This system of agricultural self-reliance provided a better quality of life than that of African descendants anywhere else in the Americas. The country attracted many immigrants, including thousands of African-Americans. And though the United States government didn’t officially recognize Haiti until 1862, American businessmen eagerly traded with the island nation.
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The return on the investment in the rural economy would be self-reliance, the alleviation of dangerous overcrowding in cities and, most important, a path toward ending Haiti’s now chronic problems of malnutrition and food insecurity. As Haitians look to rebuild in 2012, the best blueprints will come from their own proud and vibrant history.