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Saturday, December 13, 2003

Private sector fallibility + food security
The BBC's Alex Kirby is producing a series of reports from Ethiopia which touch on many profound issues + merit wider consideration...

Alex's first report includes an interview with Ethiopia's equivalent of an environment minsiter, Dr. Teowolde Egziabher, a hero of last year's World Summit on Sustainable Development who prevented the WTO being given supremacy over international environment agreements, and now complains of the rich world's obsession with finding private sector solutions to development problems and the difficulties this causes in Ethiopia, where the private sector is not well developed, people are poor + profit margins low.

Interestingly, Dr. Teowolde says that he does not exclude the use of genetically modified crops in solving Ethiopia's food security problems, but he is not happy that the use of this technology is driven by vested interests, that the private sector is treated as a god when it is in fact fallible + that he would feel happier if the results of GM research were in public hands.

In another article, Alex interviews poor farmers who have benefitted from a micro-credit scheme being piloted by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) + the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture which enables them to invest in an infrastructure that would not otherwise be possible.

To date, these new funds have helped to buy two water pumps (which ensure fields produce good crops on a more reliable basis) + to establish a dairy business which generates a small income and should eventually permit the village to buy a small tractor.

See also, Alex's recent report on the outbreak of rabies which threatens the already critically endangered Ethiopian Wolf.