What does migration have to do with on-farm conservation? A field report from the Altiplano Norte of Bolivia.

Giulia BaldinelliBy Giulia Maria Baldinelli

Although this fact may not be immediately obvious to most people outside the region, the Bolivian Altiplano is the origin and heart of much of the world’s agricultural biodiversity. While most Western consumers have at least seen one type of potato and some health-conscious eaters have come into contact with quinoa, most of us would have never heard of other foods such as oca, isaño, papalisa, cañahua, and tarwi. This is because these crops have traditionally been excluded by developed countries’ agricultural research and conservation activities for a number of reasons.

Firstly, past and present efforts have aimed at increasing yields and productivity of a narrow set of crops suited to high-input, high-output farming, focusing on grains like rice, wheat, and maize, which produce more than half of the global food energy needs. Indigenous crop varieties are simply less commercially viable and thus remain relatively invisible. They are rarely sold for money, but are instead consumed directly by poor, rural people that grow them in order to meet their own families’ nutrition needs. The likes of oca, tarwi, and papalisa are thus relatively unknown outside rural areas; the demand for them in urban and international markets is scarce, and commercialization is difficult. Read More »

Live Research Bulletin: How Asian Countries Are Protecting Their Environments and Economies

Development RoastBy Carolynn Look and Garance Marcotte

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” -Chinese Proverb

Some of the greatest ancient civilizations used to roam the lands that are now India, China, and Thailand. They were known for practices that showed a deep-rooted respect for the world around them, both in their daily lives and in their spirituality. Still today, the harmony between man and nature is seen in many parts of Asia, from Mongolian nomads living in yurts, to Tibetan monks leading minimalistic lives and seeking spiritual balance with everything around them. However, in many other places, this relationship has changed. Rapid urbanization is changing the continent’s landscape as rural-urban income disparities increase, water bodies are becoming severely damaged and pollution is at some of the world’s worst levels. Read More »

Live Research Bulletin: Accounting for the Environment in Europe—Progress and Lessons.

Throughout November Development Roast is bringing you live research updates on an INESAD working paper currently in progress that is investigating national environmental accounting efforts around the world. Today, Carolynn Looks sums up the European experience.

A kilo of tomatoes in Spain typically costs around €1.99. This price includes the efforts of the farmer who grew the tomatoes, transportation costs, and the work of the retailer. What it does not include is the cost of emissions as these tomatoes make their way across Europe, or of water usage, deforestation and loss of biodiversity as monoculture plantations spread across Spain’s rural landscapes. Because of an increasing recognition of such detrimental effects, economists and governments have started to realize that air, water and forests are not in fact free and have asked themselves: What is the price of an old Cypress tree? How much does a clean river cost? How do you place a value on a gulp of unpolluted air, or on an entire habitat?

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There are no country-bumpkin economists: A problem for economic research institutes

Since entering the world of economics a short while ago I have repeatedly been surprised by some major development institutions’ lack of regard for the country-side and rural activities. In the 2009 the World Development Report the World Bank called on an increase in urbanization, and therefore a reduction in rural employment, as “essential for economic success.” This development policy was adopted by both the World Bank and a number of senior economists after seeing the positive effects that industrialization has had in North America, Western Europe and Northeastern Asia.  One underlying view behind this popular urbanization theory is that the countryside is a breeding ground for poverty, which can only be relieved with mass migration to cities where “proper” economic activities in the service and business sectors can be undertaken.

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Can Consultancies Sustain a Long-Term Research Strategy in Developing Countries?

“The mushrooming of consultancy firms and NGOs drawing on a large number of social scientists amounts to an internal brain drain, which is no less problematic than the external brain drain, even if it is less talked about.” Mweru, 2010

In Bolivia, as in most other developing countries, there is very little government support for scientific research and even full-time university professors are not generally expected to do research. This means that the small amount of research that does get done in these countries is the product of consultancies and other commissioned work, financed mostly by international institutions. Read More »


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