Baseline Survey Report for VE Affiliate’s “GOLD” initiative to Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse in Liberia

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1.1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This Baseline Survey was part of a research methodology designed to help develop an effective strategy for the contextual problems that smallholder farmers have faced with farming for over the past 5 decades in the Gbeah’s Town, Gbor Clan, District 2B. The strategy will be used in the implementation of a project entitled: “Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse.” The survey successfully Identified 15 smallholder farmers, which are currently participating in our Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse program.1 The Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse project is the first Pilot project of Growing Liberia Democracy (GOLD), which focuses on promoting a sustainable community and quality governance in rural Grand Bassa County. The project is raising its pilot funding on the Global Giving platform, through an affiliation with Village Earth, of Bolder Colorado. However due to limited funding, the strategy initially focused only on building a sustainable community by organizing and developing a group of 15 smallholder farmers and creating a management team to establish the Rural Early Learning Program (RELEP) for inhabitants in Gbeah’s Town and it surrounding villages; the community is located in the Gbor clan, District 2B, Grand Bassa County.

The purpose of the survey was to identify basic challenges and recommended solutions to those challenges, as a measure the next generation of the Gbor Clan age smallholder farmers can use as tools to improve the farming environment for smallholder farmers in the Gbor Clan. The strategy we used in administering the survey is based on the traditional Gbor clan values and leadership principle and for group facilitation, advocacy, organizational leadership, and community mobilization. In accordance with these values, the survey process began on March 28, 2017 by training two local volunteers with the skills needed to conduct the survey. After the survey administrative training, the two local volunteers worked alongside GOLD staff to administer the survey; a process which took place from March to April 2017. The survey covered five villages including Gbeah’s Town, Jurkpans Town, Togas Town, John’s Town and, Darkinnah’s Town, soliciting the views of respondents in the community.

1.2 Purpose of the Baseline Survey

The Baseline Survey for the Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse Project was conducted to establish and better understand the contextual problems/challenges facing the next generation of smallholder farmers in Gbeah’s Town and its surrounding villages.

The survey was conducted to identify targeted smallholders farmers that are participating in Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse project.

1.3 The General Objective

The objective of the Baseline Survey is to establish an effective framework for the implementation of our Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse project.

1.4 Specific Objectives

This Baseline Survey set out with the following specific objectives:

  1. Identify 15 smallholder farmers that are participating in the Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse project in Gbeah’s Town and its surrounding villages.

  2. Establish an effective framework for the contextual farming condition of smallholder farmers in Gbeah’s Town and its surrounding village, Gbor Clan, Grand Bassa.

  3. Establish a sustainable model for sustainable cooperative faming that smallholder farmers in Gbeah’s Town its surrounding villages (Gbor Clan, Grand Bassa County.) can be passionate about.

1.5 Expected Outcome of the Baseline Survey

An established qualitative and quantitative gap analysis of farming in the Gbor Clan, District 2 and District 2B, Grand Bassa County.

2.0 Methodology & Administrative Process

The methodology involve in the baseline survey included the following:

  • Training two volunteer to administer a survey

  • Organizing a community meeting for the targeted smallholder farmers and community leaders for effective strategy development for the Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse project

  • Administering a one on one guided interview with smallholder farmers in Gbeah’s Town and its surrounding villages

2.0 Data Collection Procedure

This research design used the Descriptive (survey) research method to collect its data. The process of administering the survey proceeded in three steps. The first step was to identify the 15 farmers who would participate in the survey. To this end, GOLD gave community leaders the responsibility to identify list of 15 satisfied smallholder farmers during the first awareness meeting. The leadership selected five successful smallholder farmers from Gbeah’’s Town and 10 smallholder farmers from four villages surrounding Gbeah’s Town. The farmers identified by the communities by the community leaders were then convened in Gbeah’s Town where the survey was administered with help from the Crunch Back Consulting Firm2. The researchers used answers from respondents, to describe a set of observations from data collected. These data, and the conclusions which follow from them, are the subject of this report.

2.1 Team Composition

The administrative team for this project consisted of 4 members: two local volunteers from Gbeah’Town, a senior staff member from GOLD, and a supervisor from the Crunch Back Consulting firm. (Prior to the project, GOLD underwent specialized training by a researcher from Pittsburg University in the United States. Thereafter, GOLD proceeded to train the two local volunteers in various aspects of survey administration, in which the volunteers learned confidentiality, presentation, body communication and flexibility.

2.2 Time Frame of GOLD Baseline Survey

The baseline survey activities started April 26 and ended May 4, 2017.

Date

Activities

Location

Time (Local)

Participants

26/04/2017

Hosting first general meeting for the community

Gbheah’s Town

6:30pm-7:30pm

GOLD/Community members, women, farmers, Leaders and elders

28/04/2017

Survey Training Workshop

Gbeah’s Town

4:30pm-5:30pm

GOLD and two local volunteers

30/04/2017

Survey Administration

Gbeah’s Town

8:00am-10:00pm

GOLD team and smallholder farmers in Gbeah’s Towh

02/05/2017

Survey Administration

Gbeah’s Town

8:00am-10:pm

GOLD team and smallholder farmers in surrounded villages

02/05/2017

Second general Meeting

Gbeah’s Town

4:30pm-6:00pm

GOLD team, smallholder farmers, community leaders, elders and children

3/05/2017

Meeting with teachers

Gbeah’s Town

5:00pm-6:00pm

Two teachers and GOLD team

4/05/2017

Trip to the City

In the traffic

11:00am-4:00pm

GOLD senior researcher.

5/10/2017

Data processing, reporting, editing of reporting and presentation of report.

Crunch Back office in Monrovia

9:00am-4:pm

GOLD staff/ Research supervisor.

2.3 Budget

The Budget of this survey is two hundred United State Dollars ($200.00 USD), please find attached the budget in details for the baseline survey.

2.4 Findings of the Baseline Survey

T he survey result indicated that most of the potential smallholder farmers were working-age youth, with over 15 years of farming experience, but largely without any former agriculture training. This means that based on their long time experience in farming and age group, it is easy to improve smallholder farmers products; these smallholders farmers are young with much energy, and if supported with tools, training and good policy, can be a key point for inclusive growth and a sure way to lower inequality, increase their income and reduce poverty in the region.

The survey findings further indicated that while all the smallholder farmers identified through the survey were male; however, these smallholder farmers and their wives share equal responsibility with their spouses on their individual farm. This means that, the project will be impacting the lives of both 15 male and 15 female smallholder farmers throughout its activities, especially in the way of training.

The survey furthered indicated that majority of those families of farmers represented in this survey have no less than 5 children between the ages 4-15 years that are not in school. This means that, if the issue of early learning is not addressed, the children might end up being like many of the parent who are very poor and illiterate. Accordingly, the results of our survey suggest a significant likelihood that majority of the smallholder farmers in the region share similar challenges in the farming surroundings of the Gbor Clan.

