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Fixin' Healthcare

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Transformation Of Healthcare - Beware Conventional Wisdom

The New York Times today reported an amazing transformation that contradicts conventional wisdom and demonstrates the power of small changes in human behavior involving the entire community. Funny how transformations are like that more often than not.

Niger is in a part of Africa viewed as barren wasteland decaying into desert. The trees were disappearing, the wind was blowing away the topsoil, sand dunes were encroaching and wells ran dry.

Facing those conditions, the farmers took a small but radical step. They ceased clearing the saplings from their fields before planting. Plowing and planting of crops took care to protect and nurture the saplings. These were simple methods that cost little or nothing.

Now, millions of trees are flourishing largely without relying upon the large-scale planting of trees. Niger is far greener than it was 30 years ago. These changes have come at a time of rapid population growth in Niger, contrary to the conventional wisdom that population growth leads to the loss of trees and accelerates land degradation.

A forestry expert at the University of Niamey in Niger's capital, Dr Mahamane Larwanou, said the regrowth of trees had transformed rural life. "It requires the effort of the whole community. If farmers don't take action themselves and the community doesn't support it, farmer-managed regeneration cannot work."

"Today, the success in growing trees suggests that the harm to much of the region may not be permanent, but a temporary loss of fertility. The evidence, scientists say, demonstrates how relatively small changes in human behavior can transform the regional ecology, restoring its biodiversity and productivity."

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