On The aim of pragmatic developmental approach to development is …… by Joseph Kaifala

February 9, 2008 at 9:47 am Leave a comment

My friend Joseph had an inspiring blog entry today.(LINK) It is about his project to build a school in his war ravaged home country of Sierra Leone. At one point he writes: “The aim of pragmatic developmental approach to development is to prepare communities for future leadership and entrepreneurship in the process of development as defined by their own needs and resources”. I am not sure how much attention he was paying to his own entry but those are powerful and resourful words that have serious implications for any developmental work. I am going to try and break it down to show how.

First of all, he mentions “pragmatic developmental approach to development”. I am all about making every developmental approach pragmatic. We have had too many “educated” minds behind closed doors in government buildings and think tanks sketch out a blueprint to prosperity for the embattled third world countries only for those plans to fail and backfire.

A not-so-well-known example is the construction of huge dams by various international organizations in Nepal in the later half of the 20th century. The dams were meant for irrigation purposes so that the farmers would not have to depend on monsoon water. Unfortunately, the engineers somehow forgot that the water collected in the dam needed to be transported via miles and miles of pipelines to get to the fields. So we ended up with several dams which over time have destroyed the ecosystem of the region. If the engineers had bothered to consult with even a single farmer, they would have found out that digging a well in the fields would have had a much more positive outcome simply because it is the “pragmatic” way.

The next phrase -and probably the most powerful one- in Joseph’s sentence is “to prepare communities for future leadership and entrepreneurship”. That in essence should be the goal of every developmental project in all countries.

Gone are the days when a government of a nation implement one single policy to bring about positive nationwide changes. We live in a world that is being brought together by technology. This has increasingly helped us see more clearly not only the diversity in the world but also among communities living in the same town. It is safe to say that the majority of civil unrest caused today is due to ethnic/relgious/racial tensions. Case in point – Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Israel-Palenstine etcetera. So when a developmental project is to be carried out, initially, it needs to be aimed towards a certain community and not a cluster of differing communities. That step in-and-itself is extrememly important and comes much later.

The goal of a developmental project should directly relate to improving the long-term future of the community. This can be achieved by making sure their is good “future leadership and entrepreneurship”. Now everyone should be able to understand good leadership = good things (Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, King and so on and so forth). A good leader will not be fazed by testing times. As for entrepreneurship; many in third world nations wince at the mention of it. For them Entrepreneurship=Business=Capitalism=”Rich Corrupt countrymen who have had better lives that they do not deserve”. If that is true or not is another matter. A developmental project should be able to provide communities with their own ability to generate their own income – say by means of skills training or higher level of education. If people can earn their own income and meet basic needs, most civil unrest would either wane or come to an end. Else some unemployed brain-job is going to rise with a gun in his/her hand and brainwash the poor and repressed into believeing that the only way to a better life is to loot and murder those who are better of.

Finally, the last part of the sentence screams nothing but COMMON SENSE -“process of development as defined by their own needs and resources”. Every development process should be designed so that it meets the needs and utilizes the resources of the community which is meant to benefit from it. There are villages in Nepal where clean drinking water is far from being scarce – it is non-existent. Not surprisingly infant mortalilty rate is high because of diseases caused due to filthy drinking water. These places do not need high-speed internet conenction as much as they need an engineer to design and build a sytem to provide them with clean drinking water. These villages might already have a school with teachers and all sorts of facilities. However, if the kids have to forgo school because they have to travel miles upon miles each day to get clean water, then the crux of the problem lies in the lack of drinking water and not the lack of education. And, if an engineering endeavour is to be carried out to provide clean water, use of free labor from grateful villagers is a better option than importing heavy machinery from Caterpillar at a much higher cost.


Entry filed under: On Development. Tags: .

To brothers & sisters Hope amidst despair – Anyone?

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