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Norman Borlaug: We Can Feed The World. Here's How

Ellen Zhao
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Thirty-two years ago, I was chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, representing the thousands of researchers who created the higher crop yields of the Green Revolution. The extra food created saved perhaps a billion people from starving in the 1960s.

Today, we are faced with another, equally enormous task. We must learn to produce nearly three times as much food for the more populous and more prosperous world of 2050, and from the farmland we are already using, in order to save the planet's wildlands. That's why I am one of the signers of a new declaration in support of protecting nature with high-yield farming and forestry. (Co-signatories include former Sen. George McGovern and Per Pinstrup-Andersen, the winner of the 2001 World Food Prize.)

The high yields of the Green Revolution also had a dramatic conservation effect: saving millions of acres of wildlands all over the Third World from being cleared for more low-yield crops. If the world were still getting the low crop and livestock yields of 1950, at least half of today's 16 million square miles of global forest would already have been plowed down, and the rest would be scheduled for destruction in the next three decades. Mexico, where I have done much of my high-yield research, is nevertheless losing nearly 3 million acres of forest per year to the expansion of peasant farms.

There are people telling us not to raise the yields. Some of them say that modern food is not as healthy as yesterday's, though science can find no lack of nutrients and, all over the world, the people eating modern crops are growing taller and living longer. There are some who still fear that more food encourages population growth, though food security has helped bring Third World fertility rates 80% of the way to stability.

Some of the naysayers claim that modern, intensive farming is risking the world's biodiversity. However, they apparently think it's more important to save man-made biodiversity, such as antique farmers' varieties, than to save the rich web of unique species characteristic of a wild forest. We can save the farmers' old varieties through gene banks and small-scale gene farms, without locking up half of the planet's arable land as a low-yield gene museum.

I've spent the past 20 years trying to bring the Green Revolution to Africa -- where the farmers use traditional seeds and the organic farming systems that some call "sustainable." But low-yield farming is only sustainable for people with high death rates, and thanks to better medical care, more babies are surviving.

The International Food Policy Research Institute recently projected that Africa is a "building catastrophe." African farms are currently locked in a downward spiral, in which the traditional bush fallow periods are shortened from 15 or 20 years to as little as two or three -- which means crop yields are declining, soil nutrients are depleted, and still more land must be planted every year to feed the people.

Africa desperately needs the simple, effective high-yield farming systems that have made the First World's food supply safe and secure, and kept its wild species from extinction: chemical fertilizers, improved seeds bred for local conditions, and integrated pest management (with pesticides). Without those basics, Africa is likely to see tens of millions more undernourished children by 2020 -- even after it clears a whole Texas worth of wildlife habitat for additional cropland. Yet the funding for the FutureHarvest agricultural research network that serves the whole Third World is only about $300 million per year.

If America were losing wildlands equal to the size of Texas, we'd believe it was an urgent problem. We'd demand an increase in agricultural research and a crash program to get new technology to farms. If millions of U.S. children were starving for the simple lack of good seeds and fertilizers, the government would fall. The declaration that I, and others, have signed does not endorse any particular technology or farming system. It simply notes that if the world is to avoid a Hobson's choice between starving children and extinct wildlife species, the first-order priority is higher yields on the land we already farm.

Mr. Borlaug, winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, teaches high-yield farming systems under the sponsorship of the Sasakawa-2000 Foundation and the Jimmy Carter Center.

This article was published the The Wall Street Journal
Sameer Jamal
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Here's the another option


Masanobu Fukuoka (1914-), author of The One-Straw Revolution and The Natural Way Of Farming, is one of the pioneers of no-till grain cultivation. Trained as a microbiologist in his native Japan, he began his career as a soil scientist specializing in plant pathology. At age 25, he began to doubt the wisdom of modern agricultural science. He eventually quit his job as a research scientist, returned to his family's farm on the island of Shikoku in Southern Japan, and devoted his life to developing an organic farming system.
The essence of Fukuoka's method is to reproduce natural conditions as closely as possible. There is no plowing, as the seed germinates quite happily on the surface if the right conditions are provided. There is also considerable diversity. A ground cover of clover grows under the grain plants to provide nitrogen. Weeds are also considered part of the ecosystem, periodically cut and allowed to lie on the surface so the nutrients they contain are returned to the soil. Ducks are let into the grain plot at certain times of the year to eat slugs and other pests.

