While in Dar waiting for Baylor’s arrival, I’ve gotten the chance to do quite a bit of reading. I’m especially enjoying a book on agricultural development called Two Ears of Corn by Roland Bunch. Because I feel our team’s strategy for mission is often misunderstood, and the term development exchanged for, or used synonymously with, words like aid and relief, I thought I would give Bunch’s definition. While not flashy, it says a lot:
Development is basically a process whereby people learn to participate constructively in the solving of their own problems. The driving force behind this participation is enthusiasm; the direction in which the people must move is toward gradually increasing participation; and the goal is that the program itself gradually be lost in, and replaced by, a totally participatory movement of the people, by the people, and eminently for the people.
Also from Two Ears, development is not to be confused with handouts, giveaways, and accomplishing tasks for the locals. These strategies often…
- convince locals they are incapable of making progress themselves, creating a sense of dependency and inadequacy
- bring the residents to a point where they expect to be given anything they need — or have it done for them
- create bitter divisions when one village is assisted to the exclusion of their neighbors
- blind locals to the importance of learning to solve problems themselves
- destroy the possibility of there ever existing a multiplier effect
- do not allow locals to learn by doing, or to learn at all
- fail to achieve permanence
- are extremely expensive
“You can give people so many fish that they lose all interest in learning to fish.”
In essence, when we seek to give things away or accomplish tasks ourselves, because we think it’s faster or easier or believe the locals are incapable of helping themselves, we handicap them. In my short time in East Africa, I have already witnessed this dozens of times — well-intentioned groups from the West crippling small communities of people while attempting to assist them.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a more complete description of our strategy for ministry. But I just thought Roland said this so well…