According to the survey outcome, farmers in the region mainly farm pineapple and ginger, which means that we would need to find an expert agriculturist who will be able to train those smallholder farmers in modern methods for high yield and quality products to meet international standards for local and global market.

Based on this survey we can conclude that fa   rmers in the community have not received farming subsidies of any kind from the government since 1939, this means that farmers in the region will continue to use more effort with little yield if there is no policy to improve the lives of small holder farmers in the Gbor Clan. Without these necessary improvements, farmers will continue to practice the bush rotation system of shifting cultivation with manual hand labor, using ordinary agricultural tools such as cutlass, axe and hoe for very little yield.

The result further indicates that, the lack of effective leadership is one of the basic causal factors driving the current inadequacy of the community’s farming methods. This means that 1)smallholder farmers are not organized together under one umbrella, and 2) they have neither a leadership structure or the support of policy that will seek the need of farmers in the region. If they were organized, they would be able to share ideas, work with stake holders in addressing some of the challenges they faced with farming. (This includes items like farm to market road, agriculture training, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, farming materials, tools, marketing of farmers’ products etc, can be to their disposal.)

According to the survey funding, smallholder farmers in the region can’t afford to have an account of extra saving in the bank after selling their products. This means that smallholder farmers used very high labour and low yield to generate the income needed to take care of their family and save some money for the future. They only farm to sustain their household due to inadequate support and sticking to the traditional method of farming.

The findings also indicated that smallholder farmers see the high cost of transportation as an impediment that continues to devalue the price of their products. As long as the farm road to market is inaccessible, the cost of farmers’ agriculture products will be prohibitive to the farmers to the point that profit becomes increasingly difficult. Businessmen and women pay high sums to truck drivers to deliver their goods to market at low prices, allowing farmers to exercise some control over prices. However for the farmers in these communities, those costs are extremely prohibitive.Consequently, there is no practice of price control across Liberia’s agricultural economy.

On top of these concerns, our research also revealed a number of implications for health of the surveyed communities. First among them is the fact that farmers in the communities do not practice birth control. The fact that women don’t exercise their reproductive rights promises to increase poverty among the farming communities because their aggregate income is increasingly insufficient to maintain their rapid increase in family size. Left unmitigated, this means that increased population growth will create poverty among future generations. Additionally, the research indicates that most of the smallholder farmer surfer severe body and back pain, no health facility and save drinking water for women and children. This mean that the health safety of the entire community is at risk. Accordingly if the aforementioned health concerns are not addressed with close attention, citizens may become increasingly vulnerable to lose their lives from ordinary diseases or during emergency cases-or farmers may not get the energy or health support they need for healthy farming in the future.

2.5 Recommendations

The recommendations from this survey didn’t just result from an oversight or a summary of an open observation, but were established based on one on one survey with 36 painstakingly chosen questions with emphasis placed on realistic response from the interviewees. Moreover the survey used a confidential approach that allowed the interviewees to remain comfortable and give truthful answer to the interviewers for a highly effective recommendations. These measures were crucial in facilitating detailed and veracious responses to our questions. Accordingly, the information collected from these detailed conversations put GOLD in an authoritative position to offer the following recommendations:

  1. The survey recommends that the Gbor Clan should establish a farming Union that will develop a unique farming policy through group mobilization and organization al leadership as a way to improve the next generation of farmers in the region.

  2. The survey recommends that farmers should receive a formal agriculture training that will facilitate a shift from subsistence farming to a modern farming method.

  3. The survey recommends that both Bong and Grand Bassa County lawmakers should joint efforts to construct the bridge between Faynutolee, Brong County and District 2 Grand Bassa County.

  4. Given the aforementioned warning signs for future public health concerns in the region, the construction of an emergency Health facility in Ggeah’s Town is highly recommended.

  5. The survey further recommends that local government representatives (Town Chiefs) should be trained in effective leadership methods and advocacy for the needs of the people they represent.

  6. The survey also recommends the development of an effective school system for both early learning and adult literacy.

  7. The survey further recommends the provision of safe drinking water for villagers in Gbeah’s Town and its surrounding villages.

  8. Farmers need to be educated to birth control or women need to exercise their reproductive rights

3.0 Conclusion

The Baseline Survey exercise was an intervention that was financed by the Global Giving fundraising platform. The overarching reason for the necessity of this exercise was for GOLD to develop an effective strategy to implement the Help Farmers Fight Hunger and Child Abuse Project.

After going through a critical research analysis of 1)challenges smallholder farmers faced and 2) what they need to overcome those challenges in Gbeah’s town and its surrounding villages, GOLD is in an authoritative position to develop and implement programming in support of the next generation of smallholder farmers in the entire District 2B.

The research outcome can also be used for future references to researchers, government agencies, and other NGOs who have the passion to improve the lives of smallholder farmers in Liberia. Ultimately, our hope is that this baseline survey will serve as an early catalyst for meaningful and sustainable change for the livelihoods of Liberia’s smallholder farmers.

Summer II Session Courses in the VE/CSU Online Certificate Program in Sustainable Community Development

Registration is open for the following courses through July 24th in the VE/CSU online certificate program in Sustainable Community Development. Register now to ensure your seat. Contact info@villageearth.org or discounted rates for NGOs and Government agencies.

APPROACHES TO COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Course Tuition:  $390
Duration: 5 Weeks
Continuing Education Units (CEUs): 2

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Next Offered Deadline to Register Registration Status Offered By
July 28 – September 1, 2017 July 24, 2017 Open

Course Description

Explore both the structure and practice of community development around the world.  Engage in a critical analysis of different approaches to community development, their historical development and underlying assumptions.  Gain an understanding of the structural and practical issues that promote or detract from the goal of community empowerment.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Outline  the historical development and underlying assumptions of different approaches to community development.
  • Identify the issues faced by the rapidly changing field of community development.
  • Distill key structures and practices for becoming more effective on the ground.

COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZING

Course Tuition: $390
Continuing Education Units (CEUs): 2
Duration: 5 weeks

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July 28 – September 1, 2017 July 24, 2017 Open

Course Description
The importance of an approach to community-development that increases the rights of poor and marginalized people within governing structures has never been more apparent. Situations of severe oppression and marginalization demand organizing-techniques that go beyond a traditional “hand-out” style approach to development. Taking a practical hands-on perspective, this course will explore the theories, tools, styles and challenges of community-based organizing. It will discuss practical strategies for developing community leadership and working with marginalized communities. Together, we will discover the impact that ordinary individuals can have on the world.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Apply basic organizing techniques, such as popular education and direct action
  • Understand the role of privilege, race, gender and class in struggles for change
  • Understand the history and basic principles of community organizing
  • Design methods to help support and organize the community in which they are working

TOURISM AND DEVELOPMENT

Course Tuition: $390
Continuing Education Units (CEUs): 2
Duration: 5 weeks

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July 28 – September 1, 2017 July 24, 2017 Open

Globally, tourism initiatives receive considerable public funding and private investment as a means of economically developing low-income communities. NGOs are taking on a growing role in local tourism initiatives, as well as voluntourism, in hopes of injecting capital into the communities where they work. Amongst proponents, tourism is seen as a mechanism for local communities to capitalize on assets such as the natural environment and cultural heritage. Yet critiques often note that tourism can be destructive, elite and at times oppressive. In light of this critical lens, we will explore both successful and problematic tourism initiatives. We will critically examine the nature of tourism, its impacts on communities and considerations that must be taken into account in order for a tourism project to have the desired impact of development without destroying.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Identify best practices for successful tourism initiatives
  • Work with a community to evaluate how tourism may impact their lives
  • Network with private, public and non-profit institutions in the field of tourism and development
  • Understand common challenges and issues with eco-tourism and voluntourism

VE Affiliate, ICA-NEPAL Promoting Menstrual Hygiene with Women and Girls in Nepal

This week, ICA Nepal conducted two programs on Menstrual Hygiene Management with local women from Koteshwor on 25th May, 2017 and women group from Changunarayan on 30th May, 2017 respectively. Marking the International Menstruation Hygiene Management Day on 28th May, 2017, these programs were conducted with the motive on reaching local people and awaring them about menstruation hygiene.

On 25th May, An Interaction Program on Menstrual Hygiene Management was held among local women of Koteshwor, Kathmandu who were mostly social mobilizers and development workers. Total 35 participants participated in the program which was facilitated by Mr. Upendra Dhakal, who worked in the WASH sector for several years.

The program provided very integrated information on menstruation. Starting from the biological process of menstruation, the stages and cycle of menstruation, the program moved ahead with more focus on managing hygienic behaviors. The methods of managing hygiene while using cloth pads or sanitary pads, importance of maintaining personal hygiene as well making hygienic and female friendly toilets were focused. It was asserted that every women should be accessible to clean sanitary napkin materials, clean changing places, regular water, soap and towel and proper disposing facilities.

Several health risks which can occur in the lack of proper hygiene were also shared by the facilitator. Conditions such as vaginal yeast, pubic lice, infection, itchiness and rashes leading upto ovarian and cervical cancer can happen if the hygiene is not maintained properly.

Similarly, the program focused on various challenges women face during menstruation because of the restricitons imposed by the society. Given how taboo is menstruation in eastern societies, there is no proper environment for women to share about their problems easily.

“I was 13 years old when I got my first period. My mother wasn’t at home so I ran away to jungle. I belong to Bajura where i had to stay in Chhaupadi. For coming three years, I experienced Chhaupdi where I had to bath at early 3 am before sun rise”

The program ended with informing participants about some disposing methods of santary materials. Some of the methods are: Burning, Burying, Incinerating and Vermi-composting.

ICA Nepal is planning intensively for taking such programs in various other schools and communities now which we’ll be updating regularly. We would like to heartily thank you all for your donations which made these programs possible. Meanwhile, do continue supporting us. Our new link for fundraising is: https://www.globalgiving.org/microprojects/support-nepali-girls/

The program on 30th May, 2017 was an Interaction Program on Menstrual Hygiene Management which was conducted among local women of Changunarayan. The program was organized by ICA Nepal and facilitated by Ms. Pritha Khanal where 15 women participated.

The program intended on providing Menstrual Hygiene Management knowledge among women who came from one of the commendable women groups of Changunarayan. Thus, them being our stakeholders and not only the beneficiaries, we aimed on providing knowledge about how to enhance Menstrual Hygiene in the community.

In this program also, the need of clean sanitary materials, clean and female friendly toilets, regular water supply, and availability of soap, towel and dustbins in the toilets were highlighted. In addition to this, the facilities of proper disposing should be provided to women where as the different methods of disposing napkins were also shared.

Women should be able to live with dignity and respect during menstruation. The fact that women are treated as impure during menstruation needs to be changed. This message was well conveyed in the program. Participants also shared various challenges they come across during menstruation due to lack of proper facilities to manage their periods.

The program ended with discussion on what can be the role of local women to improve MHM in their communities. They can play the role on personal and on community level. Personally, women can improve on their menstrual health and their families’ health; improve condition of toilets in their houses and offices. On a community level, they can conduct such awareness raising activities among school children and other women; they can prioritize the MHM activities in their women’s group as well.

ICA Nepal is planning intensively for taking such programs in various other schools and communities now which we’ll be updating regularly. We would like to heartily thank you all for your donations which made these programs possible. Meanwhile, do continue supporting us. Our new link for fundraising is: https://www.globalgiving.org/microprojects/support-nepali-girls/

June Courses in the Online Certificate Program in Sustainable Community Development

PARTICIPATORY WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Course Tuition: $390
Continuing Education Units (CEUs): 2
Duration: 5 weeks

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Next Offered Deadline to Register Registration Status Offered By
June 9 – July 14, 2017 June 5, 2017 Open

Course Description

Millions in both urban and rural communities worldwide are becoming vulnerable to water scarcity, social exclusion from access to water, polluted water sources and water-borne diseases. Overpopulation, falling groundwater tables, the mismanagement of water sources, pollution and over-extraction all threaten to exacerbate the already severe decline in available water resources. A community-based and participatory approach involving and empowering users and managers of local communities is necessary to balance the various needs and demands on available resources. This course will explore important concepts and strategies for successful participatory water conservation strategies to ensure long-term, sustainable solutions to managing water resources effectively in communities around the world.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Work with communities using tools such as social asset mapping to identify value-based water and sanitation priorities and implement these into their community development plans
  • Deliver training and develop capacity of local communities
  • Understand how to integrate users and managers of local communities, government bodies, and various stakeholders into all components of effective water management plans

Instructor:

Vanitha Sivarajan, M.S.

Vanitha’s background includes over 10 years of conservation and water resource management with local communities, non-governmental organizations, governmental agencies, and the private sector.  She has worked on natural resource management initiatives both domestically and internationally with a focus on Latin America, India, and the U.S. Vanitha’s areas of programmatic knowledge and expertise include climate change adaptation, participatory water resource management, community-based conservation, and international development.  Vanitha holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from Yale University, where she specialized in water science, policy and management.  She was also a William J. Clinton Fellow and holds an undergraduate degree from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Microbiology and Anthropology.

Currently Vanitha is a Development and Outreach Consultant for Model Forest Policy Program and Wildlands Network where she promotes water resource protection and resilient rural communities from climate impacts as well as connectivity in North America.  She is also the Sustainability Director for World Water Relief, working to ensure the long-term success of water and sanitation projects in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.


