Friday, February 16, 2007

Niger Part Two.

The title link is a backup copy of the title link from: In Niger Trees and Crops Turn Back the Desert. In this post there is a lot of ground to cover and as such I hopefully will keep my comments short for each article.

"The invisible hand of the market doesn't deliver a sustainable nation." True or false? According to the blog post, the invisible hand of the market does deliver a sustainable nation. As the blog title says it all: "...promoting capitalist acts between consenting adults." And this passage was notable:
We know that there exists a huge correlation between the care we give to the environment on one side, and wealth and technological prowess on the other side. It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to Nature, and vice versa. It's also true that there exist social systems that damage Nature - by eliminating private ownership and similar things - much more than the freer societies.

The title link introduced us to Chris P. Reij. After a little bit of search, I found a PDF report coauthored by Chris titled THE EMERGENCE AND SPREADING OF AN IMPROVED TRADITIONAL SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION PRACTICE IN
A very fine report that talked about development practices that came from above and from the farmers themselves, in essence a cooperative dialog to address the farmers needs and the environment. I do want to quote the abstract here:
This paper describes the emergence of improved traditional planting pits (zaï) in Burkina Faso in the early 1980s as well as their advantages, disadvantages and impact. The zaï emerged in a context of recurrent droughts and frequent harvest failures, which triggered farmers to start improving this local practice. Despair triggered experimentation and innovation by farmers. These processes were supported and complemented by external intervention. Between 1985 and 2000 substantial public investment has taken place in soil and water conservation (SWC). The socio-economic and environmental situation on the northern part of the Central Plateau is still precarious for many farming families, but the predicted environmental collapse has not occurred and in many villages indications can be found of both environmental recovery and poverty reduction.
Keywords: soil fertility, soil conservation, water conservation

A tree grows in the Sahel gave some background information and provided the link to the above report.

Chapter 5: Transforming Institutions on Agricultural Land again points out the minor changes in technology that can reap great rewards. The Zai pits not only store up water for dry periods but allow trees and other plants to use the fertilizers (organic or inorganic) more efficiently.

Researchers find Africa's land degradation can be reversed. Yes and a quote of note:
They showed that dryland degradation can be reversed if farmers, researchers and governments invest in planting trees, farming more sustainably and replenishing groundwater.

I view my attitude toward where information comes from to be agnostic, soIndigenous Knowledge, Biodiversity Conservation and Development brings out some important points while still giving credit that extension services and compilation of the information is important.
The Global Biodiversity Strategy, for example, includes as one of its ten principles for conserving biodiversity the principle that "Cultural diversity is closely linked to biodiversity. Humanity's collective knowledge of biodiversity and its use and management rests in cultural diversity; conversely, conserving biodiversity often helps strengthen cultural integrity and values"

I think they are missing one important aspect of their studies. If the farmers do not have property rights and the general population does not have freedoms then how can cultural diversity survive? So to me the first step is freedoms for the people.

The article Planners or performers? Reflections on indigenous dryland farming in northern Burkina Faso. Agriculture and Human Values states:
The paper argues that indigenous agricultural practices in semi–arid West Africa must be seen as dynamic operations that serve different ends. These ends are not only agricultural, but symbolic. By highlighting how farmers in the Central Plateau region of Burkina Faso organize their farming strategies, the paper begins to challenge and to extend the ‘agriculture as performance’ arguments developed by Richards(1987, 1993) for the humid forest zone of West Africa. Farmers, it is argued, are also keen ‘planners’; in order to meet their goals they invest considerable effort in overcoming ecological constraints, and also spend time forging links with various institutions working for agricultural development.

But that is the problem, nothing is sustainable if it does not keep up with population growth. And although I agree we (Industrialized nations) need to learn more from indigenous farmers and peoples, we also have to realize that many of these techniques have failed also resulting in much famine and deaths.

Since some of the last articles mentioned The World Bank, then I thought about adding a couple of their links here...
World Bank-Niger

World Bank-Niger-Country Brief

Niger: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper - 2004 and 2005 Annual Progress Reports - Joint Staff Advisory Note (Site)

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2006 Article IV Consultation with Niger

IMF Executive Board Completes the Third Review Under Niger's PRGF Arrangement and Approves US$8.9 Million Disbursement

Economic Growth and Total Factor Productivity in Niger


Thursday, February 15, 2007

In Niger, Trees and Crops Turn Back the Desert

The above article from the NY Times started a very interesting debate on Thom's Board and brought out a lot of different sources of information in the debate. I at first did not even pay attention to the thread. But then I saw How Property Rights are Helping Green the Sahel in Niger at "The Commons". And so I thought back the original thread title: Trees reverse Deserts and thought maybe it was related and it was.

And a couple of the points I made on the title link:
[I]ncreased populations does not necessarily degrade the environment.

[W]ell defined property rights of individuals created the incentives to protect the environment? This is a common problem of "tragedy of the commons" when it is owned by everyone then no ONE person owns it.

And I ended my simple points with a link to a PDF report: GROWING GREEN: THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA . This is a good report that questions some of the theoretical assumptions that organic farming (or more broadly as non-industrial) is always sustainable and better for the environment.

