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Fixes, a new online column from The New York Times, is all about “solutions to social problems and why they work.” I have high hopes for this series. In their first installment, cleverly called “Health Care and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Tina Rosenberg and David Bornstein look at how to get basic health care to people everywhere.

"[W]e’re beginning Fixes with the story of a health assistant named Tsepo Kotelo, whose job is to take care of people in remote mountain villages in the Maseru district of Lesotho. Kotelo’s story shows the critical need for something not usually on the global to-do list for Third World health: motorcycle maintenance. …

"Until 2008 Kotelo could visit only three villages a week, because he had to reach them on foot, walking for miles and miles. But in February of that year, Kotelo got a motorcycle … Now, instead of spending his days walking to his job, he can do his job. Instead of visiting three villages each week, he visits 20. Where else can you find a low-tech investment in health care that increases patient coverage by nearly 600 percent?"

This is a lesson that many Heifer International project participants have learned. Often, one of the first purchases a family or community will make with income earned from a Heifer project is to buy a motor scooter. Not for joyrides, mind you, but to transport more milk to the processing plant, or carry more produce to market, or get children to school, or to start a small taxi business.

What about you? Do you have any questions about international development and how it works? Or maybe you have a simple or low-tech solutions to a problem in the developing world. Let us hear from you.


Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.