MICRO-FINANCE PROJECTS:  SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT & THE ROLE OF WOMEN

Course Tuition:  $390
Continuing Education Units (CEUs): 2
Duration: 5 weeks

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Next Offered Deadline to Register Registration Status Offered By
June 9 – July 14, 2017 June 5, 2017 Open

Course Description

In the context of developing communities across the world, the role of microenterprise is crucial. Identification of people who would undertake micro enterprise is the first important step. Identification of projects to fit the people and their needs and equipping people with the basic skills to run micro-enterprises profitably is the next step in the process. Women-oriented projects are vital as self-esteem building activities for women whose micro enterprises typically, in the long run, produce far reaching economic and social impact for the entire community.

Micro-enterprises have become an important vehicle of development for developing economies. They are small-scale, low-investment projects that provide fulfillment and fairly immediate income generation. This has a great impact on boosting self-confidence which in turn affects family and social life.

Micro enterprises greatly influence the women who, in developing economies, are generally uneducated or semi-educated, are dominated by men, and have relatively low societal status. Micro enterprises energize women to become economically self-sufficient, empower them to be emotionally self-confident, and enable them to have a voice in society. Their newly acquired influence reflects in improved living conditions at home and better prospects for their children’s futures.

Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Explain the role and impacts of micro-finance.
  • Recognize the different types of micro-enterprises: manufacturing, agricultural and non-agricultural based industries, marketing and providing services.
  • Develop a microfinance pilot project.

Instructor:

Kamala Parekh, M.S.

Kamala has a Master’s in Economics from the University of Allahabad, India. Radio Journalism with a BBC affiliated International Broadcasting Company. Community Development Training: Institute of Cultural Affairs-International, Chicago, USA.  Currently she coordinates village and community based activities in Maharashtra, teaches English language to non-English speaking European women in Maharashtra, trains village women and craftsmen in making and marketing local handicrafts in Zambia and India, trains government and private sector multinational organizations and NGOs in the techniques of community development through participative methods, and has coordinated an entrepreneurial development program for village youth in Maharashtra in collaboration with Village Earth.  She also conducts Personality Development Courses for college and university students in India, conducts finishing school courses/women’s empowerment workshops (‘Stree Shakti’) for rural and urban women in India, and holds summer camps for children through non-academic activities to develop their overall personality and build confidence.  Kamala teaches an online course in Microfinance and the Role of Women in Sustainable Community Development.


PARTICIPATORY MONITORING & EVALUATION

Course Tuition:  $390
Continuing Education Units: 2
Duration: 5 weeks

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Next Offered Deadline to Register Registration Status Offered By
June 9 – July 14, 2017 June 5, 2017 Open

Course Description

Discover participatory methods in monitoring and evaluation for community development, where multiple stakeholders are involved in the process of planning, collecting, interpreting, communicating, and using information. Gain skills in using regular monitoring and evaluation processes, which will lead to continuous improvements.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Plan a monitoring and evaluation project
  • Develop evaluation questions that address stakeholders needs
  • Select the most appropriate data collection method for a given situation
  • Effectively communicate monitoring and evaluation data
  • Use the monitoring information for effective feedback and improvement

Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation

Pilar Robledo

Pilar is currently Director of Programming and Training for US Peace Corps in Kiev, Ukraine. She’s also serves as Education Cluster Co-lead at UNICEF Pakistan. Previously she’s worked for UNHCR, Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, and IREX. She holds an MPA in Public Administration from University of Colorado, Denver and a BA in Anthropology and Latin American Studies from CU Boulder.

Village Earth Launches Latest Version of the Pine Ridge Land Information System for Members of Oglala Sioux Tribe

Village Earth has launched the latest version of its web-based mapping system for members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The original Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS) was  originally launched back in 2012 in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Land Office and with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. Preceding the PRLIS was the Pine Ridge Allottee Land Planning Map Book. The impetus for all these projects was the desire of Lakota landowners to gain more information about their land resources, in particular, to be able to identify parcels where they own an interest.

Today, of the remaining 1,773,716 acres of land on Pine Ridge, nearly 1,067,877 acres (60%) is allotted to individuals. Over a century of unplanned inheritance has created a situation where lands have become severely fractioned. This created a management nightmare where, in order for a land owner to utilize their lands, they may have to get the signed approval of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of separate land owners. As a result of this complexity, most land owners on Pine Ridge have few choices be-sides leasing their lands out as part of the Tribal/BIA Range Unit leasing system. Nearly 65% of all lands on Pine Ridge are included in these Range units.

 

 

Naturally, this situation has had a dramatic impact on the overall economy on Pine Ridge. Like other Reservations across the United States, fractionation is a major obstacle to housing and business development but also native owned farms and ranches. According to the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture for American Indian Reservations, the market value of agriculture commodities produced on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 2012 totaled $87 million. Yet, less than 1/3 ($24 million) of that income went to Native American producers.

Pine Ridge Allotments

In addition to parcel information, Village Earth and the OST Land Office has made available the original allotment map for Pine Ridge. Until now, this information was not available to members of the tribe and over the years, many people have asked us to try get this information for them so they can can begin to reconstruct the history of their lands, especially lands liquidated by the Federal Government through a process known as forced fee patenting. The creation and issuing of allotments began on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1904, under Executive Order of July 29, 1904 and continued until 1923. During this period, government officials carved up the Reservation into parcels and issued them to Lakota families.

The PRLIS also includes:

  • Basemaps including recent high resolution satellite imagery
  • The historic treaty boundaries
  • NRCS designated prime agriculture lands
  • Range units
  • Tutorials on how to locate your lands using your Individual Trust Interest Report

We plan to continue to add new layers and information the PRLIS as they become available. We also invite suggestions by commenting below or contacting info@villageearth.org

 

 

 

Using Sketchup 3D Modeling Software for Community Development and Relief

As a community development worker, I’m always looking for new tools that can help bridge the gap between donors, technical experts, policy makers and communities. At the same time, I have a strong belief in the principles of Appropriate Technology and try to keep my work as low-tech as possible for fear of alienating people because of unnecessary complexity, excessive cost or technical skill required for completing a particular task. As a person who has used GIS for nearly 20 years, I have found more times than not a simple hand-drawn sketch map can accomplish the same or more in less time than a scale map overlaid on high resolution satellite images – especially in a community workshop setting. Nonetheless, there are times when accuracy counts and clarity matters, such as when communicating with government agencies or policy-makers. Additionally, one could argue that the longer the design process remains the hands of stakeholders the more satisfied they will be in the end product.

Recently, I have discovered a new tool that I believe could find a good home among community development and relief workers. Sketchup (formerly Google Sketchup) is a software program that makes it easy to create and share 3D models. It’s is available as a freeware version (SketchUp Make), a paid version with additional functionality (SketchUp Pro) and a free beta online version at http://my.sketchup.com. It’s compatible with Mac and PC and can be run on Linux using Wine (a MS Windows compatibility layer). Professional engineering/drafting program such as Autocad will set you back about $380 per year and comes with a much steeper learning curve. Sketchup on the other hand is easy to learn, thanks to millions tutorials on YouTube (1,800,000 to be exact) and you can’t beat the price (free).

