Field Notes from the Development Industry 2/28/2013

1) A reader wrote in to ask for advice on an NGO that packages and sends rice and beans to “starving people.” I though my answer might be useful for others:

It’s a lot better for the local economy to procure the food there. The reason hungry people need food is not because it isn’t present in their country, but because they can’t afford it. If you buy food in country then you are supporting the (generally poor) farmers who grow the food as well as the people who can’t afford to buy it and you are also saving shipping cost.

You want to look very closely at the cultural acceptability of the food you’re shipping. A lot of cultures don’t understand or consume many kinds of beans.

Finally, I really dislike the way their website doesn’t talk about how the meal shipping actually works.

2) Today on twitter, someone asked why all aid workers are rich and white. My answer: they’re not. Most aid workers are nationals of the country the project is in. The reason we think otherwise is because we have racist ideas about who “counts” as an aid worker and because the media focuses on rich white people. Cough, cough, Nick Kristof.

3) I haven’t forgotten the M&E series, but I wanted to get this up while it was topical.