Chris Blattman

Blood diamond, in reverse

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I’m off to Liberia this afternoon, and will spend most of my two weeks outside the capital, so expect posts to be infrequent. Of course, while rural Liberia does not offer much in the way of infrastructure, there is a curious supply of satellite internet, so you may hear from me more than you think.

The first days should be the most interesting. We’re working with the NGO Landmine Action to coax 2000 un-demobilized combatants out of the diamond panning business and into an agricultural college—randomly.

These guys are still in their armed group structures, and represent one of the foremost risks to peace in the nation. The UN mission calls these the nation’s “hotspots”. If we can show that LMA’s intervention works, maybe we can convince the donors to fund the same kind of program in the dozens of other hotspots around the country–and continent. So it’s off to the west of Liberia to meet the groups and map out the next steps for a control trial.

Landmine Action has just finished a wildly successful pilot, where they brought hundreds of ex-combatants out of the rubber plantation they illegally occupied and helped match them with skills, land, and a peaceful new livelihood. Read about it here. We’re going to build a study around the next phase, tracking long term recidivism, risk factors, and reintegration.

Wish us luck…

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