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International Development

ZET Blog: Reaching the Unreached

Foundations for Farming has impacted some of the most remote communities in Zimbabwe. These communities are either very remote or vulnerable as a result of high levels of poverty, and are not very well known in Zimbabwe or beyond. From each of these communities 30 participants were selected to attend a two week training course at Foundations for Farming in 2017. These 60 participants were selected with the hope that they would return to their communities with their new found knowledge and skills acquired during the training, and become pioneers of Conservation Agriculture in their communities. It was exciting to see the transformation of people’s ideologies in relation to farming and the importance of organics in farming, and has been successful in spreading the message and methods of Foundations for Farming amongst remote and unreached communities. In this article, we would like to share the stories and testimonies of these communities:

The Tsholotsho Community / The San People

The San people are a tribe of Africans who have lived nomadically within Southern Africa for many decades. With a population of around 2,500 in Zimbabwe, our group is located in the area of Tsholotsho close to the border of Botswana. Originally hunters and gatherers, this community has been faced with varying challenges in maintaining their livelihoods and integrating into the surrounding communities. For most, this training was a time filled with completely new experiences. It was the first time they had left their community; the first time they had travelled on a bus and the first time they had visited the capital city, Harare. They arrived with the clothes on their back and were welcomed by our hospitality staff with warm beds and new attire.

After the two week training, individuals in the group testified to the love and mercy they had experienced here at Foundations. One man said, “You treat us the same.” A truly powerful statement coming from one of Zimbabwe’s most marginalized communities. As all but one were illiterate, the group most benefited from the basic farming technology performed during the practical’s. Although their concentration was limited, as many had never sat in a classroom before, they managed to glean valuable knowledge from the hands on activities in the gardens and fields. Our basic training “Eating the Elephant” and our Sweet Potato demonstrations were definitely a hit.

One trainee thanked the team by saying that they were “Going back more beautiful” from their stay in Harare. Another emphasized the importance of unity, a trait he had learned in the leadership segment.

The Bindura Community

To call this group the Bindura ‘ladies’ is a little unfair, after all, there were two men. It’s just that the background stories from most of the women are so powerfully lodged in our hearts it’s difficult to stop them from floating to the foreground.

Stories of child brides forced into marriages with older men, leading to relationships littered with abuse and neglect of both wife and children. Although most of these women are ‘married’ – in reality they are widows of a customary lifestyle. They do not have live in husbands. Instead, several of them watch from a distance as their spouses enter a ‘Small House’ each evening … the term given for where Africa’s mistresses are housed in return for sexual favours.

Hungry and ragged children linger in the doorway of a dilapidated shack as they watch their father return ‘home’ each evening across the way – where he stays most of the time with another woman and the progeny of their love nest. In the meantime their mother (his wife), hovers over a little paraffin stove preparing the meagre meal she has managed to scrape together. Stuffing her pain and anger, she pulls her eyes away from the sight of him to concentrate on the task at hand. A sad, but all too familiar picture of Africa.

Some of the women we trained shared aspects of this difficult lifestyle and background with us, including the following excerpts:

“I was married at fifteen. My husband was continually unfaithful and we divorced. I married again, but my second husband has been jailed for raping his daughter, so I am now living with my parents.”

“I did not go to school for long because I had to look after my siblings. Later, I was forced into a child marriage with an older man. He now has a small house. I stay alone with our three children.”

“One of the ladies asked for the group to pray for her as her heart was broken. The following were her words; “My husband is not faithful, he is not satisfied with me, I am so confused, I don’t know what to do – but being here at FfF has helped very much.”

“I was married and gave my husband three daughters but he wanted a son. He took a small house, and the woman there has now given him a baby boy. Please pray for me, my heart aches with pain, he lives next door while I am trying to bring up our daughters alone.”

“When my husband left us and went away with his girlfriend it broke me. I started asking myself a lot of questions. What’s wrong with me? Now, being a single mother is the most difficult thing on earth, especially knowing that my husband is with someone else. He left us when his children needed him most.”