The blog post Property Rights In Action is a very good presentation of what an economist would take away from the title article. I do think that his fears of communal rights is somewhat unfounded and does not take into account the influences a group has on the individual in positive manners also. The second blog post called Small Changes Can Make a Difference calls the transfer of property rights (as the above post states) from the state to individuals (small groups) as the privatization of trees. This is not exactly correct but is headed in the right direction and of course small changes in behavior is most important. What causes that change is why Economists study incentives as much as they do.

Another economist also noted the lack of property rights in Togo: Almost Club Med and I included it in my blog post Freedom and Environmental Protection.

Instead of this post getting too long I will continue with a more broader analysis of Niger in my next post.

Edit (02-16-07): Just a couple of more points on Niger. Niger has a Environmental Performance Index of 25.7 the lowest number in all 133 countries surveyed.
And was based on: Health, Biodiversity, Energy, Water, Air and Natural Resources.

As far as ratings of peoples' freedoms from Freedom House, since 1999 they have become Partially Free from Not Free status. And the trend is going in a positive direction with 2005 being rated as 3 and 3 on a 1-7 point scale (lower number better) for "PR" stands for "Political Rights," "CL" stands for "Civil Liberties," and "Status" is the Freedom Status.

PS: I see someone has stopped by to give us a link to Hello learn more about NIGER LATEST NEWS ON.

PSS: Here is an example of what can happen when measures like above are not used in "Creeping dunes threaten African nation". Yahoo disappears so here is some alternative links: ABC, The Conservative Voice.

PSSS: Update link to Creeping Dunes Threaten African Nation Thursday, 5-Apr-2007 6:14PM PDT

PSSSS: Frances Moore Lappe, "Ecomind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want".


Monday, February 12, 2007

USA Industrial Production-Manufacturing

Ronald Rutherford
This comes up all the time so I will post some of it again...
CFMMI Data Series shows the USA Industrial Production-Manufacturing.
From Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, please note that in January 1973 the IPMFG (US Industrial Production-Manufacturing) was 43 and latest number was 115.2 for February 2007. Aside from seasonal fluctuations and the strong contraction that affected the overall economy in 2001 every year it has been going up.

For at least an example that you can understand, around 80% of the work force was involved in food production about 200 years ago. Now we employ somewhere around 1-2% of the work force in such endeavors. Do we produce more or less food stuffs now?


From: ISM Mfg Index

And a couple of recent articles on these issues:
Capacity utilization at 5-year high U.S. industrial production rises 0.6% in Dec.
U.S. May ISM rises to 55%, stronger than expected
Services expanding at best pace in more than year ISM nonmanufacturing index rises to 60.7% on broad-based gains
July 2007 Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®

From one of the links:

"Excluding high-tech goods, factory output was flat in December."

Does this mean replacement missle and smart bomb systems are underway?

I'd like to know what the factory output is now. Is it still flat, increased, or declined?

The June report on ISM mfg. noted construction led the rise. August reports note declines as high as 80%+ in leading home-building construction firms....including the #1 builder. Things are either as rosy or they seem in the ageing reports, or they aren't. Time will tell.

Retired Monk
"Ideology is a disease"

It was also brought up on other discussions whether the index is adjusted for inflation.
Well at Industrial Production Explanatory Notes:
Coverage.The industrial production (IP) index measures the real output of the manufacturing, mining, and electric and gas utilities industries; the reference period for the index is 2002.
Just want to emphasize the real aspect vs. nominal levels, and:
Source data. On a monthly basis, the individual indexes of industrial production are constructed from two main types of source data: (1) output measured in physical units and (2) data on inputs to the production process, from which output is inferred. Data on physical products, such as tons of steel or barrels of oil, are obtained from private trade associations and from government agencies; data of this type are used to estimate monthly IP wherever possible and appropriate. Production indexes for a few industries are derived by dividing estimated nominal output (calculated using unit production or sales and unit values) by a corresponding Fisher price index; the most notable of these fall within the high-technology grouping and include computers, communications equipment, and semiconductors. When suitable data on physical product are not available, estimates of output are based on either production-worker hours or electric power use by industry. Data on hours worked by production workers are collected in the monthly establishment survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The factors used to convert inputs into estimates of production are based on historical relationships between the inputs and the comprehensive annual data used to benchmark the IP indexes; these factors also may be influenced by technological or cyclical developments. The annual data used in benchmarking the individual IP indexes are constructed from a variety of source data, such as the quinquennial Censuses of Manufactures and Mineral Industries and the Annual Survey of Manufactures, prepared by the Bureau of the Census; the Minerals Yearbook, prepared by the United States Geological Survey of the Department of the Interior; and publications of the Department of Energy.
So as best they can they count the real production levels. And if not they calculate by a variety of proxies and then reconcile with yearly reports.

Also interesting to note that seasonally adjusted numbers are based on employment mostly. Again a good gauge for short term calculations but needs and does have corrections in the system.

Wouldn't it be a rather simple and more accurate method just to ask medium-sized firms or better to submit a monthly 1 page memo stating how many units of their products they produced?

Surely, this would be a simple request and wouldn't take an army of statisticians to come to inconclusive results.

Wouldn't take an army in business to do it either. Just a five minute notation of what their output was for the month.

Direct input seems better. Non-direct input is how they came up with the nonsense that people earning less than $20,000 a year lived in their own $300,000 homes. Didn't know a McDonald's hamburger flipper did so well until the government told me about it.

I suppose the homeless should get off their duffs and use their begging money to get a $150,000 condo.

Retired Monk
"Ideology is a disease"