My Development Diary will dive deeper into ‘field realities’ otherwise known as the local socio and political economic factors that make development work in a country a unique process. It will be based on my personal interpretation of the challenges and possibilities that exist in the global south, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. As geographers like to say – Place matters.
The majority of my international development work has been in West Africa working in agricultural development, specifically in extension services. The goal of this blog is to provide a perspective that cannot be found in academic textbooks by detailing the local challenges and progress that some development programmes and policies are facing written in an accessible way.
How does long term, sustainable change come about?
Sustainable development requires more than the simple installation of technologies or integration into a market. Development should be about creating processes and shifting systems by engaging individuals within local organisations (public or private) and civil rights movements that are already helping communities gain access to appropriate technologies, services and shifting legal and cultural rights. By strengthening the extent and effectiveness of the organization’s response, we can help them become better at helping their communities. We need top down and bottom up work to be done to change formal laws, regulations and policy, as well as informal socio-cultural and empowerment oriented efforts.
Check out this video here of one of the young, commercial farmers I partner with to make change in the context of northern Ghana. It is important to actually engage farmers, especially those farmers who are left behind – poor smallholders, women and youth.
Why write this blog? Can I not find this information from NGO’s websites?
Unfortunately, one of the greatest faults of the development industry is in its lack of transparency and accountability. Too many organizations – public and private – do not publish their success or failures and when they do the quality of the findings is questionable and heavily biased. One reason for this is because of the demands made by investors / donors and competition between organizations. As a result, organizations do not necessarily share best practices and failures, but instead reinforce negative stereotypes of what is working to compete for funding. They often also massage it in a way that is cookie cutter or scalable, which is not context specific or locally driven, thus sustainable. This is partially why there is a great divide in the global community as to whether foreign assistance is actually helping those it is intending to help.
The perspectives of development workers who are working on the ground in developing countries are usually locked up in reports meant for donors, where it’s quality is questionable, it is edited, sanitized or never published. I am writing this blog to tell you my version of a truth about what doing this work and research is actually like, and to maintain my own accountability.