Thank you for reading, and supporting our work with these extremely vulnerable communities.

Written by Kuda Kutesera, Foundations for Farming
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET


ZET Blog: How to Apply for Funding from a Major Donor

The following article first appeared on Charity Choice’s blog, The Fundraiser, which you can visit here: http://www.charitychoice.co.uk/the-fundraiser/how-to-apply-for-funding-from-a-major-donor/719

Applying for large amounts of funding can be daunting. You can know your project inside out and have successful experience applying to plenty of other organisations, but struggle to translate this into applications for major donors.

Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Each donor has its own funding criteria and requirements, expecting you to be able to break your project into small chunks which fit neatly to their questions and priorities. If you work for a small organisation, or work with smaller partners, this can be a challenging and time-consuming process – and the pressure to get so much done in relatively little time can be off-putting.

ZET know this feeling well. ZET is a small NGO, based in Leeds, that works with partners in Zimbabwe to support communities into education and out of poverty. The organisation had always been relatively small scale, helping a few individual Zimbabweans and receiving no more than a few thousand pounds in funding each year.

This was until we partnered with Trinity Project in Zimbabwe and applied for a grant from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to fund a project to help children get birth certificates and enrol in school.
This marked a turning point for ZET: we secured £75k of funding from DFID for the next three years and were able to reach thousands of families and help hundreds of children to obtain birth certificates and enrol in school. So at this point, we would like to share our insights and experience for other organisations in the same boat.

What does the application usually ask for?

Each application is different, with different requirements and priorities – so the first tip should always be to read through all the eligibility criteria, application advice and FAQs.

That said, most major applications follow similar lines and will want to know:

• Who the organisation is: what are you about, what do you do, how do they contact you? (This will probably include them asking for your latest accounts and constitution or registration as a charity)
• What the project is: where did the idea come from, how do you know it is needed, who does it help, how does it work? (This will probably include them asking for a project budget.)

Most applications of this scale are very popular, so they progress in stages – with each stage requiring more detail. At first, usually all the funder will want is a concept note, which outlines the organisation and the project. If you are lucky enough to get through that stage, you will be asked to submit a full application, with other attachments and requirements – the road to full application can take more than one step though, with organisations being rejected at each stage.

So how can small organisations deal with these highly competitive grant application processes? Below are five top tips we’ve learned from our own experiences in successfully applying for major funding:

1. Choose an implementing partner who shares your vision

The foundation of your proposal will always be having the right partner – one with a clear vision of what they want to deliver and the changes they want to bring about. Together, you should establish some clear change objectives; referring to these throughout the proposal will help create a logical structure that is easy to follow.

2. Develop a theory of change

The fundraiser should act as an interlocutor, working with your partner to develop and refine your change objectives into a solid theory of change which can be communicated in a proposal. This will help donors to understand more clearly the context you work in, and the relevance and benefit of your project.

3. Demonstrate that you know your stuff

Most major donors will expect the projects they fund to achieve sustainable and transformational change; and ask for evidence for this in a proposal. A great way to prepare for these types of questions is to conduct and document a short political economy analysis, which demonstrates understanding of your context; its local political, social and economic realities and how change happens.

4. Show you’ve connected all the dots

The project activities included in the proposal should clearly emerge from the theory of change, so it is evident how each activity is expected to contribute to your change objectives. This should include strong mechanisms for Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. These give you the information you need to evaluate and improve performance throughout and will demonstrate to donors that your project is well thought-out and managed.

5. Get your budget right

Finally, the budget should be realistic, emerging from the activities you’ve planned to facilitate change (rather than working backwards from an arbitrary total figure). If you apply for too little you will struggle to implement your project, but if you apply for too much it may weaken your application. Instead, demonstrate your project’s value for money by writing budget notes, explaining how figures were reached and why they are necessary.

While not every application will be successful, by following the above tips you can help ensure that your applications are well targeted and that they tick the right boxes for prospective funders. So our final piece of advice is: go for it!

