How do you help people who live on less than a dollar a day?

How do you help people who live on less than a dollar a day?

This is one of the challenges that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is taking on. In preparation for a recent visit there, Raoul and I reread a speech that Bill Gates gave at the 2009 world food prize symposium

It is worth a read.

He points out that three-quarters of the world's poorest people get their food and income by farming small plots of land. So if we can make small-holder farming more productive and more profitable, we can have a massive impact on hunger and nutrition and poverty.

If we are successful, we can also have a massive impact on reducing population growth as brilliantly demonstrated by Hans Rosling during a talk for TED.

Gates points out that "the global effort to help small farmers is endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two.

On one side is a technological approach that increases productivity.

On the other side is an environmental approach that promotes sustainability.

Productivity or sustainability - they say you have to choose.

It's a false choice, and it's dangerous for the field. It blocks important advances. It breeds hostility among people who need to work together. And it makes it hard to launch a comprehensive program to help poor farmers."

His conclusion?

"The fact is, we need both productivity and sustainability - and there is no reason we can't have both."

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Interesting program on malnutrition on TV last night. Basically the US effort has been geared to supporting corn and soybean farmers in the USA by supplying a corn and soybean flour which does not give useful nutrition to a malnourished child. Also US aid is constrained by law only to use food grown in the USA. It is not set up to provide nutritious food nor to encourage local food production. So it sounds like there needs to be be a revision of US efforts, which are the largest efforts in the world, if any progress is to be made.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 17 Jul 2010 #permalink

how ? start by sterilizing them

...but this is the challenge! There needs to be a clean merger of productivity and sustainability, maximizing both with some some compromise on both sides. Pitting one against the other is dangerous. This is the theatre were GE will eventually shine.

@ matelot: while sterilization is certainly an option for those unconcerned with basic human rights and the consequences of forgoing them, I think a rather better approach would be to educate women and make contraception available to them. It's true that if we keep handing out food without doing these things, the population will increase making any gains in productivity pointless. But sterilization, really?

By Katroshka (not verified) on 19 Jul 2010 #permalink

Ranggaw036 - where do you live that most people could live comfortably with the equivalent of less than 2 dollars a day?

I'm somewhat skeptical as to the truth of this statement - I'm sure it's possible to scrape by and barely live on less than 2 dollars a day, but have the feeling that unless you massively redefine "comfortably" it frankly isn't possible.

I can however base this only on second hand evidence at the moment - the most appalling illustration of this which I have seen recently was the BBC America series "Blood Sweat &" (T-shirts, or Takeaways) in which ludicrously spoilt British twentysomethings had to go and live essentially the equivalent of dollar a day lifestyles (in blood sweat and t-shirts this involved spending time in the clothing manufacturing industry in India - from cotton field, through processing and on to actual manufacture, in the other I believe they were in Indonesia (or some other South East Asian country) and involved in the food business) - in neither series was it remotely possible to live comfortably on the sort of wages being paid, meaning a malnourishment diet and utterly substandard living arrangements, not to mention that the work day for most workers was reminiscent of the kind of labour practices utilized during the industrial revolution (14+ hour days and child labour anyone? Sleeping on the factory floor as accomodation? Any takers?) - and the majority of these people (at least in the Indian sweatshops) were people who had moved from rural areas precisely because this work was more profitable to them than working in agriculture. Which is pretty sickening. I can't imagine a situation in which seeing your child once every 6 months because that's the only way you can hope to pay for her to possibly have a better life could be considered anywhere near comfortable.

I suppose that is an age old question investigate by people with pedigrees as long as their arm. I believe the answer is. What do you not do for those living on a dollar a day? The immediate answer is dont' give their gov. Cash. From there on I'm lost.