Amazing - he never even looks up …… For further outstanding examples of South Asian dexterity, check out these brick carriers from Bangladesh. Any other candidates?
[h/t Richard Cunliffe]
Amazing - he never even looks up …… For further outstanding examples of South Asian dexterity, check out these brick carriers from Bangladesh. Any other candidates?
[h/t Richard Cunliffe]
Ngorongoro district in Tanzania, home to the famous Ngorongoro crater and bordering the Serengeti national park, must surely be one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. Maybe this explains its hotly contested land disputes. Everyone seems to want a piece of it, but those in danger of being left without are the indigenous Maasai tribe, often used as a lucrative Tanzanian tourism symbol. For now, they are just about hanging onto their land amidst numerous attempted land grabs. The question is, are they ready and able to defend it?
In the midst of current global debates on land grabs by biofuels and agribusiness corporations, driven by record food and fuel prices, it’s easy to overlook the more run of the mill land grabs by hunting companies and mining corporations. In the name of investment, these can leave thousands without homes and livelihoods, and with no alternative on offer. In this one district, home to about 170,000 people, there are currently no less than six natural resource conflicts and three ongoing court cases.
During a peak in the land crises, an eviction took place in July 2009 leaving nearly 2000 people homeless. Two of the most infamous land conflicts are with Emirates hunting company Ortello Business Corporation and American-owned Thomson Safaris Ltd. Ngorongoro resources are further complicated by the needs of the natural wildlife and ecosystems, including the iconic annual wildebeest migration, with which the Maasai have been co-existing for centuries in the often harsh and drought-prone lands.
Aside from the land grabs by companies, proposed legislation to introduce a wildlife corridor in Ngorongoro district could result in around 20,000 people being evicted from 8 villages and massive cuts to the prime cattle grazing lands together with reduced access to water resources. If the plans go ahead, only one sixth of the district’s land will remain for the pastoralists, who make up 80% of the Ngorongoro population, and this land would be in the particularly drought-prone plains, where the wildebeest deliver and raise their young from December to March, thus preventing pastoralists’ access for this period and leaving behind bare pastures for the livestock. Excellent briefs by local NGO Tanzania Natural Resource Forum provide the full low-down on the recent history, current situation and possible policy options.
You might think that in the face of such seemingly insurmountable pressures from so many directions, the people would just give up and accept eviction. Instead, the Maasai are beginning to stand up for their rights and seek the support of their fellow (non-pastoralist) Tanzanians. Women are at the forefront, even though they are traditionally marginalised and silent in pastoralist cultures. Following the evictions in July 2009, 600 Maasai women marched to the local government offices to hand in over 1800 political party membership cards – theirs and their neighbours’ – in protest. Communities recently came out in their thousands to attend village assembly meetings where they voiced their views in no uncertain terms – check out this powerful 7 minute clip of the pastoralists in action.
The clearest sign that things are changing is the behaviour of the local councillors. Previously acting against the wishes of the communities they were elected to serve, they are now supporting communities, speaking out in favour of protecting the rights of the residents, and acting as a united body, together with local civil society organisations, to withstand significant pressure from above.
This hasn’t been easy; the people have had to fight hard for the opportunity to hold village meetings and express their views. Local CSOs have been harassed and arrested for their role in helping residents raise their voices. When the councillors first attempted to give their views in public through a press conference, they received so much pressure and intimidation to keep the issues quiet that they abandoned the idea. Yet with the support and backing of their communities the councillors tried again a couple of months later and succeeded.
The people remain in limbo over their future; according to one elder from Ololosokwan village, known as Yohana: ‘how can we think of
bettering ourselves when we are too worried about the proposed wildlife corridor, if we lose our land we will give up on life’.
Activism has triggered wider change. The plea by local CSOs for support has led to regional and national CSOs starting to work together. The communities are now actively seeking knowledge and information on the laws and policies affecting them in an effort to take control of their situation. And the Ngorongoro women, encouraged by their actions to speak out, have started to stand for leadership positions, with the first woman councillor elected in her own right in 2010.