Written by Stuart Kempster (ZET Trustee) and Hannah O’Riordan (ZET Operations Manager)
Edited by Jenny Daw (Editor, The Fundraiser)


ZET Blog: Diaspora Remittance Taxes

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) hosted a public event in 2014 about the high cost of sending remittances to Africa. It brought together various speakers from the banking sector, NGOs, politicians and the money transfer market, interestingly, no migrants were on the panel. The central point highlighted the significance of remittances for Africa’s development and particularly how and why sending money to Africa attracts such high charges compared to other parts of the world; some of the key points are as follows:

According to ODI’s report on remittance cost to Africa, compared to other developing regions like South East Asia and Latin America, (i) remittance flows to Africa are still smaller than Aid to Africa, (ii) they are also lower than private capital and Foreign Direct Investment, though much less volatile. The report also estimates that remittances to Sub Saharan Africa are about USD32 billion, (half of the USD60 Billion estimated by the World Bank for the whole of Africa). (iii) This figure represents about 2% of the regional GDP, that’s the average for the whole of Sub Saharan Africa, (iv) yet remittances are not equally distributed in this region; Nigeria for example, receives the highest amount of remittances compared to smaller countries like Lesotho. Therefore this implies that out of 54 countries in Africa, SSA (as defined by the UN) has 48 countries – all of which receive USD32 Billion, compared to the 6 North African countries that are considered part of the Arab world, receiving the balance of USD28 Billion. (v) The report then frames remittances as an important source of support for SSA families at household level, citing how they are used to pay for education, health, investment in home building, businesses and all the things an average African already knows.

So, if remittances are so important, why is it so expensive to send money to Africa? First, the average global cost of sending money is estimated at 7.8 %, to South Asia it costs about 6.5%, yet sending money to Africa costs 12%. This is more than twice what was recommended at the 2009 G8 summit labelled the 5×5 initiative, which meant to bring down remittance costs to 5% globally. All this means that on average SS Africans pay USD2.2 Billion more than the recommended 5×5 estimate each year. To understand this, the report summaries four ways for sending money to SSA through Banks, Post Office, Money Transfer Operators (MTO) and Others. However, 89% of all transfers are through MTOs and a detailed look at the main MTOs revealed that MoneyGram covers 24% and Western Union covers 40%, therefore 2 thirds of all money transferred to SSA is through 2 private operators that have created a duopoly. This lack of competition is cited as the reason why charges are so exorbitant and also why SSA is specifically affected compared to the rest of the world. The report goes on to reveal how the two operators have shared the SSA market geographically between them to further reduce competition even between the two, yet another ‘Berlin Conference’.

While all this is very informative and interesting, it begged some questions from the diaspora; for example, why is ODI (which is funded by DFID) suddenly interested in spending so much money to carry out this research and report? What’s the end goal and how will this research essentially “pay dividend” to its commissioners? There was talk that perhaps DFID and other traditional donors may be trying to find a way to access remittances under the rubric of ‘saving Africans’ yet again, what with the crisis and austerity these days. Though it is unclear how this can be achieved since migrants have no such confidence in sending money through traditional donors or their various governments. However, these bigger players do hold policy strings and by ‘attacking’ the MTO sector, it gives them leeway to ‘muscle’ into the market under the label of driving down sending costs through competition. While no such declaration was made (even though The Global Native asked that question specifically) the Shadow Minister for Education Rushanara Ali MP, alluded to the creation of what she called a “Remittance Bank” of some sort. This perhaps partially explained the absence of migrants from the forum, since they only represent a ‘moral impetus’ for carrying out this work.

