonial period, rubber plantations developed by the Americans during the Second World War, and the industrial exploitation of timber organized by the Duvalier family at the head of the country have impoverished the soil. Today, the primary forest has completely disappeared. The many hurricanes that hit the region and their torrential rains have only accelerated the process of erosion caused by deforestation. That’s for the environmental aspect.
As for the societal aspect, the territory, inhabited by slaves who had been deported there to replace the primitive populations decimated by the conquistadors, obtained its independence in 1825 from King Charles X in return for an indemnity of 150 million gold francs. As Haiti was considered the richest of the French colonies at the time, it was necessary to “compensate” France for the loss of revenue. To pay this sum, Haiti borrowed from French banks. The country only paid off its debt to its former colonizer in the 1950s, after continuing to deforest its territory in order to bring in foreign currency. These payments ultimately wrecked the country’s economy, costing it “between $21 and $115 billion in lost economic growth”, according to a recent New York Times investigation, which refers to “a debt spiral that has paralyzed the country for more than a century”.
It’s up to each profession to assume its responsibilities. For my part, as a purchasing professional, I advocate the regenerative purchasing method. We’ve gone too far in terms of destroying value through head-on negotiations and low-cost country sourcing. The supplier ecosystems of Western countries must be regenerated, or risk another economic paralysis at the next health or geo-political crisis. We won’t be able to say we didn’t know.

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