The ground is always covered. As well as the clover and weeds, there is the straw from the previous crop, which is used as mulch, and each grain crop is sown before the previous one is harvested. This is done by broadcasting the seed among the standing crop. Much less seed is used than in conventional growing, resulting in fewer but larger and stronger plants.

In Japan, the Fukuoka method has produced similar yields to chemically grown crops and much work has already been done to adapt it to European conditions, including the work of French farmer Marc Bonfils. It is essentially a small-scale style of growing, suited to small-holdings, as it is one of those methods in which attention to detail replaces heavy work. It takes a great deal of skill to work with grain, clover and weeds in such a way that each fulfills its function in the system without becoming over-vigorous and crowding out one of the others. But all the work involved can easily be done by hand, and labor is reduced by up to 80% compared to other methods.

It is not suited to growing large quantities of grain, like those presently produced in the industrialised world by means of large-scale mechanisation. But the vast majority of this grain goes to feed animals, which could be more efficiently fed by diverse forage systems. Very little is directly eaten by humans and that amount could easily be grown by the Fukuoka method.

The timing and circumstances of Fukuoka's conversion from Western agricultural science, to organic methods, parallel the new movement in the 1940s to organic farming and gardening in Europe and the US, led by pioneers like Sir Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour.

Taken From http://www.fact-index.com/m/ma/masanobu_fukuoka.html
Joe King
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While agree that we need a large change in the paradigm of food production and redistribution, I disagree with this:
Some of them say that modern food is not as healthy as yesterday's, though science can find no lack of nutrients and, all over the world, the people eating modern crops are growing taller and living longer.


The fact that people eating modern crops are living longer is probably to do with the fact that people who eat these crops generally live in 1st world societies with good health care systems and clean water and living conditions. That people are taller is totally irrelevant - Scandinavians are generally taller than Mediterraneans, but that doesn't mean that they are healthier.

Its a fairly damning condemnation of mankind that we have now had, for about a centaury, the technological and food production capacity to feed, clothe and house every person on the planet to a decent level and we don't do it. In fact the majority of the world's population probably eat less than what we would consider to be a healthy intake of calories and vitamins. A massive amount of the world's population doesn't have clean water, or a house to live in. A person who lives in a tiny cramped flat in Peckham living off a part time job in Burger King is still probably in the top 5% of the world income-wise. This is probably for three main reasons:

* A lot of poor countries are ruled by people who actively reduce the efforts of charities by ruling their countries as kleptocrats - stealing from their people. With these kinds of people on charge of a poor country, a lot of what is donated to charities doesn't go to the people it should.

* Some parts of the corporate world stand in the way of helping to improve the capacity of places like Africa to improve crop yield. Some corporations would prefer to sell the Africans patented genetically modified crops that, although will grow well, will also not breed, so the growers will be forced to buy more.

* Lastly, and by far the largest reason, we first worlders generally dont like the idea of giving up our second SUV, our swimming pools, our DVD players and our trips to Disney World in order to help someone we've never met.

If we reached a hypothetical situation where by we were guaranteed to stop a single African starving, but the cost would be everyone in the first world halving their quality of life, how many people would agree to it? Not many I'd bet.
[ May 20, 2004: Message edited by: Joe King ]
frank davis
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Originally posted by Joe King:


This is probably for three main reasons:

.....
[ May 20, 2004: Message edited by: Joe King ]


Forgot population control.