In fact, ODI approached The Global Native asking for testimonials from migrants regarding their experience of paying such high costs, and perhaps including how much more could have been achieved had the charges been lower. The Global Native put this request to some of the migrant communities in London and the response was exactly that of high suspicion. They wondered what would be done with their information, would this go on some official data base for other Machiavellic use? They essentially refused to be ‘used to justify some potential policy they don’t understand’. Some even questioned why the Africans are not organising these events themselves. So I took a quick glance and found that the African Union Commission established the African Institute for Remittances, (AIR) signed in December 2009, in partnership with The World Bank, African Development Bank, European Commission and the International Organisation for Migration. They have a web page which is still under construction, and Facebook page that has only 162 followers, I felt compelled to ‘like’ it, so now they have 163, in fact it made me feel like a founding member. Granted, it is new and there’s much to be done, though I did muse over the irony that Africa’s remittance authority is broke.

Other thoughts at the event pointed out how ironic and hypocritical it was that here are organisations, such ODI funded by DFID, who are controlled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) which writes migration policy- publicly declaring to be fighting for migrants and yet “one can’t switch on the TV without hearing how bad migrants are for the UK” said one attendant. What’s even worse is that “here we are running to such events ourselves, knowing how much we are badly treated by these very same people, as though we really deserve to be cheated like this” said another migrant. While all these concerns are very real, it is still an interesting time of shifting alliances and perhaps while the ODI report may not herald a genuine care for migrants and their cause – this “fight between governments and banks and these others” which the same attendant suspects, can be an opportunity for positive change if the diaspora can think it through and find ways to take advantage of it. The Global Native is very keen to understand what opportunities may lie in the fission created by this “suspected dispute” between giants. As the proverbs says, ‘when elephants fight, the grass gets hurt’ so it is in the grasses interest to watch these events keenly; but equally so, ‘after every revolution comes a new order, but before that, there’s opportunity’. That last line is taken from a good movie, just in case you’ve seen it. So, what are your thoughts?

 

This article originally appeared on the Global Native website in 2014

Written by Na Ncube, Director of The Global Native
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: Farming Reform

The Land Reform Program, amongst other detrimental changes in the climate and political stability around the year 2000, precipitated the initial food shortages and crippled the country’s economy; tipping the scales from economic recession to full blown chaos. The proportions were colossal and were only made worse with several years of mismanagement, bad governance, poor policy formulation and implementation, systemic corruption, and blatant human rights violations which significantly contributed to turning the once so called bread basket of Africa, into an empty basket case, and a basket case of empty stomachs. The normal Zimbabwean, the typical small-scale farmer in rural areas, was not spared in the collapse of the country’s economy and agricultural downturn. The consequences of this recession was; millions left in perpetual need of food aid, millions more trapped in a ‘hunger on repeat’ horror sequel and even more Zimbabweans fleeing into neighbouring South Africa, Zambia and Botswana.

Ever since this downturn, Zimbabwe has relied on grain imports and aid from foreign donors to meet the country’s demand for grain. Drought, lack of financing and political instability hit commercial agriculture severely and those who had benefited from the Land Reform Program failed to produce adequate grain yields to sustain the ever increasing demand for food.

This obviously paints a sorry picture of incompetent authorities, but they did put effort into rectifying the situation. In 2005 and 2006 the government introduced the first Command Agriculture Scheme which was called “Operation Taguta / Sisuthi”. In that program, the army was given the task of tilling large tracts of land as it was peace time and their labour was available. The scheme unfortunately failed to yield the expected results. In 2007, the government introduced the Farm Mechanisation Scheme which was championed by the then Reserve Bank Governor. The scheme largely failed, potentially as a result of alleged corruption whereby mechanisation resources may have been distributed on a political basis to elites.

Government efforts proved to be fruitless and ineffective, and the situation only got worse last year when the maize shortages hit endemic lows due to a severe drought, caused by El Nino which crippled whatever production capacities were left in the country. According to the statistics collected at the time, 4 million people were left in desperate need of critical relief and food aid. This made the government realise the importance of a waterproof strategic plan of action which would be able to guarantee the peoples’ access to food in the event of another reoccurring drought. After the drought in the 2015-2016 farming season, the country experienced more than average rains which paved the way for another government scheme to be introduced. There was much scepticism aligned to the scheme because of the previously failed attempts by the government to ensure food security in the country, on top of issues such as corruption, farmer disloyalty, payment methods for the farmer’s grain and drastic changes of the weather. A lot of risk was involved in the scheme’s implementation process as there were a lot of critical areas which needed attention in order to make the scheme a success.

