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Category Archives: Field notes

The Great Manhattan Africa Luxury Coffee Tour

Welcome to Manhattan, tourists! Today’s tour will accomplish three things: (1) you will find great coffee places, (2) you will find great coffees from Africa, and (3) you will end poverty in Africa. OK, both coffee people and aid people tend to exaggerate, so don’t take (3) literally, unless you are from the Earth Institute.

What better place to begin Manhattan coffee mania than at Stumptown Coffee Shop? This place takes African coffee so seriously,…

Also posted in Maps, Trade | Tagged , | 24 Comments

Barefoot on Broadway (Warning: gross feet pics)

Vivek Nemana is an NYU graduate student and a student worker at DRI.

I’ve been working at DRI long enough to recognize bad aid, and yet my skin still tingles when I watch the TOMS Shoes’ One Day without Shoes video. I know, I KNOW…but I just can’t help being swept away by montages of beautiful young people “taking action” set to a backdrop of a dramatic Matisyahu song. So I bared…

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The Negative Highway

UPDATE 1:30PM: More “Breezewood”s! See end of post

UPDATE 11:15am March 9: the Negative Subway (see end of post)

I used to drive often from Washington DC to Ohio and would pass fuming through  Breezewood PA, victim of a hijacking. Where there should have been a simple interchange of Interstates 70 and 76, the locals had conspired with the road builders to dump you on a short stretch of a stoplight-heavy road, PA State Highway 30,…

Also posted in Grand plans and aid targets, Organizational behavior | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

Don’t forget the Congolese who helped tell the Congo story

When Western  journalists report from the front lines in Africa, the reader may not be aware how much these reporters depend on Africans as sources, guides, translators, fixers, and intermediaries.

The curtain has just parted a bit to see one of these locals, a Congolese hero who helped get the story of the Congo out to the rest of the world (quoting CPJ):

Pastor Marrion P’Udongo has been called the “Oskar Schindler” of Congo…In

Also posted in In the news | Tagged | 2 Comments

Deep in the Sahara, listening to “Feelings”


Perhaps it’s a sign of ambivalence about Development that one periodically wants to flee the most developed places and go to the least developed place on earth.

One candidate for the latter is the Sahara desert in southwest Libya, around the Akakus mountains. The few local inhabitants are the Tuareg, with apparently very traditional ways (including great courtesy and hospitality). Bread baked in the sand with hot coals. On foot from one…

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Sometimes it IS about the money

There’s widespread agreement that more aid and more NGO donations are not a simplistic panacea to solve development problems. Judith Tendler  35 years ago wrote about the paradoxical phenomenon of aid abundance, in which donor agencies have trouble finding enough ways spending the money they already have; it’s still true today.

Yet things look very different at the other end of the aid delivery system. During a July trip to northern Ghana, I talked…

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Between the Massive Middle and Ivy Elite

UPDATE 9am, Oct. 27: commenter says too rosy a picture of Middle? see end of this post

There has been a lot of talk this political season about Ivy League Elitism. My own background—of belonging and yet not quite belonging to the elite— makes me very conflicted.

On Monday, I gave a seminar (not for the first time) at my undergraduate alma mater, Bowling Green State University, which is located in my hometown of Bowling…

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Diary of a serial summit attendee

One week. Two development summits. Hundreds of heads of state, development luminaries, CEOs, and social entrepreneurs. Celebrity star power. No poor people. Aid Watch spent three days trying to make sense of the greatest show on earth to help the world’s lowest.

TUESDAY

0930 hrs: I am crammed into a press box at the back of the world’s most glamorous development meeting, craning over the photographers to catch a glimpse of this year’s distinguished

Also posted in Maps | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

From Russia With Color, 1909

This amazing collection of color photographs taken in Russia in 1909-1912 is really unmissable (H/T Mari Kuraishi).

The picture is of an autocrat in Uzbekistan. Since then, there has been much progress, in the form of cheap polyester suits for today’s autocrats in Uzbekistan.

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African Tourism projects: great potential or white elephants?

Not too many people are aware that Ghana has a very good game park, called Mole National Park, about two hours drive from Tamale in the north, which is in turn a short flight from Accra.

Like many other African governments, Ghana’s government has high hopes for earnings from tourism. Will it happen?

You can sign me up as a zealous booster of Ghana tourism. Mole National Park alone is amazing, as I hope some…

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