Although the literal Malthusian argument has been overcome many times by technological advances, the fact remains that a major reason the poorest countries cannot lift themselves out of poverty is due to the inclinations of their inhabitants to reproduce without restraint. Any income gains accruing to a poor farmer over his lifetime are offset by support needed for his 6 children, and then in short order, to some of his 216 grandchildren (simply assuming each child has the 6 customary children), and then ...well you do the math. Carried out on a national scale, the needed growth in infrastructure is impossible to maintain by any means . Feeding the poor today simply often means condemning most of his 216 grandchildren tommorrow to hunger. A never ending cycle...

This may be one reason people don't contribute as much. The net effect of any donation over time is insignificant or none or even negative, meanwhile why should not at least someone on the planet enjoy life to the fullest?

China, even though resource rich, in its attepmts to modernize, has recognized limiting population growth as an important factor and has severe penalties to those who have more than 2 children.
Joe King
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Originally posted by herb slocomb:


Forgot population control.
Although the literal Malthusian argument has been overcome many times by technological advances, the fact remains that a major reason the poorest countries cannot lift themselves out of poverty is due to the inclinations of their inhabitants to reproduce without restraint.


Agreed, this is a big problem. An African friend of mine told me once that someone he knows in Ghana was worried that he did not have enough children and that his friends would think that he was not manly enough because of it - its seen as a sign of masculinity in some places to have lots of children. This could be a difficult thing to get around, but I suppose a increase in the amount of education in these places could help.

The other contributing factor is the Catholic church's dogma that contraception shouldn't be used. There was a case in the news a while back where some people in the Catholic church had been telling Africans that condoms aren't worth using because they don't stop AIDS. If we could stop the Catholic church from saying things like that, maybe we could manage a double-wammy of reducing the birth rate and reducing AIDS as well. Of course we would also need to put some money into distributing contraception and educating people in how to use them, but its a lot cheaper than feeding 6 kids instead of 3.
[ May 20, 2004: Message edited by: Joe King ]
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Lastly, and by far the largest reason, we first worlders generally dont like the idea of giving up our second SUV, our swimming pools, our DVD players and our trips to Disney World in order to help someone we've never met.

Actually this is the least significant reason. There has not been a famine in the last 50 years that was not created by man. India is the perfect example. When I was born, India was reliant on foreign countries to provide sufficient food. Today, not only does India produce enough food for their entire population but they export food to other countries! Why the difference? Agriculture reform which allowed farmers to profit from the crops they produced. Look at all the famines that have occurred recently and you will see either war or deliberate starvation of the population.

By the way, the vast majority of the people in the first world own neither a second SUV nor a swimming pool. Perhaps this reflects your neighborhood but it certainly isn't mine.


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Joe King
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Lastly, and by far the largest reason, we first worlders generally dont like the idea of giving up our second SUV, our swimming pools, our DVD players and our trips to Disney World in order to help someone we've never met.

Actually this is the least significant reason. There has not been a famine in the last 50 years that was not created by man.

I'd say instead that there has not been a famine in the last 50 years that could not have been prevented by man.
India is the perfect example. When I was born, India was reliant on foreign countries to provide sufficient food. Today, not only does India produce enough food for their entire population but they export food to other countries! Why the difference? Agriculture reform which allowed farmers to profit from the crops they produced. Look at all the famines that have occurred recently and you will see either war or deliberate starvation of the population.


True, an increase in agricultural productivity is a vital step to reducing famine (Zimbabwe is an example of a country moving in the opposite direction to India in this respect), but the problem is that it takes time to make these changes. The first world has the resources to help now. Ignoring the moral side of this for the moment (ie should we help the third world), we can certainly say that we have the capacity to make an immediate change for the better, and we do not do so.


By the way, the vast majority of the people in the first world own neither a second SUV nor a swimming pool. Perhaps this reflects your neighborhood but it certainly isn't mine.

Nor mine; I do not own a car or a swimming pool. I can't afford either.

