If you only read one thing this week…

Cooking… by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
February 9, 2010, 2:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Cooking stoves are such an integral part of our everyday life. The article “The Perfect Stove” in the New Yorker discusses the success and failure of engineers to create affordable, environmentally friendly, and easy to use stoves. Four stoves and their designs are discussed in detail. The technology for these stoves varies from fans, batteries to gasifiers. The low-emissions stove being designed by Aprovecho which uses a fan that uses heat from the fire to generate its own power was particularly interesting.  I am sure some of these stoves will help supplement Mercy Corps efforts in the “Stove Projects” being undertaken in the African countries and other parts of the world.

Reading this article made me reminisce about my childhood which was spent mostly in a remote village in the southern part of India where I spent most of my evenings watching my grandmother cook on the old fashioned wood stove, covered in soot and perpetually teary eyed because of the smoke. For sure my late grandmother would have appreciated the efforts of these engineers and their quest for new and improved stoves!

The Perfect Stove: News Desk : The New Yorker

Submitted by Kokila Mallikarjuna


Is “Dead Aid” talking about “us”? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
February 2, 2010, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dambisa Moyo’s book, Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa made quite a stir when it was published last year. In case you haven’t read it yet, our own Devan Wardwell has written an excellent summary (see below) that makes you feel as though you have read the book in detail!

The Basics:
  • Moyo is from Zambia, and is an economist. She says she doesn’t give development advice. Instead, she gives economic advice on ways to administer aid that lead to economic prosperity.
  • For the purposes of this book, Moyo characterizes “Aid” as “Official Development Assistance” – basically government to government loans and subsequent debt relief, facilitated by the World Bank and the IMF.
  • She dismisses “humanitarian aid” (MC’s type of assistance) both as small fry compared to governmental aid/debt relief and as merely an extension of the “culture of aid” that permeates the west and has become a cultural commodity since pop stars have taken up its banner.
  • She is not entirely against aid, stating, “It might well be the case that more modest aid programmes that are actually designed to address the critical problems faced by African countries can deliver some economic value. The DA proposal does allow for this perspective, leaving room for modest amounts of aid to be part of Africa’s development financing strategy.”
Her argument:

Aid is a drug, and countries are addicted. The cycle is self-perpetuating and poor African nations are in so much debt that they need loans just to make their interest payments. The constant flow of loans with “soft” terms and debt forgiveness makes countries entirely dependent on this flow of cash.
Not only is aid dead, but it is to blame for every major problem in Africa today. Aid doesn’t just get misappropriated because of corruption, is the cause of and exacerbates corruption. Countries become complicit and dependent. Because of this, the cycle of aid also:
  • Decreases a country’s incentive to save
  • Eliminates the governmental balance provided by taxation and representation,
  • Exacerbates civil wars
  • Chokes off the export sector (“Dutch Disease”)
  • Discourages private foreign investment
  • Engenders lazy policy making
  • Eliminates the incentive to reform governmental institutions Continue reading