By Annie O’Connor of the kanga project
“Development does not start with goods; it starts with people and their education, organisation and discipline. Without these three, all resources remain latent, untapped, potential.” (Schumacher, Small is beautiful). Remember, it was the wealth of education, organisation and discipline that allowed the Western World to rise so quickly out of the ashes at the end of WW2 and to a great extent this is the principle that is driving the kanga project and many of T4A member charities’ efforts to lift communities out of poverty.
Development cannot be created; it has to evolve and while we cannot expect the developing world to re-invent the wheel or to be without a modern town-based sector able to negotiate its place along that of others, development policies must absolutely be the concern of the 80% or so of the population worldwide that lives in rural areas. Only then will countries be able to stop the rapid growth of a potentially destructive dual economy. Such dual economy that encourages huge migration to cities, the development of slums next to 5* hotels and the huge resentment of a young, fast growing unemployed and unemployable population that threatens to destabilise the already fragile ties that allow most of the world to live in relative peace.
Wealth creation therefore has to start from the bottom up, not be imposed but taught, made sustainable with appropriate but modern technology, made to offer attractive alternatives without ignoring the richness of rural and cultural knowledge. It must encourage the growing, still poorly educated youth to see the benefit of engaging and developing their own communities and dim the bright lights of the cities in favour of a calmer, wholesome, more human centred way of life.
Don’t misunderstand this for western romanticism for an eco-friendly way of life when all young people yearn for are modernity, decent wages, access to water on tap, televisions, proximity of health centres etc. Indeed, there is nothing romantic about living in a dark, smelly hut, having to fetch dirty water and wood and see your crops die for lack of water or money to buy fertilisers. So wealth creation is about providing the skills to start tackling this harsh environment and the provision of tools and finance to start economic activities with the potential to grow much further than provide a subsistence way of living. This may mean tractors, manufacturing machinery, roads, education, loans. We need to ask and listen as everyone deserves to have hope, opportunities and a just reward for a hard day’s work.