My point was that the west has a huge amount of resources that could be utilised to help the third world, but we don't do it. Some of the reason is the political structure of the third world, but despite that, we all could be doing a lot more to help. Its kind of sad when we see people spending their money on things like a second SUVs and swimming pools when these resources could make a large difference to helping save someone's life. Obviously we need to remove the political barriers that hinder helping the third world, but even if they were gone I suspect that the level of help from the first world to the third would not be much higher.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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My point was that the west has a huge amount of resources that could be utilised to help the third world, but we don't do it. Some of the reason is the political structure of the third world, but despite that, we all could be doing a lot more to help.

And this is where I disagree with you. The problem is not the lack of funds. Somalia is the perfect example. The famine there was caused by the collapse of the government and the establishment of local warlords who stole food from the farmers. Supplies brought in to relieve the poor were sufficient but were stolen by the warlords. The Ethiopian famine that brought us, "We Are The World" was caused by the deliberate acts of the Ethipoian government to starve people to force them to move from disputed territories. Unless you are ready to invade all these countries and establish new governments we will not be able to end famine.

Famines are no longer caused by bad weather or acts of God. That is ancient history. Today, famines are always caused by acts of men.
[ May 20, 2004: Message edited by: Thomas Paul ]
Bert Bates
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I can't back this up, but I seem to remember that there is a correlation between education for women and reduction in population growth - does this ring a bell for anyone?


Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
(If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
Warren Dew
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Joe King:

* Lastly, and by far the largest reason, we first worlders generally dont like the idea of giving up our second SUV, our swimming pools, our DVD players and our trips to Disney World in order to help someone we've never met.

Interesting comparison. My donations to charity would roughly cover the payments on an SUV, though it wouldn't be my second. However....

If we reached a hypothetical situation where by we were guaranteed to stop a single African starving, but the cost would be everyone in the first world halving their quality of life, how many people would agree to it? Not many I'd bet.

You're right, none of my charitable contributions go towards preventing starvation in the third world. For me, quality of life is a lot more important than quantity of life; as far as I'm concerned, food aid simply encourages the expansion of a population likely doomed to lives of misery. That's not making the world a better place.

On the other hand, now that China has gotten their population problem under control, I'm very willing to preferentially purchase Chinese products and boost their economy through tourism. I'll do the same for other underdeveloped regions that show similar signs of progress.
Jason Menard
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Joined: Nov 09, 2000
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Originally posted by Bert Bates:
I can't back this up, but I seem to remember that there is a correlation between education for women and reduction in population growth - does this ring a bell for anyone?


Yep. I wish I could remember the rest of the material from the class I got that from, but I definitely remember that.
Joe King
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Posts: 820
Originally posted by Warren Dew:

You're right, none of my charitable contributions go towards preventing starvation in the third world. For me, quality of life is a lot more important than quantity of life; as far as I'm concerned, food aid simply encourages the expansion of a population likely doomed to lives of misery. That's not making the world a better place.


I agree that just packing up parcels of food and sending them off is not the answer, but charity can work in different ways. One thing that we (more likely our countries, rather than individuals) could do is to donate farming equipment and help set up some infrastructure such as an electricity grid and irrigation. Obviously this depends upon political conditions in the country.


On the other hand, now that China has gotten their population problem under control, I'm very willing to preferentially purchase Chinese products and boost their economy through tourism. I'll do the same for other underdeveloped regions that show similar signs of progress.


I think we should definatly be encouraging those countries that are moving in the right direction, as an example to others. One possible tactic would be to stop asking for debt repayments from poor countries which are suitably democratic. Reducing the debt burden of third world countries could (in those countries where the government is not too corrupt) help make a significant change to the resources available to that country.
Joe King
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
My point was that the west has a huge amount of resources that could be utilised to help the third world, but we don't do it. Some of the reason is the political structure of the third world, but despite that, we all could be doing a lot more to help.

And this is where I disagree with you. The problem is not the lack of funds. Somalia is the perfect example. The famine there was caused by the collapse of the government and the establishment of local warlords who stole food from the farmers. Supplies brought in to relieve the poor were sufficient but were stolen by the warlords. The Ethiopian famine that brought us, "We Are The World" was caused by the deliberate acts of the Ethipoian government to starve people to force them to move from disputed territories. Unless you are ready to invade all these countries and establish new governments we will not be able to end famine.


