The Dark Side of Development

While I was conducting my étude de milleu (community needs assessment) My village has unfortunately had  a lot of NGO neglect.i.e. an NGO comes in, gives them money and or things, and then leaves. There is no follow-up, and much of the time items are left unused. Peace Corps works on the philosophy of capacity building. In layman’s terms, if you teach a person how to fish, he eats for a lifetime.

It can be very difficult being a PCV when villagers expect to be given money and or things beause of the actions of past NGOs. This was put into context about a month ago when we had some Europeans from a European NGO visiting my village.

One day the Europeans were going to my regional capital, and I had some packages to pick up so I went with them and ran my errands. On the car ride back, the Europeans asked me how long I had been in country. I explained to them that I had been in BF for 7 months, we had 3.5 months of training, 10 days of training in Ouaga, and we did a community needs assessment (Etude de Milleu). They were shocked that I had not “done anything” in 7 months. I said that I had lots of meetings with people, learned, Moore, adapted to life with limited resources, and the ins and outs of Burkinabe culture. They disagreed and felt that that was not good enough. They asked how many volunteers we had in country, and their response to my response was that we were colonizing Burkina Faso. I explained to them our philosophy of capacity building and they completely disagreed. All of this happened in the car ride back so I could not get out of the situation.

When we finally got back to my village, they could see that I was visibly upset, and they wanted to talk about it more. This turned out to be a very bad idea. They completely disagreed with all of our “High 5” activities that all volunteers have to do (Clubs and Camps, hygiene, tree planting, malaria, HIV/AIDS). I was interrogated for 2 hours about every aspect of Peace Corps and told that my village did not need a volunteer, that teenage pregnancy was not a problem, and that I don’t need to help the CM2 students to pass the CEP exam.


So Sara, What’s your point?

My point is that I strongly believe in Peace Corps philosophy of development. You find out what the community needs from the community itself, you live in the community, you learn local language, and you try to do no harm. Simply throwing money at villages or giving them things does not build capacity and destroys the credibility of the volunteer who is working in the village. When villagers ask you why you have not given them money or things, and that you are there to help them learn how to do things and create sustainable development. Every village that wants a volunteer has to ask for one. There are so many requests that do not get filled for one reason or another, and many villages do not get volunteers even if they ask. My village waited 4 years for a PCV and they finally got one. I have the respect of my community, and I never take that for granted. So in short, if you subscribe to the dark side of development, Entendons-nous d’être en désaccord. (Let’s agree to disagree and leave it at that).


One response to “The Dark Side of Development

  1. Amen. Keep it up!

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