- Michael Valiant/Flickr
There’s nothing like sitting down at the table with a bowl of fresh berries from the store. Rinse them, maybe sprinkle a bit of sugar on top, and enjoy. Sweet and healthy.
What’s not to like?
Seldom do we consider where the berries come from. That’s where medical anthropologist Seth Holmes comes in.
A doctor and Assistant Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Holmes spent months traveling and living with migrant farmworkers from Oaxaca, Mexico. He accompanied them across the desert border, all the way to farms in the Skagit Valley just an hour north of Seattle where they work bent over in the fields in harsh conditions – living in labor camp shacks, earning minimum wage or less, subject to racist taunts, and barred from promotions despite years of farm experience. His new book about all of this is called Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies.
And as we discuss in this conversation, the issues go full circle. While demand increases for organic food here at home, farmworkers are forced off their own farms in Mexico (which resemble the idyllic, nature-friendly farms we like to imagine) and migrate to the the United States because of our own economic policies, namely free trade agreements like NAFTA, which have flooded their country with subsidized American corn.
Do we, as a society, care about the people working speedily and skillfully to harvest our food – the very stuff that gives us life? The answer seems to be no. But with this book and other efforts to challenge the status quo, that all could be changing. Listen to learn how.
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Most people might not think growing mushrooms could make the world a better place.
Most might not see natural disasters like the Philippine’s catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan (aka Yolanda) as a business opportunity.
But then, most people aren’t creative entrepreneurs looking for innovative and profitable ways to fight poverty and human suffering.
- Pitching Fargreen, a Vietnam-based business aimed at helping smallholder farmers, at the UW’s global social enterprise contest.
“Mushrooms were big this year, for some reason, as was disaster relief,” said Kirsten Aoyama, director of the University of Washington’s Global Business Center. Continue reading
- Matthews (center) and the Witness Uganda cast perform at the American Repertory Theater.
- Gretjen Helene, American Repertory Theater
“We are not trying to resurrect buildings, we are trying to resurrect people,” shouted Griffin Matthews.
The global financial crisis in 2008 hit the banks in his home city and his small organization, the Uganda Project. Donations dried up for the organization that supported ten students in southern Uganda. All of Matthews’s frustrations came to a head that night in the form of venting to his partner, Matt Gould.
“There was a moment when I thought we were going under,” admits Matthews. “I thought to myself, “I am not making a difference, it is just a couple of kids in Uganda and people that know me would understand if I walk away.”"
Unbeknownst to Matthews, everything he was saying was being recorded by Gould. He reworked the words and added some accompanying music, then played it for Matthews. He was immediately convinced that they should perform the story as a way to reach people and raise money for the organization. A moment of crisis gave way to a solution that utilized their careers in the arts.
Six years later, the idea that was borne out of tapping a rant is a full fledged musical. Matthews and Gould are in the midst of a run performing Witness Uganda at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA through March 16. They collaborated with Diane Paulus to put on the production that tells a fictionalized version of Matthews’s trip to Uganda, the young people he met and his struggles to support their education.
Have you ever wondered how, and where, we (i.e., the U.S. government and American taxpayers) spend most of our foreign aid?
Would it surprise you to know we (unlike Britain and most other countries) categorize military deployments and arms sales as ‘foreign aid?’ Didja know our biggest check for ‘aid’ goes to wealthy Israel? Michael Truong at the US State Department did a great visual analysis of our foreign aid budget using Tableau. Go there and be enlightened. The images at the site are interactive.
- PEPFAR branding appears on hospital in South Africa.
There is plenty of debate over whether aid can help countries grow economically, but there is new evidence showing that it affects public opinion in a recipient country. Programs that provide targeted, sustained, effective and visible aid can lead to positive views of the donor countries.
While the money that US spends on aid programs in other countries helps people, it also serves a foreign policy goal. On one hand, the US stands to benefit from a safer, healthier and more prosperous world. On the other, it can generate good will towards the US.
“By doing good, a country can do well,” says Yusaku Horiuchi, an associate professor at Dartmouth College.
