When the year draws to an end, editors of the world compete in an effort to sum up the past twelve months in the brashest colours to attract readers’ attention. With a new decade looming, the exercise leads to a tenfold production of Top 10s, from silliest video to mankind’s greatest invention of the last ten years.
Giving into the feverish trend, or simply responding to what is a natural reflective period, I could not help but look back on my past year at CAFOD. Totally subjective, partially representative, hopefully informative, this Top 10 is a snapshot of what went on in the mind of a (somewhat geeky) UK-based CAFOD member of staff in 2009.
Dead Aid: “Strong on plot but light on evidence…”
There seems to be renewed wave of interest in Dambisa Moyo’s book, Dead Aid, and no wonder.
Her thesis is that a trillion dollars of aid to Africa has left the continent worse off than it was 50 years ago and fosters the corruption which, in the popular mind at least, blights the whole of Africa.
This is music to the ears of those who reach for any pretext to reduce aid.
I have finally got around to reading the whole of Dead Aid. The first half is a brisk trot through the history of aid and the problems of aid, problems which most development practitioners will acknowledge – aid can increase the value of local currency, making locally produced goods less competitive (the Dutch disease), makes governments more accountable to donors than to their own citizens, imposes donors’ rather than national policies, funds inappropriate and wasteful projects, can undermine local enterprise and, yes, can fuel corruption.
The rising cost of food is worrying people in Europe, the US - but even more so in Asia, the Caribbean and Africa.
Here in Mozambique, people are feeling the impact of rising prices.
This country lives a paradox: it is a country with plenty of fertile land to grow food and plenty of people to work the land, but it is still dependent on imported food.
Wide open spaces and blue skies. Huge expanses with few semi-nomadic groups sharing the land with wild animals. Fertile soil, high grasses.
A railroad, the occasional road, government restricted to a few outposts.
Sounds like the Wild West?
Actually, I’m referring to Niassa Province, northern Mozambique.
The Province of Niassa, they joked to me in Maputo, é onde Judas perdeu a bota, which literally means: “Where Judas lost his shoe”.
I didn’t know that Judas ever lost a shoe, but this was clearly not the point.
The point is, Niassa is as far from Mozambique’s capital as Berlin is from London. Is this a place to influence government policies in favour of farmers? Yes, and let me explain why.