These actions may not seem particularly remarkable to those used to the levels of active citizenship to be found in regions such as Latin America. But in Tanzania, coming from a recent history of state socialism and a culture of deference to authority, these small acts of courage represent one example of people beginning to realise their rights and standing firm to defend them. Time will tell whether the people can protect their land and continue to earn their livelihoods on their own terms.
Jane Lonsdale is Governance Programme Co-ordinator for Oxfam in Tanzania
“Between 2005 and 2010, the total number of poor people around the world fell by nearly half a billion people, from over 1.3 billion in 2005 to under 900 million in 2010. Looking ahead to 2015, extreme poverty could fall to under 600 million people—less than half the number regularly cited in describing the number of poor people in the world today. Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history: never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time.”
Methodology: “we take the most recent household survey data for each country, and generate poverty estimates for the years 2005 to 2015 using historical and forecast estimates of per capita consumption growth, making the simplifying assumption that the income distribution in each country remains unchanged.”
Most of the poverty reduction is down to the growth leaps of India and China – by 2015, Brookings reckon that Nigeria will have more poor people than either of the big two. Poverty will be ‘An African problem with fewer big targets.’ (see table and bubble diagram – double click to expand them)
And here’s some more on the $66bn figure I mentioned on Monday: “Providing every person in the world with a minimum income of $1.25/day—in other words guaranteeing the right not to live in absolute poverty—is rapidly becoming feasible. In 2005, supplementing the income of each poor person in the world to bring their daily income up to $1.25 would have cost $96 billion, or 80 percent of the total volume of foreign aid disbursed that year. In 2010, with poverty less widespread and larger global aid volumes, the cost of such a global safety net would be just $66 billion, or slightly more than half of all official aid.
While the logistics of distributing cash to poor populations would not be without challenges, recent advances in biometric identification technologies—such as fingerprint and iris scanning—have greatly expanded the promise of implementing large-scale welfare programs in poor countries. Given the success of many cash transfer programs, significantly scaling up their use to provide a minimum income for all individuals living in poverty might be a fruitful new direction for donors to pursue.” [or governments could use for windfall from high commodity prices, as in Alaska]
The euphoric conclusion: “The new estimates of global poverty presented in this brief serve as a reminder of just how powerful high growth can be in freeing people from poverty. In the span of a decade, the share of the world’s population living in poverty could be cut by two-thirds, the number of countries where more than 1 in 6 people live in poverty could drop from 60 to 35, and 19 countries are poised to eliminate poverty altogether…… The “dream of a world free of poverty,” the oft-ridiculed motto emblazoned at the entrance of the World Bank, is, year by year, coming closer to reality.’
Next task, making sure the environmental impact of all that growth doesn’t undo all the good work…..
Just read the much quoted paper from former USAID boss Andrew Natsios, ‘The Clash of the Counter-bureaucracy and Development’. The counter-bureaucracy is his term for the bean counters within USAID and the development sector in general, who are currently in the ascendant. Of it, he says simply.
‘The counter-bureaucracy ignores a central principle of development theory—that those development programs that are most precisely and easily measured are the least transformational, and those programs that are most transformational are the least measurable.’
The paper starts off with a wonderful message to the British Foreign Office from the Duke of Wellington in 1812.
Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by His Majesty’s ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:
1.) To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or, perchance…
2.) To see to it the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant,
Sound familiar? Natsios summarizes the problem with the current compliance system as:
• Excessive focus on compliance requirements to the exclusion of other work, such as program implementation, with enormous opportunity costs
• Perverse incentives against program innovation, risk taking, and funding for new partners and approaches to development
• The Obsessive Measurement Disorder for judging programs that limits funding for the most transformational development sectors
• The focus on the short term over the long term
• The subtle but insidious redefinition of development to de-emphasize good development practice, policy reform, institution building, and sustainability.