Benjamin Goldsmith of the University of Sydney, Terence Wood of the Australian National University and Horiuchi published a paper that proves how foreign aid can be a positive force for winning the hearts and minds of individuals. While the impact has been claimed for some time, they say that there was no evidence base, only anecdotes and claims by aid proponents. They undertook a comparative, cross-national perspective using data from a variety of countries to evaluate how the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), launched by the Bush administration in 2003, has impacted views on the US.
The United States is a global leader it its foreign aid spending. It sends more than $30 billion in official development assistance, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That is more than twice that of the next country, the UK.
Campaigners for foreign aid like to point out that the massive sum of US spending is less than 1% of the annual US federal budget. It is also small when held next to the $123.273 billion that foreign migrants send back home from the US in 2012. While attention is paid to the assistance given by governments to poor countries, individual remittances total more than $500 billion.
Supporters of more free migration rules often point to the vast sums that are sent back to families. Some professionals from parts of sub-Saharan Africa can send more money back home than they could have made if they stayed. As evidenced by the campaigning to prevent the shut down of remittance flows through the UK’s Barclays bank to Somalia, some families even rely up the money sent home as a major source of income.
The $69 billion that was sent back to India, an amount that likely had a much greater impact than the $4.86 billion that arrived in aid. The benefits also reach rich countries. Dozens of countries sent $4.5 billion in remittances back to the US, from Sudan to South Korea. However comparisons to foreign aid are not so neat. A working paper from Michael Clemens and Timothy Ogden for the Center for Global Development poses the idea that research on remittances has not been framed correctly.
They offer new questions that should be answered. It is based on re-calibrating the thought that remittances are aid and move it to the idea that they are a financial tool for individuals and families. Such a shift, they suggest, would lead to policies that would seek to free up the the constraints to remittance flows. For now, this interactive Pew Research map helps to visualize the flow of remittances in and out of countries.
Here are a few examples:
- Remittances to Brazil
The UN agency tasked with supporting Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, published the above image earlier this week. It was taken during a distribution drive in the Syrian Yarmouk refugee camp in the capital city of Damascus. Humanitarians have struggled to provide humanitarian assistance to people in the most embattled parts of Syria. The photograph, taken January 31, captures the devastation caused by the fighting and how many people are affected.
The Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, visited the camp this week as a part of recent distributions by the agency to people living in the camp. Humanitarian access has been non-existent since July, before partial access was granted in January. Serious concerns remain about cases of severe malnutrition and the physical and emotional harm caused by the fighting.
“I am deeply disturbed and shaken by what I observed today,” said Grandi in a release.
“The Palestine refugees with whom I spoke were traumatized by what they have lived through, and many were in evident need of immediate support, particularly food and medical treatment. What I have seen and heard today underlines the timeliness of the UN Security Council resolution 2139 on Humanitarian Access and the need for all sides to implement the resolution without fail. ”
- Patients lay down in a corridor of the pediatric area of El Fasher Hospital, North Darfur.
- Albert González Farran/UNAMID
Western nations are benefiting from the migration of skilled health professionals trained in Africa. A new report by the UK-based advocacy group Health Poverty Action says that Western countries should pay back the poor countries for the training.
One of the challenges to health in sub-Saharan African countries is a lack of health workers. Africa bears 24% of the global disease burden, but only 3% of the health workers in the world are on the continent.
This shortage is exacerbated by the migration of health workers from African countries to the West, says the report The Health Worker Crisis: an analysis of the issues and main international responses. It uses four case studies to show the impact of health worker shortages in sub-Saharan Africa. It seeks to draw attention to the problem of a too small health workforce and the factors that contribute to the problem.
“Health systems can’t function without health workers. This issue is key in meeting the health related MDGs, achieving UHC etc. Yet this issue often gets sidelined,” said Natalie Sharples, Senior Policy Advisor for Health Poverty Action, to Humanosphere.
A 2006 survey by the World Health Organization identified thirty-six sub-Saharhan African countries as having critical health worker shortages. Norway has the highest density of doctors, nurses and midwives with 361 professionals for every 10,000 people. Conversely, countries like Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ethopia and Malawi have 3 or less professionals for every 10,000 people.