Autocad is designed for creating blueprints for buildings, airplanes, toasters, etc. Sketchup on the other hand focused on creating the easiest way to draw in 3D. I have found Sketchup to be an excellent tool to work between end-users and engineers and architects by providing end users much better means to communicate their vision. It allows end users the ability to visualize, think through and adapt many design problems on their own and saves the time and expense of having engineers and/or architects thinking through all these details.

I’ve been using the freeware version for the past couple of years and have found it able to do most of things I want it to. Connected to Sketchup is an extensive database of millions of user created and shared models including houses, cars, plants, lights, animals, people, furniture, industrial equipment, etc. All it takes is a few clicks to add any model to your Sketchup project. Sketchup also makes it easy to create scale models of existing buildings through its connection to Google Earth which allows you to import a scale basemap of any location on earth. Once in the model it’s easy to quickly reproduce buildings and the layout of entire communities, trees, plants and all! Once created you can export your 3D project as an real-to-life image or as a Google Earth KMZ file which can be opened and viewed in 3D in it’s proper location on the earth. Sketchup models can also be printed using a 3D printer.

Wind turbines created in Sketchup and modeled in Google Earth. Source: http://stigmergist.blogspot.com/2013/06/modelling-windfarms-with-sketchup-and.html

Now that you have a better idea what Sketchup is all about, below are some ways I feel Sketchup can be used as a tool by community development and relief workers.

1. For collaborative design, using it to build consensus, work through problem and generally “bring-to-life’ the ideas expressed by community stakeholders that can then be shared with donors, policymakers, architects, engineers and contractors.
Sketchup can greatly facilitate collaborative design efforts by giving people a more accurate and “true-to-life” representations than hand-drawn sketches, it can also give community members more control over the design process by enabling them to work through more of the nuts and bolts issues that can more readily be revealed with a 3D model such as issues with access, functionality, maintenance, wear and tear, etc.


Above: A model of a biogas latrine built by EWB at Shirali Primary Primary School in Kenya. Still under construction. Model will change a bit. (click on model to enable 3D view)

2. For communicating with donors and policy makers
Sketchup can be a powerful tool to express community needs to donors and policymakers by making outcomes more visible and tangible. It also creates greater accountability by giving communities and donors a clearer, more measurable expectation of outcomes.


Above: Plan for community gardens located at the Genesee Valley Farm Discovery Center. (click on model to enable 3D view)

3. For Development Communication and Education
Sketchup can be a great tool for development communication and education by empowering community workers to model realistic scenarios related to public health, community dynamics, visioning, etc. With the millions of models available in Sketchup’s 3D Wharehouse one can easily drag and drop latrines, hand wash stations, wells, farm animals, cars, etc. for use in educational slides, posters, handouts, videos, etc.

4. For planning temporary facilities and shelters in relief situations.
Sketchup is an excellent tool to plan temporary facilities and shelters in a relief scenario because of the ability to situation Sketchup projects to-scale in Google Earth. This combined with the ability to drag and drop “pre-designed” models for tents, latrines, water tanks, offices, etc. makes it possible to literally drag and drop to-scale models on an exact location on the earth, facilitating both rapid collaboration and design.


Above: Model of Italian army refugee camp. (click on model to enable 3D view)

Whether you’re a community development/relief worker or not, I recommend trying out the free Sketchup software and share your experience in the comment section below. If you’re interested in topics discussed in this post check out our online class “Technology and Community Development” which is part of our online certificate program in Sustainable Community Development.

50% Match on Donations to Approved Village Earth Global Affiliates Until April 7th!

Now until April 7th (or until matching funds run out) Globalgiving.org will be matching 50% all donations up to $50! Don’t miss-out on this amazing opportunity to maximize your impact on Village Earth’s Global Affiliates around the globe! Below is a list (and links to) eligible VE Affiliates. For complete terms of this opportunity go to https://www.globalgiving.org/leaderboards/little-by-little-2017/

 

April Courses in the Online Certificate Program in Sustainable Community Development

TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Course Tuition:  $390
Continuing Education Units (CEU’s): 2
Duration:  5 weeks

 
Next Offered Deadline to Register Registration Status Offered By
April 21 – May 26, 2017 April 17, 2017 Open

Course Overview

Explore how technology, both a blessing and curse, is critical for individuals and communities accessing and managing resources. Consider equitable distribution of its productive gains, environmental impacts, debt burdens, health consequences and impacts on the social and cultural fabric of a community.  Examine some of the practical and ethical challenges faced by communities and community workers in their efforts to develop or introduce new technologies to enhance human well-being. Discover important concepts and strategies for successful participatory technology development, emphasizing principles developed by thinkers such as Ghandi and E.F. Schumacker.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Outline the history and basic principles of appropriate technology.
  • Work with communities to analyze their situation, develop strategic directions, and generate appropriate technology packages.
  • Support community-based technology generation efforts by creating linkages to information and resources.

Instructor:

frankFrank Bergh, EIT, LEED-AP

Frank Bergh is a 2011 alumnus of the Certificate of Community-Based Development Program at Colorado State University and has collaborated with Village Earth in training workshops in Community Mobilization for Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA). He is the VP of Grid Engineering at Sigora International, designing and implementing community-based renewable energy micro-utilities in frontier markets.

Frank has been an active member and leader within Engineers Without Borders USA since 2005, holding officer positions in at the local, regional, and national level. He is the former president of EWB-USA’s Great Lakes Region, former Chair of the Energy Standing Content Committee, and a former Board Member.

Frank has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering (2008) from Washington University in St. Louis. His professional and volunteer work has spanned 14 countries and 4 continents.  His career in the renewable energy industry has spanned wind energy, solar energy, and battery-based energy storage systems. He continues to advise several NGOs and startups on appropriate technology and participatory community development.


 

Building Climate Change Resilient Communities

Course Tuition: $390
Continuing Education Units (CEUs): 2
Duration: 5 Weeks

 
Next Offered Deadline to Register Registration Status Offered By
April 21 – May 26, 2017 April 17, 2017 Open

“The environment and the economy are really both two sides of the same coin. You cannot sustain the economy if you don’t take care of the environment because we know that the resources that we use whether it is oil, energy, land … all of these are the basis in which development happens. And development is what we say generates a good economy and puts money in our pockets. If we cannot sustain the environment, we cannot sustain ourselves.”   — Wangari Maathai

Course Description
 
Local communities around the globe are already affected by climate change. People in least-developed and developing countries are among the most vulnerable ones, yet they have the least coping capacity. Climate change impacts are localized and diverse therefore, the response needs to be as diverse and adapted to the local situation.
 
