June 11, 2007
Making Poverty Histo......
OK, so one of the things the Jeffrey Sachs initiative is trying to tell farmers in Africa is how to harvest and store hay. Mmmm hmm. It's a pretty basic technology, so why haven't they been doing it before?
It's hard for me to believe that no one has thought about cutting grass and saving it. I'm sure they are uneducated but that's a pretty basic idea for someone who lives off the land. Rather, it is probably very difficult to save because of the lack of law and order, including the ability to store things without theft, or have the right to then sell them in a future drought (at, presumably, higher than-average prices). Then again, if they really never have thought of cutting and saving grass, they really have zero chance of becoming a modern society on their own.
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Think of stored hay as Capital, and the typical African government as Socialist, and the upshot is clear.
Posted by: dearieme | Jun 11, 2007 1:56:24 PM
Now I don't know much about making hay...but I do recall that one only makes it when the sun shines. Otherwise it rots.
Now the Millenium Village is in Western Kenya, where it rains a helluvalot - and at the same time at which the grass grows.
So I suspect that the poor bloody locals will struggle to sell rotting grass and are well aware of it.
Also - Western Kenya is very heavily populated and not a great deal of land is given over to pasture.
So quite what is going on I don't know.
I suspect that some of this bad advice is that information doesn't move in Kenya very efficiently. What might the economic reasons be for this?
Tim adds: If the information flow is what is lacking, increase the information flow. By, for example, handing out mobile phones perhaps?
Posted by: Mark | Jun 11, 2007 5:01:42 PM
It rains? Make silage.
Posted by: dearieme | Jun 11, 2007 7:13:24 PM
There are particular techniques - technologies, if you will - for growing, harvesting and storing hay in the best way, and I suppose it is these techniques which the Sachs crowd are imparting - transferring, if you like - to the local farmers. We could call this process 'technology transfer'. It's a good thing. And since African farmers are well acquainted with the concept and practice of storing things, the need for technology transfer seems a more plausible explanation than the idea that The Evil Dictators who rule the whole continent of Africa in your imagination simply nick everything.
Posted by: Jim | Jun 11, 2007 7:33:16 PM
Actually, I've just read the relevant passage in the article. Not cutting the grass is a cultural thing in that area. Simple really.
Posted by: Jim | Jun 11, 2007 7:37:35 PM
It's quite clear in the article that the population of Dertu aren't farmers; they're semi-nomadic herdsmen. It's much less surprising that herdsmen don't make hay than farmers not doing so.
Posted by: dsquared | Jun 12, 2007 9:54:16 AM