In 2016, the government re-introduced the Command Agriculture Programme, but this time the army was not involved in the implementation process. The programme was now designed to solve a fundamental problem the country faced in the aftermath of the land reform and severe drought, which was that of mobilising sustainable and affordable funding for agriculture so as to ensure food security, eliminate imports of food to increase exports from the sector and eventually reduce poverty. The 2016-17 farming season set the stage for achieving this goal. The scheme was introduced as Zimbabwe grappled with economic problems and its targeted beneficiaries were farmers near water bodies who could put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize per individual. 2000 farmers met this criteria in total, and each farmer was required to produce at least 1,000 tonnes of maize. Each participating farmer was required to commit 5 tonnes per hectare towards repayment of advanced loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs and chemicals, mechanised equipment, electricity and water charges. Farmers would retain a surplus product produced in excess of the 1,000 tonnes. The programme initially cost $500 million with each farmer earmarked to receive US$250,000 worth of loans. To ensure the success of the scheme, the government introduced regulated banned grain imports to protect the local farmers as well as ensuring food security and farmer prosperity.

The Ministry of Agriculture developed a database of all the beneficiaries of the Command Agriculture Programme, which expanded as more farmers sought to benefit from the scheme and more activities are added to the initiative. As of now, apart from maize the ministry has added specific loans for the production of wheat, soya beans and livestock production. Farmers do not benefit from the scheme unless they are registered in the ministerial database and the financing terms are currently at an all-inclusive interest rate of 5% with a tenure of one year, to allow farmers to sell their produce. Despite the margins of the schemes’ success being debatable – the scheme has been successful in some spheres and pointless in others – the truth of the matter is this: to the hungry old women from the down-trodden rural areas, having sufficient food stocks for the first time since the start of the millennium is a welcome development. The scheme has managed to strategically involve women in participating towards the re-establishment process of the nation’s food security state, revival of the economy and the country’s status as the “Bread basket of Africa”. The integration of Climate Smart Agricultural practices (CSA) could easily double the anticipated yields to be achieved by the farmers, thereby increasing their profitability which means the reduction of the loan repayment period by farmers. The anticipated results have been met in the first phase of the scheme, which was the 2016-2017 season and expectations are high that the 2017-2018 season will yield even better results. This is yet to be seen.

Written by Kudakwashe Kutesera, Foundations for Farming
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, Zimbabwe Educational Trust


ZET Blog: 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we take a look back at what your support has enabled us and our partners to achieve this year!

It’s been a busy year for ZET, providing vital support for three grassroots partner organisations in Zimbabwe and expanding the work we do back here in the UK. Thanks to you, we and our partners stepped up to the challenge…

Trinity Project

Trinity faced a challenging start to the year, beginning the first year since 2012 where they would receive no UK government project funding and being impacted by devastating floods across southern Zimbabwe. As ever, they rose to the challenge and launched a ZET-supported emergency appeal to provide food, shelter and supplies to flood victims. Beyond this, Trinity provided longer term recovery efforts including nutritional gardens and village loan schemes to help communities back on their feet.

Incredibly, Trinity Project also managed to carry on their usual work on birth registration. This year, responding the needs of the communities they work in and to support more vulnerable groups, Trinity expanded to work on access to a range of socioeconomic rights, including registration, education, healthcare and social services. This was very successful, reaching hundreds of families to provide services and support. Trinity is finally reaping the benefits of years of advocacy work, having been asked this year to draft a parliamentary motion on birth registration, meeting with multiple elected officials and community leaders, and having continued exposure in local media and academic articles. ZET’s support this year has funded transport and vehicle costs, which is essential in keeping the project successful and enabling staff to visit beneficiaries, local communities and stakeholders to provide their services.

