Montreal, December 2, 2007 • No 244




Harry Valentine is a
free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.




by Harry Valentine


          A recent announcement from Ottawa indicated that the federal government actually wants to increase the amount of Canadian foreign aid to African nations from about $ 1 billion in 2003-04 to 2.1 billion next year. Several African journalists have decried the effect that government-to-government foreign aid has had on human populations across sub-Sahara Africa. It has sustained the president-for-life in several nations. Zimbabwe once received a very generous foreign aid package from Ottawa until that nation's political leader provided the world with an obscene and deplorable spectacle of abuse against its citizens. His abuse of power led to Zimbabwe experiencing food shortages.


          Food shortages are a perennial problem across most of Africa. Some background research indicates that some of Africa's worst famines in recent memory may, like the example from Zimbabwe, have had political origins. A search with the words "Nile River" on Google reveals that its volume and flow rate were at their peak during the late 1980's and early 1990's. The Nile flows through Sudan and then through Egypt. Sudan experienced the worst famine in its history at the very same time when the Nile River was at peak volume.

          A similar Internet search with the words "Lake Victoria" and "Lake Tanganyika" reveals that both were at their peak height and volume from the early 1960's to the early 1990's. Both lakes are on the border of the nation of Tanzania that experienced perennial famines throughout the era when those fresh water lakes were at their peak. During that era the government in Ottawa provided generous foreign aid to the government of Tanzania.

          More recently there was a famine in the small nation of Malawi where at least 30% of the territory is a deep fresh water lake called Lake Malawi. That lake was full of fresh water during the famine and sunshine was plentiful. Like Tanzania and Sudan, government enforced agricultural policies led to the famine and the government of Canada was there providing "assistance." Even sub-Sahara's wealthiest nation, South Africa, whose economy is equivalent to the sum total of all other sub-equatorial African nations, receives foreign aid from Ottawa.

          In recent years the pro-foreign aid activists have been calling on developed nations to increase their assistance to the governments across Africa. They have pointed out that climate change causes alternate periods of drought and flooding. The ancient Mayan engineers had a novel way by which to control flooding in lowland areas. They built a series of rock dams alone the tributaries of rivers at higher elevations. Those rock dams slowed the flow rate of the rivers and successfully reduced flooding in the lowland areas where agriculture prevailed.

"Government ownership of rivers and state policies on electric power effectively prevent private people to act independently and by their own initiative to solve problems that face a nation."

          The ancient Mayan method stood the test of time over a period of centuries and could work as successfully to reduce lowland flooding in many parts of the developed and developing world. In the modern era it is possible to generate electricity at myriad of privately owned small-site hydroelectric dams that could serve the need of local populations or sell electricity into a power grid. Technology called kinetic turbines could also be placed in fast flowing streams to reduce water velocity and provide electricity. They too could help reduce downstream flooding in lowland areas.

          Government ownership of rivers and state policies on electric power effectively prevent private people to act independently and by their own initiative to solve problems that face a nation. The result is annual flooding and mass devastation including premature loss of life in many parts of the undeveloped and developing world. Environmentalists who hold sway with governments routinely oppose the construction of large dams that would "destroy valleys and the ecosystems within them." The result is that the safety and well-being of human populations is often compromised by such policies.

          One nation in North Africa has found a novel way by which water may be stored without evaporation in hot climates. A gigantic cave that is filled with rocks, gravel and fresh water was recently discovered in Libya. Such caves have been found elsewhere in the world by companies drilling railway tunnels and through seismic testing. They even exist in Western Canada after energy companies remove natural gas from them. The combination of dams and aquifers could go far in reducing water velocity in rivers, reducing downstream flooding in the lowland areas and providing space to store large volumes of water to sustain human populations through extended dry seasons.

          The absence of government-to-government foreign aid along with greater freedom from state control and regulation in such matters could help solve some of developing world's most urgent problems. Private companies could build massive water storage facilities in such nations where annual flooding would otherwise cause mass devastation. Some of the stored water would be used locally while much of the stored water would be exported by tanker ship to human populations located elsewhere.