Friday, March 19, 2010

To improve socio-economic progress needs behavior change

Dear Colleagues

I wrote the following letter to a list that is mainly in Kenya and Uganda in response to a conversation that started by talking about hunger and poverty in rural areas. The focus of Community Analytics is about people who live in communities ... because it is only when people become engaged that socio-economic prosperity can be achieved. This is from me:
Dear Colleagues

I am not sure how local people determine priorities ... and whether spending by the government supports development or constrains development.

I was in Lesotho at one point in my career and a very profitable agriculture business had been identified ... growing asparagus for the international market. FAO started a program and subsidized some farmers to set up to grow the crop and these farmers were happy. The rest of the farmers then waited for FAO to come up with the next subsidy ... but FAO never had the money. Farmers were waiting on a "hand-out" when in fact they could have borrowed from the banks (which had a lot of surplus money) and got into business and grown the national business 100 times over.

I have seen variants of this in all sorts of different places.

And I really cannot understand why agriculture ... growing food ... in Africa is not a booming sector. I think part of it is that easy imported food (which helps to keep the country bankrupt) is cheaper in the market than local grown food. There is something wrong with the metrics when the incentive is to be eating imported stuff that is bankrupting the country while farmers are essentially unemployed and not able to grow food to keep the population well fed.

I realize there are issues with rainfall and drought ... but I do not hear of initiatives to introduce meaningful community scale modern irrigation (drip feed).

I do not pretend to be an expert in agriculture ... but the society and policy makers seem to have landed in a place that makes no sense ... in large part because the analysis of agriculture using money accounting leaving out the metrics of social value gets things wrong.

Peter Burgess
Community Analytics (CA)
I was surprised at the responses which includes these:
Hello Peter and all

I will agree with what u have mentioned in your mail. When it comes to farming the community never view it as an entreprise that should be able to employ someone. Its something that u do on the side of your other duties. People cannot put to cost the amount they spend in buying foodstuffs that they can grow on their own in their small kitchen gardens.

The corruption in government has also not made it any better as there are people bent on reaping from the food imports in one way or another. Its a pity that many young people in Kenya or rather in my local community would leave very prime agricultural land next to river sources to go and seek formal employment instead of working on the farms. People have been so conditioned that u complete any level of education and move to look for employment no matter what it is.

This is why we have so many slums in our cities.

The greatest challenge is for us to change our attitude about so much and view agriculture in a different perspective.
and the following from the UK
Hi Peter,

Your account rings so true!

We used to have a neighbour - charming bloke - who had been in Africa for his business and used to lament the lack of effort of many of the Africans he knew

This gave us the impression that he was racist but now, after trying to get people to start their own business so many times, I know it is a fact.

One can come up with all sorts of reasons but when I offer a long term, nil interest, loan to anyone willing to outline their plan and find no-one interested I know we can't just blame the past colonialists for present problems.
The good news is that there will be positive change when people understand (1) that there is a problem; (2) what the problem is; and, (3) that the problem can be fixed. Some of us are of the opinion that it is going to be possible for people in communities using the resources of communities to have great socio-economic progress with some quite modest changes. What is problematic is that great wealth has been accumulated by people who have gamed the system in various ways and now have a big role in maintaining what is essentially a failed status quo.

As Dr. Muhammad Yunus says from time to time "When poor people work long and hard and remain poor, it is because there is a systemic problem". The power of decision makers to maintain the inequitable status quo is part of this systemic problem.

Peter Burgess
Community Analytics (CA)

No comments:

Post a Comment