Poverty Trap

Funny how Development and Peace claims to be fighting poverty, but some of their actions just ingrain poverty.

Take for instance their efforts on agriculture.  As you can see on this page, D&P empahsizes the importance of “small-scale farmers”. In the Global South, small-scale farming barely provides a subsistence income with very little up-side for improving your lifestyle.

How did Western countries become so prosperous? In part because we learned that small-scale farming was horribly inefficient. We realized that there were huge economies of scale associated with large farms. This dramatically increased food production, made food cheaper, allowed many more mouths to be fed and liberated labour to go work in higher-paid jobs in cities. This is the path that so many countries have taken to exit the Third World and join the group of wealthy nations.

The path to development must necessarily pass through mergers of small farms into ever larger farms to harness these economies of scale.

But D&P, unfortunately, is rooted in Marxist ideologies. They see large farms as intrisically evil because they are based on capitalist principles of growth and moving up. I’m sure they don’t purposely intend to keep the Global South in poverty, but that’s what will happen if they keep pushing for small-scale farming and don’t give those poor people the chance for betterment.

It would actually be much easier for current developing countries to enhance their agricultural practices because the technologies required for large-scale farming have already been invented by the West. Back in the days when Canada and the US were becoming industrialized countries, we had to invent those technologies and farming techniques from scratch. Today, they’re common practice and available to anyone in the world.

Capitalism is far from perfect, but it’s very good at creating material wealth. And not just wealth for the few, as the Occupy crowd claimed. Even the poorest people in Canada are much better off than the average Haitian. In the last few decades, capitalism has allowed hundreds of millions of people in Asia and Latin America to better their lives and move out of abject poverty. All the development agencies in the world combined cannot claim anything near that amount of success.

Any real development agency should seek to foster this type of productivity-enhancing growth that would bring rising incomes to the masses. D&P has it backwards.

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