Today, the ‘African Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future’ Report was released. The Report is a collaborative effort between the UN Development Programme, the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank. The main message of the Report was that “Africa has no business rattling the begging bowl for food aid…. Africa has ample land, water and favourable climate to feed itself.” Some actions that African governments can take in order to reduce food insecurity are: ” 1) increasing agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers; 2) boosting nutrition by expanding access to health services, education and clean water; 3) implementing social programmes that protect farmers against natural disasters and conflict; and 4) giving women and marginalised groups access to land and technology.”

Read more: http://allafrica.com/stories/201205170149.html

What I find most interesting is the absence of any mention of good governance. This is paradoxical, given that food insecurity, poverty & hunger — all of which are interrelated — are, as James Cypher and James Dietz argue, ‘political-economic’ problems.

I didn’t realize how complicated it was to switch from emergency relief to rebuilding the country. The complexity of the problems are so simple and it’s really sad that they are not getting fixed because of technicalities, funding and paper work. For example, the woman with mangoes only needs a canal so she can use the water in the river right beside her potential farm. NGOs have been helping for 50 years and the people are increasingly poorer and the organizations get richer every year. This is why many Haitians are wary of these NGOs and don’t trust them. 

This is so unfortunate because the intent of the NGOs, the core goal is supposed to be real development of rebuilding that helps the people live better than they have before. I feel like these simple problems could be solved if communication between the local Haitians and NGOs were more solid and that the paper work could be made simpler. It shouldn’t be so complicated to get some crates to people who want them, crates which the corporations want to give to them. That’s ridiculous. Things must be made more down to earth and not so bureaucratic. 

The question of ” was the Earthquake the best thing that ever happened to Haiti?” disturbs me because while I understand the world was focused on Haiti and the earth quake opened up the space to address all of Haiti’s problems at once, why does it need an earthquake to motivate all the experts and why aren’t the locals more involved in the development projects of their own nation? I also find it quite unnerving that corporations make promises to locals and before the project has taken off or finished, somebody makes a decision in the States about funding and all of a sudden they stop that project. What does that say about the integrity of the NGOs? And how is development ever supposed to happen if the projects don’t have the chance to have the outcomes they need to have in order for development to occur? In order for a project to actually make a difference, the people making promises and looking over and controlling the funding needs to be dedicated to finishing whatever they started. 

Also near the end of the podcast, the man made a distinction between a “benevolent dictator” where people end up hating you and truly being there to help democratically and that the latter process is slow and people suffer and die more. I wonder why “capacity building,” building relationships are so slow. I feel like if there is a good leader and funding that is concentrated/focused/determined and a good team, things can get done more quickly. I feel like that is what the Human Rights movement is perhaps, really lacking. 

I like the advice Joanna gave, she said “don’t try to change the Haitian people, try to deal and understand them,” this is great advice for the NGOs and it can be applied anywhere. I feel like this is the work of cultural anthropologists should really get involved with, understanding the people’s needs and wants and then working to get real results not measured by statistics and standards but by the people. 

Poor Economics is about rethinking the way we fight poverty. Traditional forms of throwing aid at poor countries has long been proclaimed an inefficient method for alleviating the poverty epidemic. Banarjee and Duflo aim to approach the issue in a different light. In their first chapter, they proclaim that too often, ideology drives policy and gets in the way of accomplishing the issues that desperately need attention. 

The authors take a look at many different problems including the nutrition-based poverty trap, lack of access to health services, inadequate schooling, family planning, and other disconcerting issues. 

One issue I found to be very problematic is the lack of proper nutrition that many people receive- instead of people spending money on higher calorie foods, they out to consume more expensive food when they get a chance. The authors ponder over the issue of why people don’t understand the value of feeding themselves especially when it comes to micronutrients. If people aren’t being fed adequately and aren’t able to sustain themselves, then a whole host of other issues arise. In the lecture, Banarjee and Duflo provide a very interesting relationship explaining how food gives you strength, which allows you to get wages which allows you to sustain yourself and your household. They also mention how if there was an S-shape curve between nutrition and consumption, the poor should eat as much as they can.  

The authors also touch on important issues such as health care and how the poor don’t fully understand the concept of preventative care. Every year, millions of kids die from preventable diseases, and often the treatments for these diseases are cheap, safe and readily available. Some possible explanations they offer is the unavailability and inaccessibility of public facilities that deliver care, a lack of information or trust and time-inconsistent behavior. 

The website provided a great preview of the problems discussed in the book and it seems like these two authors do a great job of making the issues accessible and tangible to their readers. 

 

Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo call for a radical rethinking of how we conceptualize poverty and tell us that the reason many policies and projects to alleviate poverty is that we simply don’t understand poverty. They have done many experiments and they have come up with many facts that explain poverty for what it is which will help policy makers really eliminate poverty. I really like their approach because it is credible and admirable, they really take the time to understand the poor and their plight instead of assuming things and instantly applying simple solutions and expecting instant results. I really appreciate how they got to know the poor more intimately than many who try to solve the problem of poverty, as we learned in our class it is better to get down to the level of the people we are trying to help in order to understand how to better approach the situation and this is exactly what these authors do. The website made me really interested in reading the book, it will definitely be the first on my summer reading list.

Clearly, from this podcast, money is not be the ONLY answer to all the questions that development and change have.  It is an important factor that should not be underestimated because without money, lesser or no work would be done to change the lives of people or even expose people to better living conditions.  The problem with money (and aid) is that, often times, people and/or government officials think that having enough money would speed up development and create a utopic environment for all, but in Haiti”s case, that belief can be strongly refuted.

How is money being used?  Who is in charge of the decisions made in money matters?  Who will be affected by these changes that money and development would create?  These questions are very important because they try to find the answer to accountability and long lasting development.  In 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti, millions of people around the world gave money to the government and NGO that are there in other to directly help Haitians that were both affected and not affected get through that period and rebuild their country.  But, if the money donated to Haiti is managed by people who live lavishly in Washington D.C, cutting programs that affect poor people in remote places without addressing  issues that affect them, then Haiti would have a ‘foreign development.”  Aid is meant to help address pressing issues that affect a country and its people, not  change the people in that country in other  to fit in the donor’s brackets.   Aid is important and development is crucially needed in Haiti; but all these mean nothing if the Haitian people that should be the core focus of these programs do not get a say, are not listened to or are invited to meetings that they cannot make meaningful input to.  Like one of the commentators said, most Haitians who go to these meeting are often used as “decorations”  while major decisions are made thousands of miles away from them.

Problems, no matter how “little”, should be addressed. For example, the woman that needed the water canal for her mango tree should not be written off because of the earthquake and the govenment focusing on other “bigger” problems.  It is a problem that should be taken into consideration because the result would drastically change her income and quality of life.   Removing and adding new programs in Haiti should be a collective effort made by Haitians and their government.  I acknowledge that the US is a strong donor, but the decisions on development should be made by the people that would be affected from such change.  It is important to understand, not change,  the Haitian people; address issues affecting them and then work with them in other to have a long lasting development; instead of a short lived one.