This class will explore key concepts of resilience, vulnerability, adaptive capacity and social capital in the context of community exposure to climate change. We will engage in critical analysis of tools and methods for building resilience to climate change and will look at several case studies from around the world.
 
Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:
 
  • Understand the variety of issues and challenges faced by organizations, nations, local and indigenous communities related to climate change;
  • Understand mitigation and adaptation options in community resilience-building;
  •  Make informed decisions when working with communities to critically assess the impacts of climate change and build a resilience plan.

Instructor:

Luminita Cuna, M.S.

TedxLuminita Cuna has a Master of Science in Sustainable Development with focus on Environmental Management from the University of London/School of Oriental and African Studies. Her Master’s thesis researched the impact of conservation policies on protected areas in the Amazon and their effects on the indigenous people that live in these areas. Luminita worked for 10 years in Information Technology, including at the United Nations. She studied International Economics and French at Mount Holyoke College, where she earned her BA. Luminita holds a Graduate Certificate in Management of Information Systems and a Professional Certificate in Journalism, both from New York University and a Certificate of Community Development from Colorado State University.

 Luminita is the founder and director of Maloca (a Village Earth affiliate), a grassroots support organization that works with indigenous communities living in the Amazon basin. Luminita has been traveling extensively to the Amazon region to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil and has been working with indigenous communities in the Amazon since 2006. She participated several times in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, and in June 2012 she attended the Kari-Oca II indigenous conference, part of Rio+20 – United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

 

COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION

Course Tuition:  $390
Continuing Education Units (CEU’s): 2
Duration: 5 weeks

 
Next Offered Deadline to Register Registration Status Offered By
April 21 – May 26, 2017 April 17, 2017 Open

Course Description

Explore what turns a group of individuals into an organization or social movement.  Consider what structural, social, or  psychological barriers inhibit or prevent individuals and groups from getting involved and working together for change.  Examine the definition of community mobilization as both an initial and ongoing process central to any community and social change effort that seeks to build support and participation of individuals, groups, and institutions to work towards a common goal or vision. Learn from the theories and methods of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, whose work has guided some of the most successful development and education programs around the globe, including the Orangi Pilot Project in Pakistan, The NAAM movement in Burkina Faso, and the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka, among others.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Identify the role of community mobilization in the context of human rights-based approaches to community development.
  • Better outline the causes and psychological affects of poverty oppression.
  • Better communicate with individuals and communities to enhance trust and solidarity.
  • Assist communities to mobilize for collective action and cooperation.

Instructor:

David Bartecchi, M.A.

Dave received his M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Colorado State University and has worked with Village Earth since 1998.  He is now the executive director of Village Earth.  Since 2000 he has been working with grassroots groups on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to recover lands for community-based bison restoration. He has also worked with the indigenous groups in Peru and Ecuador and trained and consulted on community-based development projects in in Azerbaijan, Armenia, India as well as with Native American tribes in California and Oklahoma.  He has been an instrumental part of several research projects with CSU’s Department of Anthropology including a 6 year longitudinal study of the informal economy on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota funded by the National Science Foundation, a survey of farmers and ranchers participating in the National Conservation Reserve Program conducted by CSU’s Natural Resource Ecology Lab and funded by the USDA, and community-based censuses on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations in South Dakota.

Dave teaches online courses in Approaches to Community Development, Community Mobilization, and Community-based Mapping.


 

APPROACHES TO COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Course Tuition:  $390
Duration: 5 Weeks
Continuing Education Units (CEUs): 2

 
Next Offered Deadline to Register Registration Status Offered By
April 21 – May 26, 2017 April 17, 2017 Open

Course Description

Explore both the structure and practice of community development around the world.  Engage in a critical analysis of different approaches to community development, their historical development and underlying assumptions.  Gain an understanding of the structural and practical issues that promote or detract from the goal of community empowerment.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Outline  the historical development and underlying assumptions of different approaches to community development.
  • Identify the issues faced by the rapidly changing field of community development.
  • Distill key structures and practices for becoming more effective on the ground.

Instructor:

JohnStrawJohn Straw, M.Ed.

John Straw has an M.Ed. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, focused on social justice education, and his bachelors from the University of Michigan with a degree in Spanish and Education. John has spent five years working in Honduras and Guatemala on community-based health and development projects, and the past 15 years working with Concern America, an international development and refugee aid organization, based in southern California, with health, water, and income-generation projects in Latin America and Africa. He has been the Executive Director of Concern America since 2012.

The Enduring Relevance of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed for Community Development Workers

Like most people, when I first read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed I didn’t get it. It wasn’t until I read it again several years later after working with Indigenous communities in North and South America where I could finally appreciate its relevance. It’s not surprising I didn’t get it on the first read considering I’m a white male who grew up in an upper-middle class household in the United States. By comparison, I gave the book to a friend who grew up in Ethiopia, she said she couldn’t put it down and how it explained so much to her about the world. Pedagogy of the Oppressed is also difficult to read. Numerous scholars and activists have pointed out how his ‘leaden philosophical prose’ has a tendency to obfuscate the practicality of work.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed was first published in 1968 with the English version being released just two years later. Yet his work remains as relevant as ever and continues to be cited in academic books and journals. Below is a graph of the number of citations to Pedagogy of the Oppressed by year for books and journals indexed by Google Scholar since 1995.

Citations for Pedagogy of the Oppressed in Google Scholar

 

It’s clear that his influence is widespread but I find that very few community workers understand how to apply his concepts at a practical level. My goal in this brief blog post is to attempt to distill what I believe are the most practical concepts from Pedagogy of the Oppressed for Community Workers.

Freire’s philosophy, at its core, is existentialist which is the belief that the norms, values, beliefs and practices that define our culture are not fixed or preordained. Instead, we humans, as participants in communities and societies are not only reproducing culture but also actively creating and shaping it. In fact, for Freire, the ability to shape and create culture is what makes us “human” and what really makes Freire’s ideas liberatory. Human culture can vary dramatically around the globe from the Bushman of the Kalahari to the Inuit in the Arctic to the industrialized western societies – we have all developed different subsistence strategies, political organizations, kinship patterns, religious beliefs, etc.

This is where red flags might be going up for some people, and for good reason. The notion of culture change can and should evoke painful colonial images of forced assimilation and missionization but also more contemporary Eurocentric theories of cultural and economic modernization. Rest assured, this is not what Freire has in mind. In fact, these practices, since they are the imposition of culture, is what Freire refers as dehumanizing, a concept which is diametrically opposed to the process of humanization.

Allow me to provide an analogy. Slavery was an acceptable practice in the Americas since the first colonies in 1492 until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Notions of white supremacy and institutional racism are still prevalent features of American society. However, these practices likely wouldn’t have changed much without the Abolitionist movement and Civil Rights movements. These movements were made up of people who didn’t just accept the culture  of white supremacy as being fixed but instead were able to critically analyze it, envision something different and a path to changing it. In fact, this process and struggle is still taking place with movements like Black Lives Matter. Other examples can be found around the world the movements for indigenous rights, women’s suffrage, landless peasants, the list goes on and on.