Helping third world countries is not just about giving them money and food. We could deploy some of our resources to try to stop corrupt governments from making so much damage to their country. In some places, such as Somalia, this has been tried and failed, but in other countries it could be a different situation. Zimbabwe is a place where the west should be putting a lot more pressure on Mugabe to sort the country out.


Famines are no longer caused by bad weather or acts of God. That is ancient history. Today, famines are always caused by acts of men.
[ May 20, 2004: Message edited by: Thomas Paul ]


I dont agree that all famines are caused by man (ie things like droughts caused by El Nino etc), but all famines could be stopped by man if mankind managed to get our act together and do things like improve infrastructure for distributing food, water etc. Although this is largely not possible because of a few corrupt leaders, that doesn't mean that our massive resources cannot do anything. There are some poor countries that could, through things like western investment, drastically improve in terms of living conditions. In some cases we could use our resources in different ways ie putting political pressure on some leaders to reform. Instead of just saying "Country X is corrupt, there is nothing we can do", perhaps we should be saying "Country X is corrupt, what can we do to help reduce that corruption?".
[ May 21, 2004: Message edited by: Joe King ]
Axel Janssen
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Our Development minister said yesterday in TV that the disinterest with which the worlds community including UNO accepts this new 1 mio displaced people from south west Sudan to now eastern Niger is a sign that mankind has given up humanitarian support for conflicts in Africa.
I think she's right.
Its heavily cynical, if you really think about it.
There was a camp, lots of desert, deperate people and a bunch of people from "medicines sans frontiers" (tremendous respect).

On the other hand, experience has shown, that its very dificult to help societies which can't help themselves. And traditional roots obviously were often destroyed in Africa through colonialism/rapid change.

I once have read an interesting book (can't remember name, will post later) which was about the customs and rules in some small african village in 19th century. The people treated each other in a very civilized manner. They had lots of complicated rules to organize their living as a society.

It appears that those customs are gone and for a lot of regions there, nothing substantial enough has replaced them. That's at least what I think.

Axel
[ May 21, 2004: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
Don Stadler
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Helping third world countries is not just about giving them money and food. We could deploy some of our resources to try to stop corrupt governments from making so much damage to their country. In some places, such as Somalia, this has been tried and failed, but in other countries it could be a different situation. Zimbabwe is a place where the west should be putting a lot more pressure on Mugabe to sort the country out.


Been there, tried that. Iraq. It's working to a degree, too, not that many are noticing. Pressure? Mugabe laughs at 'pressure'. The only country in a position to apply pressure (either directly or as a gatekeeper) is South Africa. And they aren't going to do it and are actively preventing anyone else from doing so. So let 'em rot until things get so bad that even the South Africans can't stand the smell.

Problem is 'pressure' can be messy and involve things like military force. I'm pretty embittered about the reaction to the messy necessities within the UN and out lately. Corrupt governments get the active support of the do-gooders. They sit on the UN Civil Rights Commission even while they are carrying out genocide themselves (see Sudan).
Joe King
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Originally posted by Don Stadler:


Been there, tried that. Iraq.

We are trying to improve the life of people in Iraq, but that wasn't the main reason for going in there. Neither were we going there to stop people starving. Iraq also isnt really a good example of the international community getting together to do something because it was only a few countries that went to war, and the war didn't have UN support.

Pressure? Mugabe laughs at 'pressure'. The only country in a position to apply pressure (either directly or as a gatekeeper) is South Africa. And they aren't going to do it and are actively preventing anyone else from doing so.

Unfortunately its true that South Africa is not doing as much as it could to stop Mugabe. Mugabe has frequently played the race card whenever opposed, so S.Africa is probably a bit afraid of opposing him because of it. I'd like to see organisations like the UN and the Commonwealth doing more to pressure Mugabe and more to pressure S.Africa into pressurising Mugabe.
So let 'em rot until things get so bad that even the South Africans can't stand the smell.