And ends, “Let me conclude with one simple question asked in a different form by the Duke of Wellington. Do Washington policy makers wish USAID, PEPFAR, and the MCC to implement serious development programs or comply with the demands of the Regulatory Lords of Washington? They cannot do both.”
Vintage stuff – wish all aid documents were such fun
How much would it cost to eradicate (that’s right – not halve, but end) world poverty? “If we could accurately and directly supplement the income of each poor person in the world to bring his or her daily income up to $1.25, it would have cost $96 billion in 2005. But by 2010, as the number of poor people fell, that cost had dropped to $66 billion.” Charles Kenny discusses his findings here.
Dani Rodrik discusses the ‘great divergence’ since 1990 between growth in developing and developed countries (see graph)
“You are not setting up a charity trust, or a personal or a private foundation, or some kind of outward branch for great super-duper positive campaigns that BAE will do to win friends in nice places, and gain influence in nice places – you are paying a fine, a punishment.” BAE Systems gets a well-earned kicking in the House of Commons for dragging its feet over a £29.5m fine it was ordered to pay the people of Tanzania in February 2010.
Voice of America’s China-in-Africa bashing gets bashed in turn by someone who actually knows about the subject
Was David Cameron’s truncated trip to Africa a sign of a new, more balanced UK-African relationship?
‘Developing countries, whether by intention or not, have been critical participants in reducing the carbon load. Furthermore, poor countries have borne their fair portion of global carbon alleviation expenditures.’ CGD’s David Wheeler shows that poor countries have been doing climate change mitigation all along – hope the UN negotiations on burden sharing have taken notice.
Illuminate your windowless shack (during the daytime at least) with nothing more than an empty plastic bottle and some bleach and water. Doesn’t get more low tech than this (except windows, maybe)…. [h/t John Magrath]
Fascinating morning earlier this week discussing Alex Evans’ new paper for WWF and Oxfam on ‘Resource Scarcity, fair shares and development’. Alex summarizes the paper in the Guardian, so I won’t rehearse his arguments for adding ‘fair shares’ to the more accepted topics of responding to resource scarcity by increasing production and strengthening resilience. Instead, here are some reflections coming out of the discussion + paper.
First, language is a minefield on this topic – taboos and neuralgic issues are everywhere. On the left, ‘scarcity’ offends the Amartya Sen fundamentalists who insist that ‘there’s enough food/water etc and distributional justice is all that matters, (and always will be)’; on the right, any talk of ‘limits’ leads to accusations of neo-Malthusian scaremongering – ‘scarcity will lead to price rises, which in turn will send signals to the market to innovate or substitute for expensive resources, so relax and above all, avoid regulation!’ Whether explicitly or implicitly, both left and right assume away limits – the cake can go on growing forever. I caricature, but not much.
The reaction from some of the government officials present on the question of limits was pretty discouraging. As one government rep at the meeting said, ‘even if limits are a subtext, the message is tainted. Zero sum games are just not attractive to politicians’. I ended up thinking that, in Europe at least, it may well be easier to talk about fair shares and distribution, than to broach the issues of resource limits.
On a more positive note, Alex adds a nice twist in his paper by portraying the problem of scarcity as a transitional one. The world faces impending resource crunches on atmospheric space, water, land, energy etc. In the end, the price signals and technological responses, combined with a plateauing and then decline in world population, may well eventually respond, but only with time lags. In the meantime, we need to think about how to protect poor people who are likely to come off worst in world of resource limits – the ‘fair shares’ agenda.
