Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Would you like some AIDS with that?

While working in the Gambia I happened to meet an enterprising Gambian man who had what he thought was a brilliant idea. Even far out in his little rural village this fellow knew that money for AIDS awareness workshops was pretty easy to come by. Now he himself wasn't much interested in AIDS, but he was very interested in beekeeping. So he asked me to help him get money for an AIDS workshop at the local high school at which each student would be given, not condoms, or even speeches on the glories of abstinence, but their very own beehive. And because the students were so diligently engaged with their studies this charitable Gambian man would even take it upon himself to manage those beehives on their behalf, in exchange for a healthy percentage of the honey that they produced.

Although sorely tempted, I had to turn this budding entrepreneur down.

Fast forward several years and I find myself reading over a report of a coastal management project in Tanzania in which that project documents how it took upon itself the task of formulating an AIDS awareness Training Guide and running AIDS awareness workshops.

I can't say that I am surprised. Nor was I surprised to see the sloppy, awkward, and dare I say mildly humorous way, in which it was shoe horned into this coastal management project's "Results Framework."

How would you like to have some HIV/AIDS mainstreamed into your activities?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Emails to Nowhere

I've been reading over a report written by the implementers of a coastal management program (the TCMP) in Tanzania. This is how they described their efforts to keep in touch with the Tanzanians, particularly those at the "local level."

"In addition to the working groups, the TCMP has a communications unit

that works to promote coastal management in Tanzania at large. The

TCMP has attempted to keep Tanzanians updated through newspaper

articles and TV coverage. Other communication tools include the Pwani

Yetu (Our Coast) newsletter, the E-Pwani e-mail listserv, and on-line

posting of key TCMP documents. This communications network is

critical to the successful development of the national ICM policy,

providing rapid access to local programs and key constituencies at the

local level."

Email, online postings, TV, and newspaper articles, in a country which at that time (1995-2000ish) had a nearly 70% rural population, virtually none of whom had access to electricity, and a large percentage of whom, especially the women, were illiterate.

Now of course the people writing this report knew all of these circumstances very well. They were in the country for over five years. But still they had the.....balls? (and I say that in a sincerely complimentary way) to write the clearly absurd statement, which bears repeating, that such methods of communication were "critical" and provided "rapid access" to "key constituencies at the local level."

The sociological circumstances within which this can occur demand further study.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

A slice of American decadence anyone?

Courtesy of The Liberal Order

"The 78 percent number (i.e., 78% of NFL players go bankrupt within two years of retirement) is buoyed by the fact that the average NFL career lasts just three years. So, figure a player gets drafted in 2009, signs for the minimum and lasts three years in the league: He will have earned about $1.2 million in salary. Factor in taxes, cost of living and the misguided belief that there will be more years and bigger paydays down the road, and it becomes a lot easier to see how so many players struggle with money after their careers end."

The sad thing is I actually can see how, in the US, a football player could go broke after making 1.2 million dollars in just three years. In contrast, in rural Africa it would take approximately the combined wages of 50 men, working for their entire adult lives, to earn 1.2 million dollars.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

The (Failing) Performativity of Aid

In 1986 the University of Rhode Island (URI) and USAID started a coastal management development in program (CRMP) in three developing countries, Ecuador, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. The leaders of this program from the URI, had just finished helping the State of Rhode Island develop its Coastal Management program. That program had been developed in response to the 1972 Coastal Zone Management Act which called on, and funded, all coastal states to develop their own coastal management authorities.
The performativity of the CRMP lies in the way that it was implemented. In short their philosophy was: what works in the USA must work for Ecuador, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. In one of the many papers published from the activities of the CRMP, Stephen Olsen (1998), its director, stated

At the time the central ideas that had emerged from US experience were viewed as principles to be followed, not hypotheses to be tested and there was no consideration of either rigorously documenting baseline conditions as they existed when the pilots began or establishing control sites.

In other words, they didn't bother to understand the local conditions (the baseline), were supremely confident in their US experiences (principles vs. hypotheses), and set up no ways to measure if in fact they were making a difference (control sites). And all of this ironically is coming from a paper entitled A Learning Based Approach to Coastal Management.
To compound this the rest of the paper actually documents many of the difficulties they ran into in implementing the CRMP, I would argue precisely because of their cookie-cutter approach to the process, though the authors can never make themselves come to this conclusion. The best they could do was this line.

"Despite significant differences in management contexts the features of coastal management expressed by the hypotheses that underlie the US coastal management program were relevant and are believed to be critical to successes in the pilot countries."

Note how the paper retreated here, what were previously "principles" from US experience are now mere hypotheses, though thankful (was there ever any doubt?) they proved to be not only "revelant," but "critical." With this US paradigm securely in place, the problems in implementing the CRMP could not come from the now validated US principles/hypotheses, but instead from the usual culprits of any development project, namely corruption or a lack of "transparency," a "lack of capacity", and the absence of a concerned "constituency."
And so the CRMP performatively tried to turn US principles into Ecuadorian, Thai, and Sri Lankan reality. Small "successes" were made in this regard but generally speaking after 9 years work, not much sustainable fruit has been borne.

I'll leave it to you to decide if that is a good or a bad thing.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Another good development economist at Yale.

Chris Blattman is a good, relatively new, academic at Yale.


I particularly like his advice for working in a developing country.

Greening the Greens with all natural golf karts?

This is entertaining

Llamas, not just good for really soft sweaters anymore.

Thanks to Marginal Revolution for this one.

Conservation, Mexican Style circa 1972

I quote this from McEvoy's "The Fisherman's Problem"

"Mexico established a sanctuary for the [gray whale] at Scammon's Bay in 1972 [which is their breeding ground] and unofficially let it be known....that if the whalers of any nation start taking gray whales on the high seas, Mexico would permit the complete extermination of them in Scammon's Bay and that would be the end of that. Standing the fisherman's problem on its head, Mexico held the whales hostage to it. As a result, the gray whale was the only species of great whale in good condition by 1980."

In other words in order to save the gray whale from extinction the Mexican's threatened to exterminate them at their source, their breeding ground. Thats what I call creative thinking.