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Africa

Your morning adrenelin rush

Fed up with non-profits, Facebook Cofounder Chris Hughes And Google Are Giving Cash Directly To The Poor

Having seen mismanagement and corruption in some non-profits, I agree with their approach

Paul Niehaus, an assistant professor of economics at UC San Diego and a board member of GiveDirect, came up with the idea of transferring money to poor people’s cell phones back in 2008. He was working with the Indian government to limit corruption and saw how the government there transferred money to people’s phones. “I realized I could do that myself,” Niehaus told me. He told the gathering in San Francisco that most of the money that’s donated to help poor people goes to international development organizations, not poor people directly. GiveDirectly’s giving has had “big impacts on nutrition, education, land and livestock” and “hasn’t been shown to increase how much people drink,” Niehaus emphasized. “A typical poor person is poor not because he is irresponsible, but because he was born in Africa.”

GiveDirectly finds poor households – typically people who live in mud huts with thatched roofs – and uses a system called M-Pesa, run by Vodafone , to transfer money to their cell phones. Transaction fees eat up a mere 3 cents per donated dollar. Niehaus says plenty of recipients use the money to upgrade their homes by adding a metal roof.

Which is why I like to give money through Kiva.

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias says much the same thing in Slate

Poverty is, fundamentally, a lack of money. So doesn’t it make sense that simply delivering cash to poor people can be an effective strategy for alleviating it?

Transferring money to poor Americans has been a much bigger success than most of us realize. When it comes to the global poor—the hundreds of millions of slum-dwellers and subsistence farmers who still populate the world—one might be more skeptical. Perhaps the problems facing these unfortunates are simply too profound and too complex to be addressed by anything other than complicated development schemes. Well, perhaps.

But there’s striking new evidence that helping the truly poor really is as simple as handing them money. Money with no strings attached not only directly raises the living standards of those who receive it, but it also increases hours worked and labor productivity, seemingly laying the groundwork for growth to come.

The World is Running out of Topsoil

From Time Magazine

A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left. Some 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classed as either degraded or seriously degraded – the latter means that 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone. Because of various farming methods that strip the soil of carbon and make it less robust as well as weaker in nutrients, soil is being lost at between 10 and 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished. Even the well-maintained farming land in Europe, which may look idyllic, is being lost at unsustainable rates.

via

Liberia ex-first lady proposes killing homosexuals

From the AFP

The bill submitted by former president Charles Taylor’s ex-wife, now a senator, also seeks to amend laws to prohibit gay marriage.

"No two persons of the same sex shall have sexual relations. A violation of this prohibition will be considered a first degree felony," reads the proposed amendment to marriage laws.

First degree punishment can range from 10 years to life imprisonment to the death sentence, on the discretion of the judge.

Voluntary sodomy is already a criminal offence in the west African country and can result in up to three years imprisonment, according to a lawyer consulted by AFP.

George Tengbeh, a senator supporting the bill, said he hoped it would put an end to months of acrimonious public debate on gay rights.

Umm, someone needs to tell the senator that in democracies, acrimonious public debate does not need to lead to be resolved by death penalty legislation.

It aims "to prevent the parliament from talking about such an issue that is against our tradition and culture," he told AFP.

Right, because the last thing a democracy wants is a discussion.  It does look like cooler heads will prevail.

The information ministry released a statement on January 26 saying: "The Liberian government will not allow the legalisation of gay and lesbian activities in Liberia. The president has vowed not to allow such a bill, and even if the bill goes before the president she will veto it."

Natalie Warne – Anonymous Extraordinaries

Amazing video from TEDxYouth about the potential of young activists to change the world.

Born in an underserved part of downtown Chicago, Natalie and her five siblings had to survive on her mother’s humble teacher salary, moving from city to city to find work. No stranger to adversity, Natalie was determined to make something great out of her life.

At 17, Natalie saw the documentary Invisible Children: The Rough Cut, a film exposing Africa’s longest running war. Compelled by this story, she applied to be a volunteer or "roadie" for Invisible Children, using her voice to help end this war.

She quickly stood out among the other interns, and was quickly given responsibility to help lead Invisible Children’s largest project to date; an event in 100 cities worldwide called "The Rescue." Through her determination, tens of thousands of people came out to the event, sleeping in the streets for up to six days in order to raise the profile of this war.

Her efforts paid off when Oprah Winfrey invited Invisible Children, and Natalie, onto her show to add her voice to the numbers. The event was then highlighted on Larry King Live, CNN, and countless other news outlets. Natalie has natural charisma, astounding leadership qualities, and is now working in Los Angeles as a film editor, to continue to share stories of injustices.

Is this Pro-Life

As William Kristof writes,

The Bush administration this month is quietly cutting off birth control supplies to some of the world’s poorest women in Africa.

Thus the paradox of a “pro-life” administration adopting a policy whose result will be tens of thousands of additional abortions each year — along with more women dying in childbirth.