Second, I found myself wondering what an Andean peasant would make of all this talk of scarcity as if it is something new. We need to be clearer on the distinction between ‘new scarcity’ and ‘old scarcity’ and how they connect. Any poor person can talk to you about resource constraints – on water, land, energy etc and in many cases these are more immediately pressing than the ‘new scarcity’ produced by humanity approaching planetary boundaries. Old scarcity is local and political. New scarcity is both local and global, and has an absolute quality missing from old scarcity which, as Sen pointed out, is largely socially determined. Focussing exclusively on the global ‘new scarcity’ aspects would be a mistake – for example only talking about land in terms of land grabs by foreign investors, when in many cases the grabbers are local elites, and they have been doing it for centuries – this is just the latest price-driven twist in a long history.
Linked to this point is the need for a clearer typology of scarcities. It might be helpful to think about scarcity as lying along at least two axes: local to global in terms of where the responses are most effective, and in terms of the nature of the problem – public good to private good (i.e. whether the good can be privately owned like land, or is a common good, like air, or is somewhere in between, like water). Plotting this on a standard 2×2 matrix (see right for a very rough go at this) suggests that climate change/ limits to atmospheric space is the exception – most of the scarcities we are talking about are more local than global in their solutions, and more private than public in their nature. That suggests that we should be careful about lumping them all together or going too global, especially when it comes to solutions.
Final point. While lumping them together may not be a good idea, comparisons certainly are – cross fertilization can throw up some interesting ideas. Is water scarcity best approached purely through building adaptation and resilience, or is there (learning from climate change) something equivalent to mitigation – cutting water use, at least at national level? Would a water or land equivalent of the International Energy Agency be worth thinking about? Parallels with other major crises also might be helpful – why are limits so hard to accept on the use of resources, when they are seen as common sense in financial management – time for some eco-Thatcherite ‘you can’t live beyond your means’ messaging? In teh same vein, there’s eco-bubbles, eco-meltdowns, but sadly no eco bailouts.
And some weekend background viewing, a TED talk from Johan Rockstrom, the author of the ‘Planetary Boundaries’ concept – fascinating science and determinedly upbeat about the possibilities of survival if we act now. We could have done with him at the seminar……. [h/t Phil Bloomer]
“I recently spent a morning in one of Freetown’s slum areas. Since the horrific civil war (1991 – 2002), which was finally ended by the UK military, elevating Tony Blair to superhero status in Sierra Leone, Freetown has doubled in size to somewhere over 1.5 million.
When we arrive in Grassfields we are greeted by the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) committee – men and women who have volunteered to represent and support their community to maintain the water and sanitation facilities that are slowly being installed by a consortia of international and national NGOs.
Ena Conteh is a member of the WASH committee. She and I strike a bond as we look one another in the eye (most unusual for those few of us women over 6′ tall). As we wander around the back alleys of the Grassfields area of Freetown, Ena gradually reveals her story. What emerges is a striking and human version of those tired development phrases ‘caring economy’, ‘fragile livelihoods’ etc.
She lives with around 30 of her extended family. They’ve lived in Grassfields all her life. The war led to even worse overcrowding and a real strain on resources, especially water. At the mention of water, she breaks into a chant with her colleagues, with the refrain ‘we want water’ – making their demands very clear in a traditional way.
“So” I innocently ask “who in your family has a job? “No-one has a job”’ Ena laughs, “there are no jobs”. She explains that her family survives through ‘rewards’. Family members offer to do tasks for people, carrying shopping in the market or selling things that others throw away, in the hope that they will then reward them.
We arrive at a latrine and the conversation turns to more earthy matters. A family has built the latrine for both for their own use and for 7/8 neighbouring households. The deal is they are given the design, the cement, tools and the technical support if they use their own labour, find precious space on their tiny plot of land and are willing to share the latrine with others. With their new-found skills and tools, the family has also started building a washing ‘room’ (a tap and a bit of privacy) for men and women on their last remaining bit of yard.
Ena explains she and her fellow committee members are responsible for ensuring good hygiene practices – the kids are taught songs about washing hands and the women educate one another on how diarrhoea is passed on.
