Project analyzes foreign aid use

Dr. Craig Packer is highly revered for his research in the Serengeti.

University Ecology, Evolution and Behavior professor Dr. Craig Packer has been involved in conservation efforts and research around the globe.

Jules Ameel

University Ecology, Evolution and Behavior professor Dr. Craig Packer has been involved in conservation efforts and research around the globe.

by Jerimiah Oetting

âÄúAll I know how to do is measure stuff,âÄù Dr. Craig Packer said over a plate of sushi, chewing his first bite of lunch thoughtfully. It was a modest statement. Packer, an Ecology, Evolution and Behavior professor at the University of Minnesota, has been involved in conservation efforts and research around the globe. From his early days studying primates with Jane Goodall to his highly revered work with lions in the Serengeti, his ability to âÄúmeasure stuffâÄù has served the world well. This time, however, he wasnâÄôt talking about monkeys or lions. He was talking about humans. Sitting at the Outside In café in Moos Tower, surrounded by people happily enjoying lunch, Packer explained the harsh reality of the poverty he witnessed for more than 20 years studying in Tanzania. âÄúIâÄôm watching this fabulous country being eaten alive,âÄù he said. It was his growing concern for Tanzania, which he described as a âÄúheritage to the whole world,âÄù that inspired him to design the Whole Village Project , which became a part of the University in January. The idea is to analyze how foreign aid is being used like never before. He explained that while millions of dollars go to foreign aid annually, the results are disappointing. âÄúWeâÄôre not getting value from our efforts,âÄù he said. According to Packer, there is little follow-up on how aid is used, and the methods of analysis produce unreliable data. Packer hopes to obtain information over a long period of time from roughly 250 villages in Tanzania with the help of University students and students in Tanzania. Eventually, he hopes the model will be applied to countries all over the world. âÄúIn Washington, thereâÄôs discussion of reforming how [foreign] aid is used,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôre trying to be a little bit noisy.âÄù Packer wants Congress to support the project in Tanzania as a possible model for future aid analysis. Kari Hartwig was hired in May as the program director of the Whole Village Project. She explained that the project requires collaboration from areas across the University. âÄúThis is an interdisciplinary research and evaluation project,âÄù she said. âÄúWeâÄôre doing work with public health and nursing, veterinary medicine and areas of food security.âÄù Hartwig said the project also has partnerships with universities and non-government agencies that are doing work in Tanzania. The project will give data back to villages so they can make decisions on where more help is needed. Packer said that by October 2010, the goal is to have data from 55 villages. Currently there are only data from eight. Gene Allen is an adviser of the project and a member of the executive board. âÄúThe Whole Village title means weâÄôre trying to look holistically at all the issues that impact a village in Tanzania,âÄù he said. Allen accompanied Hartwig in Tanzania for two weeks over the summer. âÄúThe need is tremendous,âÄù he said. âÄúTanzania is a very poor country.âÄù He explained that the University was interested in having larger efforts in countries in Africa, and Tanzania was identified as a country in need. As the first year of the UniversityâÄôs involvement with the project comes to a close, Packer remains determined. âÄúYou have to be persistent,âÄù he said. âÄúIt has to eat at you. It has to be done right.âÄù