Sustainably Stuck 

The good news now regarding the lost luggage is that Iberia Airlines have rewarded me with a heap of redeemable miles, however, as Momo pointed out to me, if they lose my luggage every time I fly this will create a never-ending spiral of redemption.

The thought reminded me of siomethingI learned while applying for the Lush Spring Prize: that sustainability isn’t necessarily a positive goal. Here, at Kaïra Kunda, instead of payment in cash, we’re providing everyone who spends the day working with us three healthy meals. We’ve noticed that productivity is high, and that only those who want to be a part of the farm’s mission participate on a daily basis. 

The book Poor Economics taught me that poverty is also a sustainable trap. People everywhere, not just those living in poverty, are prone to make poor choices when it comes to filling a temporary need satisfyingly only to instant gratification. When meals are scarce, a few coins seems better spent on a cigarette craving rather than saved up to buy rice and fish, especially during rainy season when fish is hard to come by due to hazardous waves and the cultivated rice is finished from the prior year’s harvest.

Here in Casamance farmers are now using government subsidized tractors to plow large swaths of their land. They then buy cheap seeds from China which are infused with fertilizers. The seeds can only produce one crop; seed harvesting the following year producers no yields. The manufacturer is literally controlling the market so that farmers are forced to buy new seeds from them every year. 

I remember also reading in Poor Economics about how some otherwise indigent individuals somehow purchase big ticket items such as televisions and vehicles, yet can’t afford to feed their families. I witness that here as an issue of  status; appearance is the priority. When the same amount of detergent costs half as much as a bag of nutrient infused powdered milk, the choice is clear: wash your clothes so that you look terrific, even if don’t feel the same inside, fake it to make it. People take so much pride in appearance, it’s magnificent to behold but also saddening to think what is concealed.

Last time I wrote I asked a question, and was so pleased to receive so many helpful responses. So this time I ask, with the approach of Tabaski next month (essentially the equivalent of Christmas here), we’d really love to bestow a suitable gift upon those who have been so loyal to us this season. We’ve accomplished more on the farm than we’d thought possible (our updates to come), and given all the encountered obstacles, we’re indebted to those who’ve helped us. But what’s the appropriate gift that won’t sabotage our principles? Your input is most welcome!


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