On our way again, we get back to chatting and I discover that Ena has three children of her own and all of them go to school. The challenge is that they only have one school uniform between them, so it is worn in turn by whoever got told off for not wearing school uniform the previous day. I try to envisage what a one-size school uniform looks like (without much success).
By now we’re at the rehabilitated water point at the bottom of the hill. This newly commissioned well serves over 1,000 people in these overcrowded slums, but is run ‘properly’, according to Ena and the rest of the committee. ‘We charge people a small fee to cover repairs and maintenance and we don’t charge ‘extra’ fees like the privately owned wells’. ‘What happens if people can’t even pay that?’ ‘We know who those families are and we let them take the water anyway’.
Time to be on our way to the next stop. ‘Thanks’ and ‘Good lucks’ are exchanged. It is clear that Ena is proud of her role in lobbying and organising her friends and neighbours to get access to what they feel they need most. The ‘we want water’ chants start up again. Then, just as we depart, Ena shyly asks if she can please have the empty water bottle I’m holding. A painful reality check as we go our separate ways.”
Penny Lawrence is International Director of Oxfam GB
I’ve just been reading the draft of a review by Charlotte Sterrett of climate change adaption experiences in South Asia. It’s great, and I’ll link to it when it’s published, but one conclusion set me thinking more widely:
‘While autonomous adaptation is likely to become more common and widespread than planned adaptation, most research and policy dialogue so far has focused on the latter. Research across a number of related areas to better understand the drivers of autonomous adaptation would benefit the region’.
This observation crops up again and again – people and communities take action for themselves on a range of issues from finance to livelihoods to dealing with shocks or climate change, but we know little about how they do it. Often the key players are barely on the official development radar – families, neighbours, religious institutions or grassroots organizations such as burial societies and savings groups.
Some examples, in addition to climate change adaptation:
Finance: a fascinating study of how poor families in Bangladesh, India and South Africa manage their money found that even people living on $1-$2 a day typically save about 25% of their income and none of the 250 households studied used fewer than four types of financial instrument over the course of the year (most of them invisible to the eyes of either the authorities or finance companies, let alone aid donors).
Research on the food price crisis shows that during an actual shock, state initiatives are often much less important to poor people than their own social coping mechanisms as individuals, communities or through local institutions like churches
The same is true in most natural disasters – by the time the guys with sniffer dogs fly in, tailed by the TV cameras, local people and organizations will have already done most of the life-saving.
Why does this matter? Firstly because it would help correct the negative stereotypes of passivity and aid dependence that so misrepresent the reality of poor people’s lives. But also because if we understand what people do for themselves, we can design aid responses to strengthen and complement (and not undermine) them. Portfolios of the Poor, the wonderful book that emerged from the finance study, sought to identify the financial products lacking from the indigenous ‘portfolio’ of poor people, so that financial institutions could fill the gaps. We need to replicate that approach on a range of other issues.
But why do we know so little about what poor people do for themselves? Probably because we don’t ask or try to find out – the money and energy goes on evaluating aid donor and NGO performance, i.e. the official part of the story, largely to the exclusion of the (often more important) autonomous part.
Surely we could change that fairly easily, e.g. by insisting that any evaluation also studies what people and communities do when the official aid world is absent? I’d be interested in hearing other examples of this phenomenon, along with examples of Portfolios of the Poor-style research into autonomous action on ‘our’ (i.e. official development) issues.
By pure coincidence, the day after linking to Jane McGonigall’s impassioned plea that gamers can save the world, I ended up playing a rather more low-tech climate change game with a load of DFID staff. We were farmers, taking decisions on risks and returns for different crops in accordance with the unpredictable weather patterns (represented by the roll of a dice), in a series of rounds that corresponded to successive harvests.
If you guessed right (e.g. planting high yield crops banking on good weather), you got rewards in the shape of (literally) beans, if you guessed wrong (drought or flood hits your high yield crop) you had beans taken away. Donors were present and able to hand out a limited number of tokens which led to increased harvest, provided the farmer guessed right on the weather.
