Friday, October 23, 2009

A follow-up on "Desertification"

My "Desertification" post described a number of themes common throughout Africa. Natural resources are more valuable than human ones (labor, invention, etc). Resources - in this case, wood - are often extracted with little regard for the environmental impact. The communities are too poor to stop said extraction, leading both to a loss of their natural resources, and to environmental difficulties down the road.

In this case, the specific environmental impacts concerned are significant. At the very least, they lose the wood with no compensation, causing people to have to go farther and farther for firewood (which they require daily for cooking). But potentially worse, the impact expands to include desertification, which can lead to crop failures and food shortages.

And the village ends up dealing with the consequences because they don't have the power to stop it.

Except when they do.

And so it came to pass that, after the election of a new mayor (not the gentleman mentioned in my story), the commune of Narena began seizing charcoal by the truckload. All illegally harvested, all headed for Bamako. It came in to the mayor's office over a series of weeks, and sat there for days - a warning to all other would-be wood-bandits. After discussions with the community, the mayor's office sold it themselves, returning the proceeds to the commune.

It was a rare victory for good governance in a place where victories are hard to come by.

And I thought you'd like to know.

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