Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Peace Corps and Soft Colonializm

My friend who moved away also had goats that had to be quickly relocated, so we agreed to take them (perhaps temporarily). 
I never before realized, although I have seen these goats wandering around when we visited her, what an incredibly ugly beast Brown Goat is.  She has a serious Hapsburg lip, which, supposedly being Nubian goat, is not necessarily a congenital defect.  Traditionally Nubians had overshot jaws to help them browse trees and shrubs in their native desert, but since it has no purpose for Nubian goats in the ordinary modern set-up, it is generally selected against for breeding.  Ethan was joking (rather cruelly, I thought) that this was a picture of Mirin's girlfriend.

This one, called Pan, is a kinder (Nubian/African Pygmy cross).  She is the smart, bossy one, and has almost broken our gate trying to fight Nougat through it.  Of course, if Nougat is let in with her, she hides behind Brown Goat, who is a big wuss.  They are both a good deal smaller than our goats, except April and Twilight Sparkle.

Another thing my friend passed along to us was a booklet she had received from a friend in the Peace Corps called Agroforestry Manual by the Peace Corps The Gambia.  I was excited about it because the introduction mentions Fonio, a grain we got from a friend from Mali that we are going to try growing this year.

I had always thought the Peace Corps was a force for good in the undeveloped world, but quite to my surprise, I found some very shocking things about the publication.

I think one of the problems is that the kids in the Peace Corps are all white suburbanites who have never had to really work a day in their lives.  I think they probably are well-meaning.  They only get 11 weeks of training, and are then supposed to teach people who have subsistence farmed their entire life how to farm better - and from the sound of things, not getting anything to grow is fairly common -  like the poor guy who had the school kids tending his trees that he was going to foist on the populace.  He left for an Easter break, and came back, only to discover that no one had watered his plants, and goats had eaten them all.  He was furious because no one had cared for it in his absence, and everyone was laughing at him.

 (Take some responsibility for your project, dude!  It's not like we can pick up and leave the farm for a week-long vacation without some serious compensation for who ever will be taking care of it for us - and certainly not a bunch of first-graders.)

A lot of the manual is complaining about how the local people don't want to take over the responsibility of these tree farms and projects.  I came across was this quote:

"Another thing not in your control is tradition.  One major obstacle to change in any society.  People everywhere are used to the way things are and are very reluctant to change, especially if it requires more work than the traditional way.  Of huge importance is fatalism.  If things don't work out, then it was the will of God.  The American Dream, the idea that if you work hard enough, you will be rewarded, does not prevail in this society.  For a practice to be adopted, the benefits must be obvious and demonstrated in order for people to risk trying it."

Okay, first of all, Americans DO NOT work hard.  They hardly even move themselves around anywhere.  They have to go to special buildings called "Fitness Centers" to burn off all their extra calories they've carelessly consumed.  Any real work is done by oppressed local immigrants and slaves/indentured servants overseas.   Or they have big machines that depend on fossil fuels to do the job - and Americans fight big, expensive, devastating land wars in Asia and pollute the world and are slowly killing everyone to obtain and use them.

Second of all, growing all of your food IS hard work.  Those people already work really hard, taking care of their families, livestock and fields.  Duh!  Of course they want to make sure whatever the wet-behind-the-ears Peace Corps kid is trying to sell them will actually benefit them!

All of this takes another twist when you find out farther into the booklet that the reason they are trying to get people to plant trees NOW is because the colonial powers made all the farmers remove the trees they had traditionally planted, and now the Peace Corps is trying to get them to plant them again.  (It reminds me of what Asterix would say, "These Romans are crazy!")

On a slightly related note, I read an interview with Dr. Christine Jones recently in the March 2015 ACRES USA publication.  She is advocating for earth-saving, simple changes in agriculture that are proven to be incredibly effective and have the potential to reverse global warming.  I thought this was interesting:

"If  the soil is dysfunctional, chances are the wheels will fall off when the fertilizers are pulled.  If there is a failure, the farmers will revert back to what they know...chemical agriculture." (p.62)

"I launched the  ASCAS [Australian Soil Carbon Accreditation Scheme] in 2007 out of frustration that the federal government wasn't doing anything to reward innovation in land management.  I wanted to demonstrate that leading-edge farmers could build carbon in their soils and be financially rewarded for doing so.  But my attempts were blocked at every level, including being subjected to public ridicule." (p. 65)

Sound slightly familiar?  I guess the American Dream just doesn't prevail in Australia.

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