Rafiki Girls Centre

Rafiki continued to provide transformative opportunities for young women in Harare, supporting 60 women this year to obtain education and training. Each graduate completed three months of life skills training, aimed at building up their confidence and self-sufficiency, with courses including sewing, computing, cookery and offering optional HIV testing and counselling. Trainees finish their time at Rafiki with a six-month vocational course run by an externally-accredited organisation, to build up their qualifications and employability and providing them with a connection to an employer when they graduate. Courses running in 2017 included hospitality, design, teaching and nursing, amongst others. This vocational training and link to an external organisation offers women the best chance to build a career, and 85% graduates went onto obtain work. Rafiki also works to holistically develop its students, offering them opportunities to relax and have fun, a vital part of growing up which they often do not have at home, through a range of recreational activities. These included movie nights, dinners and away trips to a national park, as well as extra-curricular learning opportunities such as HIV workshops and Careers Days.
Rafiki also has exciting news! Thanks to increased support from one of their other partners in the UK, Rafiki have been given partial funding to DOUBLE their capacity. This step is essential, as Rafiki currently receives three applications for every place it can offer, and this time last year the Centre had dozens of girls actually turn up on their doorstep, desperate to be considered for a traineeship. As demand for Rafiki Girls Centre and its vital services is so high, this step is important. However, we are not there yet, and Rafiki needs more support and funding from other donors, such as ZET, to be able to deliver this new expanded capacity. We will desperately need your support to make this a reality in 2018.


Foundations for Farming

The year was kickstarted for Foundations for Farming, who secured their largest ZET funding since our partnership began. This enabled them to run a project working with two local schools, building up the capacity of staff and students on conservation agriculture, so they would be better equipped to manage the land and produce more food and potential income for their school and community.

The projects were relatively successful, led by passionate staff at Foundations for Farming who went above and beyond to support the needs of the two beneficiary schools, and working with two very engaged and willing local schools. There was a lot of evidence that staff and students had adopted the principles taught by Foundations for Farming and were keen to implement these methods. However, both schools faced challenges beyond their control. The first school was forced to shut down due to lack of funds, however the teacher we had been working with was so committed to the project that she continued teaching these farming methods in her own back garden, with great success. The second school struggled with producing crops due to water shortages in their village. The school relied on students to bring in water from home to supplement the school and the plot, which was unsustainable. Foundations for Farming were impressed by their knowledge of and commitment to the project, so continued to support the school by providing them with tools, crops and farming methods more suited to dry arid land. Next year, Foundations for Farming desperately needs support to be able to reach more schools with this provenly effective project which helps staff and children gain skills and put food on the table, but also so that the project team have the capacity to provide additional support and resources when it is needed, as it has been this year.

Schools Outreach

This year, ZET has launched an exciting new initiative, working with local schools to deliver global learning sessions, where children and young people can learn about life in Zimbabwe, building up empathy and community links. We have been kindly supported by local organisations and universities, who have made this work possible and we look forward to expanding this work in the new year.

So far, ZET has worked with Westerton Primary School and Lee Briggs Infant and Nursery School, running interactive assemblies and workshops which aim to inform the children about Zimbabwe and challenge some of the misconceptions they may hold about other cultures and communities.

We have worked with children ranging in age from 5 to 9 running sessions, activities and games which teach about life, school, homes, jobs and culture in Zimbabwe, the history of the country and the UK’s relationship with them, and the work of ZET. We have been continuously impressed by how empathetic and engaged the children have been and it was lovely to see them engage with Zimbabwe in a positive, constructive way. The classes showed real interest by asking challenging questions, retaining detailed information and putting themselves in the shoes of children in Zimbabwe – even discussing complex issues like climate change, political shifts in Zimbabwe, and the birth registration process!

We will continue to work with these schools and more in the future, so watch this space.