We have to try though. Even if all our pressure falls on deaf ears, its better to try and fail to help than to just ignore the problem.

They sit on the UN Civil Rights Commission even while they are carrying out genocide themselves (see Sudan).

While its important to engage countries like Sudan in dialog about their human rights issues, I do agree that its a bit inappropriate for them to be on the UNCRC.
Don Stadler
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We are trying to improve the life of people in Iraq, but that wasn't the main reason for going in there. Neither were we going there to stop people starving. Iraq also isnt really a good example of the international community getting together to do something because it was only a few countries that went to war, and the war didn't have UN support.


Two comments: First, if you want only countries with 'pure motives' to act you're going to wait a long time. Many things will go unsolved because basically if there is a 'problem' in a place having a valuable natural resource there are no provably pure motives by definition. If Zaire falls into chaos and the US goes in and sorts it we'll swiftly learn that it's 'all about copper'. South Africa? 'All about diamonds'.

Second comment is that Iraq is an absolutely sterling example of international cooperation. Members of the Security Council got together and closely cooperated to protect valuable commercial concessions granted to them by the Hussein government, and be damned to the interests of anyone other than themselves or the Baathist elite who controlled the money spigot. Let's not forget that inconvenient fact!

We have to try though. Even if all our pressure falls on deaf ears, its better to try and fail to help than to just ignore the problem.


Why? When the response of a grateful planet is an indictment for 'war crimes'? Let Germany and Belgium sort out the next situation which arises without help from the US.

While its important to engage countries like Sudan in dialog about their human rights issues, I do agree that its a bit inappropriate for them to be on the UNCRC.


Given the current behavior of the UN I'd say it's perfectly appropriate for the likes of Cuba, Libya, and the Sudan to sit on the UNCRC. The question is whether countries like the US and Japan belong to that little 'club'. I'd say no.
[ May 21, 2004: Message edited by: Don Stadler ]
Warren Dew
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One thing that we (more likely our countries, rather than individuals) could do is to donate farming equipment and help set up some infrastructure such as an electricity grid and irrigation.

Resources won't help as long as the local farmers are competing against subsidized sources from the developed world. From the standpoint of the undeveloped world, the entire Doha round of trade talks is about getting the U.S. and France to give up agricultural subsidies. As long as we give away food virtually for free, their farmers can't compete, no matter how efficient they are.

Of course, maybe China's response is the right one - give up the domestic agriculture, import the cheap soybeans from the U.S., and focus on other parts of the economy. Harder to do in countries where farmers have more political power, though.

The way we can really help the underdeveloped world is by giving them not our food, nor our equipment, but our jobs, agricultural and otherwise. Are we willing to do that?

We have to try though. Even if all our pressure falls on deaf ears, its better to try and fail to help than to just ignore the problem.

I think it's better to look for places where we can actually accomplish something, instead.
Jeroen Wenting
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It's well shown that massive foreign aid to third world countries in many cases has no positive longterm effects at all.
In fact, in most cases the only longterm effect is to condition the people in those countries to EXPECT to get free handouts from Europe and the USA and to not bother anymore to grow their own food or try to run their own economy.

I'm not saying emergency aid to crisis areas shouldn't go through, it should.
But any foreign aid program should focus on learning and enabling the people of the receiving nation to care for themselves, and not as is currently the case as just dumping massive amounts of money for them to use as they like.
I know this is a controversial point of view. Some may think that forcing specific uses of funds on countries is a return to the colonial period.
If that is so, then so be it. Many African countries in particular are now worse off than they were when the colonial powers left in the 1950s and '60s despite receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid each year to help them start their economy.

To say European countries and the US are greedy and don't spend enough is just trying to raise a guilt-complex. It's been tried so long it's luckily starting to loose its effectiveness almost as rapidly as showing pictures of famined black children in arid landscapes.
Most EU countries are spending 10% or more of their GNP in foreign aid, not counting emergency aid. That is JUST the government spending, to that must be added the massive amounts spent by private charities which amounts to several more percent.
Most of that money is currently WASTED. It's paid out to countries like Somalia and Mali where it disappears into the pockets of local rulers who use it to swell their Swiss bankaccounts or build prestige projects like huge airports for their brand new business jets purchased from foreign aid or broad avenues and highways on which they can drive their motorcades of expensive custom built Mercedes cars purchased from more foreign aid.

