Friday, June 11, 2010

US aid puts Haitians out of Business

This is something Vonnegut would write.

"Aid" food has flooded the Haitian market, driving Haitian farmers in the north out of business. They can't compete with the free food, mostly from the US. Now, they must choose between selling their rice for $Ass, or eating.

So, our "help" is literally starving Haitian farmers.

Philanthropy is the devil in disguise. And the quickest road to lichdom.


Kristen said...

There is effective aid, and ineffective aid. Given that I work in non-profit fundraising, I get to see a great deal of the behind-the-scenes strategy and I've honed the criteria of what I consider effective and ineffective. Example: Micro-loans = effective. Why, because they enable people to obtain the tools/skills/etc., to support themselves. (Kind of like the give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish story. Except micro-finance mostly goes to women. Long story.) US Aid is tricky. It can be very effective in the short term, but because it is typically bound by allocation terms set by Congress, (therefore, it's law, etc.,) it doesn't have the ability to meet changing needs quickly and effectively. Good for emergent situations, or situations where there are clearly delineated long-term needs, bad for a lot of others. The more red tape involved, the less effective any aid is likely to be. US Aid distributed through Govt sources (here or abroad,) tends to get bogged down, twisted by corruption and somehow misses the mark.

Do we need to change the process for distributing aid? Yes. The farmers in Haiti would probably be better served by help replacing stock or equipment, or having people to do labor. The people of Haiti would be better served by being able to get back to work, if they're able, rather than becoming dependent. Treating Haiti as if the earthquake was yesterday, instead of seeing it as a country trying to rebuild, helps no one. Neither does condemning aid on a wholesale basis.

Anonymous said...

I too have worked for non-profits and currently teach some hours in an essentially non-profit program.

When and how to help are very tricky questions...

It's not that help is bad, just that we humans seem very, very bad at doing it effectively.

Personally, I believe in altruism. My hunch is that help offered out of altruism can be effective.

"Enlightened self interest" tends to bugger up everything.

For example, I think if you look into Micro-finance, or micro-credit you'll find that they tend to create very bad situations and ultimately hurt the people they're intended to help, while making the "helpers" richer, more powerful and giving them aura of doing "good."

But really, it's a matter of well-to-do people converting a portion of "aid" money over into profit, essentially privatizing aid programs and "community" resources. I've seen compelling evidence that MEN end up receiving the money after they take it from their wives, leaving their wives to prostitution or other drastic means to repay the loans. Often causing a cycle of debt without establishing a source of income for these women.

Secondly, micro-loans often go to encourage "business" that's heavily dependent upon predatory corporations, such as farming using Monsanto products--destroying the quality of soil, making farmers dependent upon Monsanto chemicals to fertilize their fields and yielding seed which is not fertile: again, landing the "helped" into a cycle of debt to the companies that are cynically financing the micro-loans....

The argument I will make is that it is not the mindset of "helping" that hurts, it's the mindset of "philanthropy" and the "meaning" that word entails for the noble "philanthropist."

At the root of the argument, is that helping people is a REAL, tangible goal...

What motivates the "enlightened self interest" of philanthropy is made up gobbledy gook.

And it's hard to get things done while chasing windmills.