Monday, December 31, 2007


Just listened to a Fresh Air interview with Sarah Chayes, who founded and is running the Arghand Cooperative, which produces boutique soaps infused with the metaphorical (and literal) fruits of the south Afghanistan region. The goal is to wean the farmers off of the opium poppy by providing alternate products that add value to the local crops and are able to travel to Wester markets. They've been unable to meet the demand they've generated.

Chayes wrote an article in the Atlantic, Sents and Sensibility, about the journey of founding the cooperative, the frustrations of dealing with USAID, which is supposed to be helping groups like hers, and the amazing outpouring of direct support that actually got them up and running.

My brain: "Government-sponsored redevelopment can be extremely wasteful. Sometimes it's handled better by small, independent groups."

What am I, a Republican?! It's easy for me to say that we should foster an atmosphere of imagination and creativity in these agencies, but probably much tougher in practice. Accountability is a big factor.

My brain: "Why can't the government just fund independent groups with the flexibility and local expertise they lack?"

That's sooo problematic. And exactly what we're doing with the office of Faith-based initiatives, isn't it? :-(

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