Friday, May 01, 2009

Aid, Subsidies & Wedding Gowns

via Dambisa Moyo's Twitter and William Easterly's Aid Watch - mosquito nets distributed free are being used to make wedding gowns and fishing nets (Kenya's Daily Nation):

Mosquito net manufactures are teaming up with the provincial administration and village elders in several parts of Kenya in an effort to apprehend and prosecute people who use the products for purposes other than covering beds.

According to Dr Elizabeth Juma, who is the head of malaria control under the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, there has been evidence of people turning the nets into fishing gear especially in Nyanza Province. Now a different group has discovered another lucrative business venture, and are using the nets to make wedding dresses.

While Easterly makes the argument that education would solve the issue of misuse - unfortunately amongst charities and aid organizations the "lack of education" issue often translates into "we need more money to teach people". I think the more fundamental issue is that people do not recognize that they have any real value (which also suggests that this form of distribution is also anything but sustainable). This is further reinforced by the fact that these nets are underpriced or given away for free.

The alternative? Sell the nets give distributors an incentive to educate their customers. The poor will and do pay for goods that they see as having real value.

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