To liven it up, we split into two villages and competed, with chocolate for the winners.
In my group, we opted for immediate collectivization, pooling our beans so that anyone who chose the wrong option would be bailed out (DFID are all softies at heart) and agreeing how many would take the high risk/high return option, and how many would hedge by planting lower yield crops suitable for drought or flood. We also persuaded the donor to frontload their support so we could build up a stock of beans that would act as insurance against any climate shock for those who chose wrong. And yay, we won the chocolate.
What did I learn? Firstly, games really are an amazing educational tool. The room was energised, the people engaged, the debates were real and entered far deeper into the memory than even the fanciest powerpoint. The gamemaster, Pablo Suarez (right), wants to shift from doing lots of worthy disaster risk reduction work for Red Cross/Red Crescent to being a game designer. He sees games as ‘tools to inhabit complex systems’ :
“We are often faced with the challenge of helping key stakeholders understand and address the complexity of coupled natural-social systems where innovation can make a difference. Conventional, linear methods of conveying info (docs, ppt, videos, etc) rarely help non-experts in fully grasping the feedbacks, thresholds, delays, and especially tradeoffs between different available choices for system management (in part because they become bored after the third page/slide…). Games offer a remarkable way for people to ‘inhabit’ the complex system, and learn about its complexity through a playful activity where decisions have consequences, combining collaboration and competition.”
Secondly, some interesting behavioural points: people fight the last war – if the roll of the dice produces good weather for a couple of rounds, people start taking more risks. My colleague Cat Pettengell also took part. She’s an adaptation policy wonk and was rather alarmed at how quickly she abandoned her understanding of the ‘best’ approach and started to see risk reduction as a future luxury:
“When you literally had only one bean and anything could wipe that out, you wanted to concentrate on making more beans and telling yourself that once you have ‘enough’, you’d switch to a strategy of protecting yourself …. I didn’t personally invest in disaster risk reduction unless the donor covered my investment.”
Third, as Cat suggests, donor interventions massively skew the decisions being made – you go where the money is. In our case, we convinced the donor to frontload their spending, so we could build up our savings and resilience, but as Pablo pointed out, is it really likely that farmers could persuade DFID or any other humanitarian donor to spend all their money before a disaster occurs?
Pablo has designed and facilitated about a dozen game-based activities, targeting everyone from illiterate farmers to UNFCCC negotiators. See this short paper for synthesis of key ideas) and a Reuters profile here.
Finally, here’s a 4 minute video of a game for enabling dialogue between scientists, humanitarian workers, and villagers in Senegal to link early warnings with early action (I have to say, our game looks like more fun!). Interestingly, it also uses an evolutionary model of change – the game accelerates the creation of new ideas, and then consultation selects the good ones for amplification.
Pablo is supporting Oxfam America’s Private Sector Team with a participatory game about a microinsurance pilot in Ethiopia, but at the very least, I think we need to get him in for some climate gaming too.
Political History of Africa since 1900 – great interactive map from the Guardian (not this one, that’s just a screen grab – click on the link)
Has Fairtrade become the victim of its own success?
So you want to catch Osama bin Laden. I know, let’s do it by risking the reputation of one of the public vaccination campaigns. Way to go, CIA. (And apparently, it didn’t even work…..)
The arguments over GAVI continue – first Max Lawson posts some criticisms, then Owen Barder responds, now MSF and Oxfam come back at him. We now await the inevitable response from Owen’s. Ah that elusive last word……
Some good news: Zambia and Ghana are the 27th and 28th countries the World Bank has reclassified as middle-income since the year 2000
‘A 1 percentage point increase in a country’s capital inflows/GDP ratio warrants a 0.87 percentage point increase in the optimal level of capital inflow taxation.’ The IMF continues to rethink its old opposition to regulating and taxing hot money capital flows, from the latest IMF Economic Review