Any project aimed specifically at developing these countries is shot down as an infringement on their national sovereignty.
This includes projects to build schools for their children or to train their farmers in more productive agricultural techniques.
About the only things that are accepted are hospitals in the large cities stocked with foreign doctors and nurses so the political elite can enjoy modern European style healthcare while the population of the backcountry is stuck with visiting witchdoctors and digging for grub in depleted soil.

It is estimated that of the massive amounts of foreign aid given to these countries less than 1% is effectively used, and that 1% all from donations by private individuals and companies to the smallest of aid organisations for small scale projects that usually operate more or less illegally inside the receiving countries.

So don't try to arouse our guilt for living like we do. Rather try to arouse the guilt of the leaders of the receiving countries for living like THEY do and not spending the aid we send them like it is intended.


42
Joe King
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Originally posted by Don Stadler:

If Zaire falls into chaos and the US goes in and sorts it we'll swiftly learn that it's 'all about copper'. South Africa? 'All about diamonds'.


Although there are a large number of people who are saying that the war in Iraq was for oil, I'd expect that most people, even those who were against the war, don't really think that that was the prime reason for the war - mainly because it would have been less effort to simply be nice to Saddam Hussein and do a deal with him for oil.


Members of the Security Council got together and closely cooperated to protect valuable commercial concessions granted to them by the Hussein government, and be damned to the interests of anyone other than themselves or the Baathist elite who controlled the money spigot. Let's not forget that inconvenient fact!

Let's not also forget the fact that the main opposition to the war was that there was no clear evidence of WMD, and some countries thought that a war was not justified until such evidence was found.


Why? When the response of a grateful planet is an indictment for 'war crimes'? Let Germany and Belgium sort out the next situation which arises without help from the US.

Well Germany and Belgium did not ask for help sorting out this situation - it was the US that was the driving seat behind the build up to the war - the US felt threatened and the US took action to stop that perceived threat. Germany's role was that it stated that it did not think the threat was real and that the war did not justify UN backing.


Given the current behavior of the UN I'd say it's perfectly appropriate for the likes of Cuba, Libya, and the Sudan to sit on the UNCRC. The question is whether countries like the US and Japan belong to that little 'club'. I'd say no.

So after 50 years the UN makes a decision against the US and the US should pull out in a sulk? If the UN was so corrupt and unimportant, why did the US and UK try so hard to get a resolution, and why are they trying hard to get the UN involved in Iraq? The answer is that the UN is still and important part of international cooperation, and involvement in the UN is still extremely beneficial to the US and its allies.
[ May 24, 2004: Message edited by: Joe King ]
Joe King
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Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:

I'm not saying emergency aid to crisis areas shouldn't go through, it should.
But any foreign aid program should focus on learning and enabling the people of the receiving nation to care for themselves, and not as is currently the case as just dumping massive amounts of money for them to use as they like.

I agree with this. Although I think we should give more the the third world, I dont think there is any point in just throwing handfuls of money at them. Part of what we could do is to use our knowlege and experience in things like agriculture and infrastrucure to help them.

One example I saw of this was an newspaper article about a charity which helped set up a bank in Bangladesh. This bank specialised in making small loans to homeless people that allowed them to buy things like fruit, veg and trinkets to sell to tourists. Like you said, we should probably concentrate in specific projects like this.


So don't try to arouse our guilt for living like we do. Rather try to arouse the guilt of the leaders of the receiving countries for living like THEY do and not spending the aid we send them like it is intended.