For Freire, an oppressed person is a person who accepts culture and their station in life as being fixed, someone who is incapable or unwilling to critically analyze the culture they live in. According to Freire, these people live in a false reality – a reality where they have been taught to accept slavery, racism, sexism, and other injustices as being fixed components of their culture. Both oppressors and the oppressed can exist a state of false consciousness. The slave may have been taught that he or she is incapable of learning to read and owning his or her own farm and the wealthy slave owner may falsely believe the slave is fully human and capable of the qualities necessary to manage his own farm. Of course, in reality, both are are humans and equally capable if provided the same opportunities, but it’s their false reality which prevents them from questioning the injustice of the situation. Of course, the slave may be fully conscious of the injustice but terrorized to the point of inaction. Which helps illustrate Freire’s argument that in order for their to be true, lasting liberation, both the oppressor AND the oppressed need eject these false conceptions of reality and in the process become liberated.

The process for breaking free from from the false reality is called praxis which is a cycle of analysis, action and reflection. Essentially, it’s a process of identifying and challenging your conceptions of the world (accurate or false). To illustrate praxis, I’ll use an example from my work with indigenous communities in North America. Today, for most Native American Reservations in the United States, more than two-thirds of the farms and ranches are controlled by non-natives. As might be expected, this disparity in land use has had a dramatic impact on the ability of Native Americans to fully benefit from their natural resources. Statistics on income reveal that the total value of agricultural commodities produced on Native American Reservations in 2007 totaled over $2.1 Billion dollars, yet, only 16% of that income went to Native American farmers and ranchers.

The unequal land-use patterns seen on reservations today is a direct outcome of discriminatory lending practices, land fractionation and specifically, Federal policies over the last century that have excluded native landowners from the ability to utilize their lands while at the same time opening it up to non-native farmers and ranchers.

Despite the exclusionary policies of the past today Tribal members have more options available to them but because they’ve been alienated from their lands for so long, they oftentimes don’t know where to start and in many cases, have been given false information by Government authorities. For example, in strategic land planning workshops I facilitated across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation several Native landowners said me they were told the government would not conduct a necessary appraisal because the appraisal would cost more than the value of the land. I double-checked this and the government is required to do the appraisal regardless of the value of the land but this one piece of false information prevented countless of people from taking action their land that could have impacted their families for generations. False information and the general lack of information available to tribal members about their lands and the laws governing them contributes to a false understanding of the world around you, one where there is no path forward aside from the one that is prescribed for you.

This false reality is also shared by the oppressors. For example, the general American public has a far from adequate understanding of the ongoing struggles of Native Americans. In fact, I would argue that most American’s will agree that Native Americans were treated unfairly in the past but have trouble accepting that oppression continues to this day. Few Americans today could even explain the recent 2010 class action lawsuit Cobell vs. Salazar, the largest class-action lawsuit in American history brought by some 300,000 Native American landowners who argued that the government failed to pay them nearly 42 billion dollars in lease revenue collected by the government over the past 120 years serving as their self-appointed Trustee. Even fewer Americans know the government settled for only 3.2 Billion dollars, less than 7% of what was owed. This was a huge injustice but was only allowed because there was little fear of public outrage.

A praxis in this example would be to begin to challenge the limit situations you encounter day to day. For example, challenging the contradiction that despite most people on the Reservation would like to live on and utilize their lands most of the land is leased to non-tribal members. So it might start with trying to move forward in that direction – towards acquiring some land. In doing so you will likely encounter what Freire refers to as “limit situations”, according to Freire.

“Once perceived by individuals as fetters, as obstacles to their liberation, these situations stand out in relief from the background, revealing their true nature as concrete historical dimensions of a given reality. Men and women respond to the challenge with actions which Vieira Pinto calls “limit-acts”: those directed at negating and overcoming, rather than passively accepting, the “given.””

A limit situation from the example above would be the false information that “you can’t get an appraisal if the appraisal process costs more than the value of your land.” This, for many prevents action but if tested we will discover that it is not true and thus begging to clearing a path forward for others. If we continue on our journey we might find that the Government appraisal process, once initiated, is itself an obstacle because of the massive backlog and processing times. This can then be the next limit-situation we can confront and reveal the true nature of the problem – hopefully exposing the injustice and causing reform.

The example above, I feel it illustrates well the necessity for liberating both the oppressor and the oppressed. I feel it also illustrates another principle of Freire’s theory, that the oppressed must lead the process. According to Freire; “It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors…As the oppressed, fighting to be human, take away the oppressors’ power to dominate and suppress, they restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in the exercise of oppression.“

According to Freire, oppressors are unable to recognize their privilege.

The oppressors do not perceive their monopoly on having more as a privilege which dehumanizes others and themselves. They cannot see that, in the egoistic pursuit of having as a possessing class, they suffocate in their own possessions and no longer are; they merely have. For them, having more is an inalienable right, a right they acquired through their own “effort” with their “courage to take risks.” If others do not have more, it is because they are incompetent and lazy, and worst of all is their unjustifiable ingratitude towards the “generous gestures” of the dominant class. Precisely because are “ungrateful” and “envious,” the oppressed are regarded as enemies who must be watched.”

What does Freire say about people from oppressive classes seeking to become allies with the oppressed?

Given the preceding context, another issue of indubitable importance arises: the fact that certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation, thus moving from one pole of the contradiction to the other. Theirs is a fundamental role, and has been so throughout the history of this struggle. It happens, however, that as they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and more to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them their deformations, which include a lack confidence in the peoples’ ability to think, to want, and to know. Accordingly, these adherents to the people’s cause constantly run the risk of falling into a type of generosity as malefic as that of the oppressors. The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity. Our converts, on the other hand, truly desire to transform the unjust order; but because of their background they believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.

Those who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly. This conversion is so radical as not to allow of ambiguous behavior. To affirm this commitment but to consider oneself the proprietor of revolutionary wisdom — which must then be given to (or imposed on) the people — is to retain the old ways. The man or woman who proclaims devotion to the cause yet is unable to enter into communion with the people, as totally ignorant, is grievously self-deceived. The convert who approaches the people but feels alarm at each step they take, each doubt they express, and each suggestion they offer, and attempts to impose his “status,” remains nostalgic towards his origins.

Conversion to the people requires a profound rebirth. Those who undergo it must take on a new form of existence; they can no longer remain as they were. Only through comradeship with the oppressed can the converts understand their characteristic ways of living and behaving, which in diverse moments reflect the structure of domination. One of these characteristics is the previously mentioned existential duality of the oppressed, who are at the same time themselves the oppressor whose image they have internalized. Accordingly, until they concretely ‘discover” their oppressor and in turn their own consciousness, they nearly always express fatalistic attitudes toward their situation.

