Intervention comes in all shapes and sizes: U.S. spent over $32 million in failed soy farms in Afghanistan

Originally posted here.

 

Interventionism is pretty bad. Disguising it as economical jumpstart measures with honorable goals is just as bad.

You might be used to referring to intervention solely as policies related to military involvement overseas, but often enough, the U.S. government involvement in the economical lives of other nations is linked to what the government officials, not entrepreneurs or seasonal investors, see as a viable project.

Because knowledge regarding prices and production is dispersed, meaning that not all agents are fully aware of all conditions signaling when it’s time to invest and produce, and when it’s time to lay low, government officials often miss the mark in a big way when attempting to determine what kind of interventionist policy they want to embrace next.

The United States government has ignored these lessons too many times in the past, but most recently, its brutally foolish assertiveness has cost taxpayers $34 million.

Over the past four years, the U.S. has been investing in a campaign to change how Afghans eat, and a major part of the project is associated with aiding the country by helping its farmers to grow soy.

Top taxpayer dollars were used to sustain an effort that involved getting the U.S. into growing soybeans in Afghanistan in the hopes that the crops were a viable commercial crop that would also help Afghans to fight some of its malnourishment issues. Soybeans, some U.S. officials thought, will raise the level of protein in their diets and lead to an agricultural jumpstart, helping the struggling country’s economy to flourish.

Unfortunately, the project was doomed from day one. The first 2011 crop failed. Any other harvest after that also failed to produce enough soybeans, making the project impossible to be carried out.

The failure caused local farmers to abandon the project quickly, leaving the single factory in the region dedicated to processing the beans with the task of dealing with the 4,000 metric tons of soybeans imported from America. The importing of the soybeans alone cost taxpayers $2 million, which is part of the list of botched $120 billion U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

The United States effectively ignored not only the agricultural aspect of this endeavor by ignoring how well the crop would have survived in the region’s climate, it also ignored locals’ traditions.

There is absolutely no demand for soy-processed foods in Afghanistan, no matter how hard the United States tries, the demand for the product is not there.

One of the project’s managers was quoted by Foreign Policy as referring to this endeavor as an honorable, in spite of its risky factors, project, but no venture should be started only because its goals are honorable.

Only financially viable institutions survive.

If a company, whether it’s a shoe factory or a soybean farm, does not turn a profit, its insolvency will keep it from operating in the future, but U.S. officials weren’t investing their money on a well-researched project, they were investing your money instead, making it all the easier to throw dollars into the matter without actually analyzing its costs potential.

Up to this day, it has been impossible for officials to calculate precisely just how much the U.S. has spent in reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but official reports indicate President Obama may have wasted about $7 billion in the reconstruction drive in Afghanistan during his first five years as the president.

Image credit: Soygrowers.org

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