If You're So Smart...
The Rich Nations Mystery
Which "Wood" You Choose?
Intro
Intro
Intro
Part 1
Part 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 2
Part 2
Part 3
Part 3

What 'Wood' You Do: Cook Food or Build Houses?-Part 1

Research

Agricultural & Food Security
A safe, secure food supply is vital to a nation's health and development, enabling its government, businesses and citizens to make long term plans and investments. Some countries make a significant public investment in agricultural research and extension assistance, as in Canada, the United States and Asia (where the "Green Revolution" generated 4-5% annual growth in rice and wheat in India in recent decades), whereas other nations under-invest in agriculture, like Ecuador and Zambia. Other nations, such as Malawi, make poor choices by over-investing in crops like hybrid maize that do not reflect that nation's comparative advantage (i.e., the fertility of their agronomic resources relative to competing neighbors), instead of raising potentially more lucrative crops like burley tobacco for export and then importing maize from its maize-abundant neighbors. In economic terms, when Malawi raises maize it incurs large opportunity costs from not producing tobacco.

In regard to protecting natural and aesthetic resources, it is a mistake to think that economic development and environmental preservation are bitter enemies. In reality, more advanced economies generally do a better job of protecting their environmental assets than do poorer countries. Why? Because it is hard to get hungry, unemployed people to think long term about their environmental resources, e.g., to see their rain forests as capital assets rather than as sources of farmland. Even within agriculture, the poorest farmers tend to "mine" their soil's fertility by not making long term fertility-enriching investments in such things as terraces, grass strips, etc.

The solution to starvation and malnutrition is not necessarily for every hungry person to become a self-sufficient farmer, but to have a job with which to earn an income to buy food. Rain forests produce many marketable products (spices, pharmaceuticals, rubber, resins) and services (education, eco-tourism) which can be sold for income without destroying the forests. Furthermore, environmental conservation is an expensive enterprise in need of much scientific expertise and financial support. Hence, around the world, concern about preserving environmental quality tends to increase with incomes.

Read this short article on the Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894 to understand the generally complementary relationship between economic development and environmental protection.

Activity

Compare cereal yields (average weight of production of corn, rice, and other grains) per unit of land for Malawi and Thailand.

To make comparisons, go to:

data.worldbank.org/indicator/AG.YLD.CREL.KG/countries/MW-TH?display=graph

 

Which country is likely to enjoy a higher standard of living? Why? Compare the growth in yields for Thailand and Malawi between 1961 and 2008. Is this growth related to economic development?

$$ For More Info. Explore the websites of The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization: www.fao.org; Oxfam, an international group of independent non-governmental organizations that collaborate to impact poverty and injustice at: www.oxfam.org; and The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research: www.cgiar.org. Follow these links to: IFPRI, IRRI, ICRISAT, and CIMMYT. You may also want to visit some of the various sites at http://us.oneworld.net/, for discussions of the potential risks of cash-cropping.

Research

Natural Resources - some countries have plentiful supplies (endowments) of valuable natural resources and others do not. Saudi Arabia has a lot of oil, whereas Jordan does not. Jordan thus faces a more difficult path to developing a high standard of living.

Not only is it fortuitous to have ample natural resources, it also imperative to use them wisely. Whereas Botswana uses its valuable resources (primarily diamonds) efficiently, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) does not use its abundant supply of diamonds, gold, chromium and uranium as productively as possible.

Activity

What is community-based natural resource management? How does involving communities in decisions regarding management of their natural resources (including soil, woods, and others) enhance the possibilities for more effective long-run development? How are incentives changed when communities are able to effectively voice their concerns about and involve themselves in managing their resources?

Go to:

$$ For More Info. Explore the website of The World Bank: www.worldbank.org.

Now go on to Part 2