Fundraising Events

Thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers, ZET has regularly held fundraising events throughout the year, all of which have been a resounding success and raised over £1000 for the Trust between them. This includes student-run pub quizzes at a range of local pubs – so we continue to thank Leeds students and their locals for having us! On top of this, the parishioners at Headingley St Columba ran an appeal this Lent and raised £1310 for ZET, so thank you all for your very generous support.

Most importantly, ZET turned 30 this year!!! And we celebrated in style with a big event in October, with music, poetry, Zimbabwean food, dancing and speakers all coming together to celebrate Zimbabwean culture, diaspora and the incredible work of ZET over the past 30 years! Thank you so much to all of you who attended or supported us – here’s to another 30 years.

If you have an idea for an event or fundraiser, or would like to raise money for ZET, please do get in touch!

Looking forward to 2018…

ZET has big plans for next year, starting the year with a visit to each of our partners in Zimbabwe to plan for working together in the future and develop our strategy and goals for the next few years. ZET hopes to capitalise on the momentum being felt across Zimbabwe, to transform the opportunity of a new period in the country into opportunities and support for our beneficiaries. We will continue to fundraise and support each of our partners, and hope you will join us in this mission.

Thank you so much for all your support this year. Together, we have transformed the lives and opportunities of hundreds of disadvantaged young people in Zimbabwe.

If you would like to give the gift of education this Christmas you can donate here: www.zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk/support-us

Written by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: Development Approaches

Development – like freedom, cannot be endowed, it must be achieved

Apparently the world of international development is at an impasse – so many theories, so many conferences, so many papers published, and still the poor remain poor and the development workers somewhat at a loss. The journey has been long – from a certain General Marshall’s utterances in 1947 through the large-scale construction projects, from the ‘discovery’ of poverty by the World Bank in the seventies to the present day era of glamour-aid. Though some successes have been noted, poverty on the whole is still here – and increasing.

So then, why is so much goodwill generating such conflicting results? What are we doing wrong? Well, this is my view – in the first instance, what is development? My belief is that development is – in the words of McEwan – a natural, immanent evolutionary process without intentionality. What I think he means is that, left alone, people will find a way to improve their lot in life. That in fact this is an instinctive drive in all of humanity to improve our condition. We do this in a form of trial and error – learning, adjusting, adapting – and in the process, developing or improving. The process is as important as the result. But more importantly, the result is not always clear at the beginning – so for instance I set off thinking I am going to be a farmer, and through trial and error find that actually I am a talented musician, and maybe I should be a rock star. We all more or less meander our way through life in this way – and the key thing here is that we make the choice of what lessons to keep, and what lessons to discard – a process describe by sociology as agency : the ability of people to make independent choices.

However, with the ‘discovery’ of poverty, development changed from being a natural process informed by independent choice, to ‘an intentional practice with a set goal’ i.e. a means to create order out of the social disorder of rapid urbanisation, poverty and unemployment. Development thus could be determined and directed towards a known end using suitable tools. This therefore meant that someone (the development expert) sat down and decided what the desired goal was (the poor person will be a farmer not a rock star) and then said expert devises tools to make this happen. Expert then sells plan to a donor and a timescale is agreed – so development worker has 3 years to turn poor person into a farmer.

This is where the fun begins. We have had five decades of tools of development – from the original blue-prints that assumed so much and achieved so little. We have redefined words like participation, local ownership, sustainability etc. In fact we have even debated and understood agency (and then tried to manage it…..) We have created complex tools like the log-frame. Conference papers have been read in their numbers, and small successes hailed. But in the main – people are still poor. And now we have an impasse.

The impasse is, I believe, the best thing to come out of international development. Because now we can look at what development is – a natural process. And what it is not – the intentional practice. All the effort of trying to harness what is essentially an internal process has not worked because it cannot work. No amount of planning and funding can replace agency – the need for people to make independent choices. Both those who hand over this internal drive to another, and those who try to manage this in the lives of other people – no matter how well intentioned, will fail. Development is the process, it’s what people achieve for themselves – it cannot be planned and managed by a third party.

This article was originally published by The Global Native in 2016.

Written by Na Ncube, Director at The Global Native

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