Why not? Yes, the leaders of corrupt countries are largely making charity expenditure pointless, but if we put as much effort into putting pressure on their countries to be less corrupt as we do looking for missing WMD then we could make a massive difference. Saying "there's no point doing anything because the leaders are corrupt" is a bit defeatist. Even if there isn't much point giving money directly, we could do things like campaign for our governments to put try and ensure that investment in the third world goes to good causes.
Jeroen Wenting
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Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Joe King:


Why not? Yes, the leaders of corrupt countries are largely making charity expenditure pointless, but if we put as much effort into putting pressure on their countries to be less corrupt as we do looking for missing WMD then we could make a massive difference. Saying "there's no point doing anything because the leaders are corrupt" is a bit defeatist. Even if there isn't much point giving money directly, we could do things like campaign for our governments to put try and ensure that investment in the third world goes to good causes.


What I say is that there's no point in doing more than we are doing now.
We need to do things differently though, bypassing the local governments if they don't work towards using the resources we hand them as intended.

When used correctly, it could well be that the actual amount needed to achieve the goals we strive for is less than what is currently donated and wasted.
And of course that goes not just for the money that's actually sent over. Most of the organisations involved have evolved massive bureaucracies over the years under the guaranteed and virtually unlimited funding they receive.
For some of them under 10% of the money they receive from donations and grants actually reaches the target nation (and of that only 1% the target audience), the rest is wasted on bureaucracies and fundraisers that noone pays attention to because we've become completely immune to them for the sheer volume we're subjected to.

So there's 2 areas that need to be addressed:
1) trimming the organisations set up to run the programs down to something approaching a commercial enterprise rather than a government bureaucracy.
2) making sure the money that reaches the target countries is spent to best effect and not used to buy guns or private palaces for presidents.

Case in point of the latter:
During the height of the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s a US ship loaded to the gills with grain and other foodstuff for the starving population entered an Ethiopian port.
It was moored next to a Soviet bulk carrier which had just completed unloading a shipment of arms for the Ethiopian army for use in the civil war in Eritrea.
To the horror of the US crew and international aidworkers the port workers started loading the cargo of the US ship directly into the hold of the Soviet one instead of onto the trucks standing ready to take it to the towns and villages it was intended for.
Holds full, the Soviet ship departed for home leaving the Ethiopian people with nothing for the aid sent them by the USA except some guns and jet fighters.
This little fact was hidden initially from the people in the US and Europe because it was (likely correctly) feared it would slow the donations to a trickle.
Joe King
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Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:

For some of them under 10% of the money they receive from donations and grants actually reaches the target nation (and of that only 1% the target audience), the rest is wasted on bureaucracies and fundraisers that noone pays attention to because we've become completely immune to them for the sheer volume we're subjected to.


This is one of the most annoying things about a lot of the really big charities. Every time I get a call or a huge pile of gumph through the post from one I wonder how much of the money donated to them ends up going on these kinds of things. To cut down on this, I'd like to see things like TV companies giving charities free advertising slots, but that would bring the problem of choosing which charities' adverts to show.


2) making sure the money that reaches the target countries is spent to best effect and not used to buy guns or private palaces for presidents.

IMHO the charity organisations need to take more responsibility themselves to check out where the aid is going. We could perhaps also benefit from some kind of UN (ie fairly neutral)watchdog that checks out various countries to see what is happening to aid.
Jeroen Wenting
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Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Not another money guzzling organisation living off our charity
Yes, the charities themselves (and the governments) should take heed and care about what happens to their (well, OUR really) money.

Problem is that as long as the amount donated is more important than the results it yields (large numbers are easy to make into sales brochures, it's easier to say you spent $10 billion on foreign aid last year than to give a complete specified list of what it was all spent on in an election campaign or TV infomercial, and their own income and power is paramount in the motifs of most charities and not what happens with the money) that won't happen.
At best they'll pay lipservice, hire another 100 or so consultants who put out piles of paper (paid for by those donations of course) about how a percentage of the money is not used properly, and write that down to unfortunate coincidences (needed bribes to get permits is a favourite).
 
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subject: Norman Borlaug: We Can Feed The World. Here's How
 
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