Post link 18 June 2016, 7:40
Bolivia's outrage yesterday at being a beneficiary of Bill Gates's "Coop Dreams" — a project with Heifer International to donate 100,000 chickens to poor countries — shocked many. But upon closer examination of Bolivia's political climate, none of us, Gates included, should be surprised. Under its current president Evo Morales, Bolivia has a robust history of rejecting US aid, whether governmental or philanthropic.
Bill Gates

By Lindsey J. Smith on June 17, 2016 04:38 pm

Over the last decade, the landlocked Andean country has undergone sweeping political changes. Morales, an activist became Bolivia's first indigenous president in 2006. He won hearts and minds with his socialist party, Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), which campaigned on a pro-environmental, pro-indigenous platform. Since then, he has been reelected twice and along the way enacted sweeping reforms. In 2008, he established a new constitution and renamed the country Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, the plurinational state, in recognition of its cultural diversity. (Bolivia has 37 official languages.)

Two concepts sit at the core of Morales' and MAS' decade-long agenda. The first is Buen Vivir or "Good living" — a vision of the world as interconnected and interdependent, where economic, social, and environmental priorities coexist in a balance. The second is La Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, or "the Law of Mother Earth." The law, which passed in 2010, grants nature equal rights to people, including the right to persist without human intervention.


Part and parcel to this pro-environmental platform is a rejection of Western capitalism and traditional development aid. Morales threw out the US Ambassador and the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 2008, and the US Agency for International Development in 2013 — none have yet to be welcomed back. Although Gates' offer is nongovernmental, with such chilly diplomatic relationships, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it was rebuffed.


While chickens could expand economic opportunities for some Bolivians, it's a gift with little forethought. The charity examiner GiveWell argued that very little information exists on the effectiveness of giving livestock, and that the gifts are tricky to implement. Are there systems in place to teach people to care for their new animals? Who determines who gets a chicken and who doesn't, and will that distribution foster ill will? How would introducing livestock to a community or region impact existing economies? And, most importantly, do the recipients even want the gift? In Bolivia's case, the answer to that last question seems to be a resounding "no."

As the FT points out, Bolivia’s economy has been steadily growing for the last decade, with per-capita gross domestic product skyrocketing from roughly $1,200 to $3,100 in that time period. It produces 197 million chickens a year, according to The Guardian.
“He should inform himself that us Bolivians have a lot of production and do not need any gifted chicks in order to live, we have dignity,” Cocarico said.

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>> Bill Gates is creating super chickens to donate to Africa

According to The Financial Times (paywall), the government of Bolivia is calling Gates’s donation “offensive”:
On June 15, César Cocarico, the country’s minister of land and rural development, told journalists:
[Gates] does not know Bolivia’s reality to think we are living 500 years ago, in the middle of the jungle not knowing how to produce. Respectfully, he should stop talking about Bolivia, and once he knows more, apologize to us.

Morales has done much for Bolivia, and the hand-over-fist growth he's created by focusing on oil and gas exports has made Bolivia one of the strongest economies in South America since 2009. He has used profits from these exports to fund subsidies for the elderly, school children, and pregnant women. But the country's economic health is tied to a volatile market, and their gas reserves are projected to run out in the next decade. In this climate, Morales would do well to begin to diversify the economy, investing more in farmers large and small, foreign and domestic, so that his country can maintain the independence from foreign aid and chicken-wielding philanthropists it so craves. with - Egypt official called sub-Saharan Africans 'slaves and dogs'

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