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Gender equality in many countries is not a question of fairness, it’s a matter of life and death. Malala Yousafzai, Nadia Murad, the Chibok girls are familiar names not because their stories are extraordinary, but because they remind us about experiences that for many girls and women are common. So common infact, they are forgotten. Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. Three million are at risk of female genital mutilation every year. But gender-based violence is not only a “developing country” phenomenon. …

What can economists really say about how to make the world a better place?

It’s rare for economists to highlight how little is known about which policies and institutions fuel economic growth and prosperity. But in their latest book, Good Economics for Hard Times, Nobel Prize-winning economists Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee do exactly that. And it’s this quality of humility and courage, espoused throughout their writing, that inspires confidence and curiosity in what they have to say about other, potentially more important, issues.

Each chapter of the book tackles a big question of global relevance — many of which the reader has likely pondered or even debated over the dinner table. Questions like…

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I spend much of my time swimming around the topic of sustainable development. My reflections are often ancohred to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) — 17 universally acknowledged goals that make for a better and more sustainable world.

Of the 17 goals, SDG 3, “Promote Health and Well-Being at All Ages” is one that we’ve achieved remarkable success in over the last decades. Child and maternal mortality has fallen dramatically and life expectancy has gone up. But what has happened to well-being? And what do we mean by well-being anyway?

As COVID-19 pushes us to grapple with the prospect of…

It’s not just meat consumption that heightens the risk and impact of diseases like COVIDー19. Vegetarian or not, the fundamental way in which we produce and consume food is destroying our ability to live with nature.

Input-intensive industrial agriculture is a launchpad for infectious diseases in more ways than one. Much attention has focused on the implications of excessive meat consumption which drives habitat loss and enhances human-wildlife interaction. There is also evidence that the overuse of antimicrobials in livestock makes pathogens resistant to drugs used in human & animal medicine.

In the US, 9 times more antibiotics are given to animals than humans. 90% of antibiotic use in animals is non-therapeutic.
Source: Emerging human infectious diseases and the links to global food production, Rohr et al., Nature Sustainability, June 2019

Treating diseases caused by pathogens…

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Many people believe that charities waste money on ‘administration’, and therefore the best charities have low administration costs. Some people even take a strong form of this view, that the best charities are by definition those which spend the least on administration, i.e., you can tell how good a charity is just by looking at their admin costs.

It’s nonsense. As Michael Green, co-author of Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save The World says[1]:

A bad charity with low administration costs is still a bad charity’.

The merits and demerits of assessing charities on their admin costs have been debated for…

By “making farming sexy”, it’s believed African governments can create jobs at scale, boost agricultural productivity, and spur rural growth. For several reasons, these expectations may be unrealistic.

Vozbeth Kofi Azumah, who grows snails and giant rats on his farm in Ghana, is among an increasing number of college-educated agricultural entrepreneurs in Africa. Credit: Nana Kofi Acquah for The New York Times —

Africa’s rapid urbanisation, shifting consumer diets, and climate breakdown are raising concerns about the future of food security on the continent. As urban residents are net food buyers, policymakers are keen to increase the volume of agricultural production — through both productivity improvements and by convincing young people to practice farming as a profession.

Accounts of humble heros and savvy entrepreneurs leaving urban trappings to feed rural communities are intensely celebrated — in the media, by international donors, governments, and philanthropists. Initiatives that aim to make agriculture more attractive to young people receive accolades and garner significant funding.

“The future…

Micro-summaries of latest research; curated from leading peer-reviewed journals.

When it comes to buzzwords, I’ll admit I’m totally enamoured by the push to get development practitioners and policymakers to make better use of research findings.

Working for a non-profit myself, I believe decisions based on evidence are a no-brainer. An organisation that integrates evidence into funding decisions will have a higher chance of success, require fewer resources (because mistakes are costly), and most importantly, build a genuine culture of learning and curiosity in the process.

The rigourous and disciplined use of evidence can however be a problem if your organisation is inclined or incentivised (as many non-profits are) to…

7 questions non-profits must ask the people they serve

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Who Matters?

Imagine judging the success of a new restaurant without talking to people who’ve eaten there. You could look at the menu, speak to staff and food critics, analyse the accounts, and draw on a host of other sources. But, without the views of real customers, your assessment would miss all the juicy details: Does the food tingle diners’ tastebuds? Was it a memorable experience? Will they come again? Without this information and actions that follow-on, the business is unlikely to survive.

Now suppose this restaurant does not operate for profit. It’s a non-profit that provides free meals to the homeless…

In 2010 a group of activists saved Kenyan farmers from the clutches of Monsanto (now Bayer). Can they do it again?

In 2010 commodity trading giant Louis Dreyfus shipped 40,000 tons of maize seed to Kenya on behalf of the South African government. There was just one problem: ordinary Kenyans had no idea the seed was genetically modified — a despite the right to this knowledge being enshrined in the country’s National Biosafety Act.

It was only when South Africa made good on it’s obligations under the international Cartagena protocol to publicly declare all cross-border movements of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), that the Kenyan government became aware of the shipment. …

Shruti Patel

Lifelong learner striving to make development aid work better. Here because “If you don’t take risks for your opinion, you are nothing” ~Nassim Taleb

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