End the poverty cycle

In Appropriate Technology, Economic Development, Governance, International Development, Niger, Sustainable Development, Technology on July 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I’ve been recently reminded of the overwhelming factors working against those in the super-poor parts of the world that I work on helping every day.   The UN’s IRIN news service published this helpful article on “Preventing the Sahel’s next food crisis,” which is already in full swing.

In the international development field, as in many others, we all have our specialties.  This may be more of a function of how competitive it is to work in this field – that many people hyper-specialize to make themselves marketable and to stay employed.  This inevitably leads to tunnel vision, where we feel like what we’re focusing on is integral to the larger objective – which in our case is reducing poverty.

With that in mind – this list of how to prevent the food security crisis currently manifesting itself in the Sahel has both macro and micro level suggestions.  (Sahel – to those unfamiliar – means roughly the region of West and Central Africa between the Sahara Desert and the densely forested equator region, it stretches from Senegal to Sudan)

I’m in a spot professionally where the programs I help support are short term interventions that basically keep people alive and at worst maintain the prior status quo.  (would I then say status quo ante?)  We can do these interventions successfully and meet all our goals.  But what frustrates me is that in Niger and Chad (the two countries that now occupy my time) are stuck in a cycle of poverty.

Yes, there are nifty administrative ways we can get food aid shipped to these places quickly – we can all communicate better, have more eyes on the ground, use social media to attract attention and allocate resources more efficiently… but when does it stop?

I want to see the system change.   Nigeriens and Chadiens need a better deal.  We need a massive reallocation of policies and resources to help bring up the poorest of the poor.  And the more I work in the development field, the more I’m convinced that it has to come from the private sector.

I don’t have time right now to really delve into this – many have earned doctorates in more specialized aspects of this problem… But, landing my plane here… I think the best way forward is to see the poorest of the poor as regular, hardworking people who will work their tails off for the chance to help their families.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Lets give them the chance to help themselves.  Lets invest in the poor.


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