Freire describes this relationship as collegial, the point when the oppressed “figure-out” the oppressor. I interpret this as the point when titles, status, and qualifications wash away and that both the oppressed and yourself realize that all that is facade – the only real value you have to offer is your solidarity (which is a sacrifice you are finally willing to make). It’s the point when all people involved are equally willing to listen each other’s ideas as they are to challenge and criticize them. I once was talking about this idea in a training and I noticed a group of people start whispering to each other. I asked them what it was about. They said “they just realized they did something wrong,” they recounted a workshop they were hosting in a rural community where, they as facilitators had a disagreement, they decided to pause the meeting to go outside to discuss. I asked why?, and they said “because we didn’t want them to see that we weren’t in full agreement but now we realize doing so was dehumanizing.” Precisely! They were talking about THEIR community and a point of confusion or disagreement should be utilized not to exclude the community but instead the engage the community in helping to find a solution. Furthermore, admitting their disagreement would only help the community to “figure them out” – to demystify their qualifications, making it easier for the community to share their ideas and criticisms.

Ironically, our insecurity as community workers can be just as, if not more, oppressive than our privilege. When you’re new to a community or situation our instinct is to try to be helpful, especially when you’re there as a community worker – you want to prove your worth, your value to the community by sharing what you know, your ideas, connections, possible solutions, etc. etc. However, this overeagerness gets in the way of what your real objective should be; listening, asking questions and just making connections with people. I feel it’s best to assume from the outset that you have nothing to offer besides your willingness to listen and learn about their world. Don’t give into the temptation to “be useful” until you’re confident you really can be but also, until people are comfortable enough with you to tell you when you’re wrong.

I know I’ve just touched the surface of Pedagogy of the Oppressed here but hopefully I’ve provided some insight into its practical application in a community development setting. I plan to write in future posts more about the practical applications of his ideas as well as ways we at Village Earth have interpreted and even depart from some of his ideas.
If you’re interested in learning more about Freire I strongly encourage you to participate in our online Community Mobilization course which is part of our online certificate in Sustainable Community Development at Colorado State University.

For-Profit or Non-Profit…The choice between inefficiency and neocolonialism.

By Frank Bergh, instructor for Village Earth’s Technology and Community Development course. This post originally featured on Engineering for Change’s blog.

Why member-owned co-ops are the best kept secret in humanitarian development

In publications like E4C, practitioners are exposed to diverse perspectives from experts in engineering for global development regarding the best strategies for community engagement, human centered design, appropriate technology, and social entrepreneurship. Among so many approaches to humanitarian impact, there remains a lively debate between the inherent merits of for-profit versus non-profit approaches. But is there a third way?

The choice between inefficiency and neocolonialism

Oftentimes, non-profit models are thought to be old-fashioned. They seem reminiscent of large, monolithic NGOs, some of which have been accused of excessive overhead and administrative costs, as well as mismanagement of funds in the context of disasters. Thought leaders such as Paul Polak have proclaimed “The Death of Appropriate Technology,” accusing global aid providers of creating non-viable markets with overpriced ideas that are highly prone to failure in heavily subsidized and poorly understood operating environments. This critique is certainly relevant in a world where upwards of 30-40% of water pumps in Africa are in disrepair, and developing economies are craving “Trade, Not Aid” for sustainable growth. Much has been written about how the phenomenon known as “Poverty, Inc.” has created an aid-industrial complex which fosters foreign dependency rather than local self-reliance in the case of Haitian rice or Jamaican dairy, for example.

Over the past decade, the discourse of development has favored social entrepreneurship models, whereby strict free-market principles govern the strategy and allocation of investment in emerging markets. Many of the former paradigms of Participatory Rural Assessment (PRA), community-driven strategic planning have been replaced by human-centered design (HCD) product-driven design interventions. The contrast in these approaches is the tendency of PRA to yield slow results with high overhead costs versus HCD’s emphasis on rapid prototyping and business models, with implicit assumptions that a market-based approach can address socioeconomic marginalization.

In the social entrepreneurship model, project-companies focus on tweaking known products in hopes that mass production will drive down costs for accessibility, while earning revenue via volume-driven franchise models to reach scale. While this model has yielded several incredible success stories (notably d.light became the world’s leading solar lantern thanks to $2.9M from the Acumen Fund), due in large part to “patient capital” from large foundations and angel investors, the ultimate success rate of start-up social enterprises in developing countries is largely unknown. There have also been some noteworthy products that didn’t live up to the hype (LifeStraw, Sockket soccer ball, PlayPump). This funding paradigm favors foreign entrepreneurs with access to capital rather than local stakeholders whose ideas are less likely to encounter deep pockets. The result is a neocolonialist distribution of foreign investment in products designed for – not with – those in greatest need.

What about crowdfunding?

Some donors have been enthusiastically supportive of startups with timely ideas that create crowdfunding appeals for game-changing startup funding. When we look at the actual results of these Cinderella stories (Solar Freakin’ Roadways raised $2,275,872, Gravity Light raised $399,590), we find ‘viral’ concepts that might have been shunned by investors, yet they attract large amounts of donor funding from everyday web surfers. Generally, these campaigns are made by not-for-profit organizations, but at times it can be used by social enterprises to raise capital without surrendering equity. However, this model decouples funding from outcomes in the field, promoting a lack of transparency and accountability that could render the product useless or even harmful to end users (if they ever get their hands on it).

So, is there another way?

We tend to overlook the capability of the public sector in funding or sustaining sustainable development work. This approach is easily validated by direct experience: If governments in emerging markets had sufficient resources, then the UN’s development goals (the Millennium Development Goals that have evolved into the Sustainable Development Goals) would already be satisfied. We would have clean water for all and universal electrification achieved by taxes, not donations, without any foreign intervention. Oftentimes, progress towards these goals is hindered by real or perceived volatility and corruption in public sector agencies for public works. Long-term project horizons may be compromised by changes to the ruling party in election years. Big aid projects might be derailed by lack of accountability in civil society for large government contracts issued to multinational firms or fledgling local companies. Clearly, public-sector actors need private sector collaborators.

7 cooperative principles

Cooperatives: Unfashionably effective

Many large infrastructure projects around the world are managed by cooperative governance structures. These entities are so far out of vogue as to be seldom even mentioned in contemporary discussions of humanitarian engineering. Could that be because cooperatives are primarily a sociological, not a technical phenomenon? Perhaps the engineering sector overlooks what it doesn’t understand. Take the following examples:

  • Rural electrification in the USA was not achieved by handheld solar lanterns. It was stimulated by a massive public works project under the Rural Electrification Act to put people back to work after the Great Depression. In rural areas of the USA, there are miles between electricity customers. For investor-owned utilities to serve those areas would have taken decades to see any return on investment based on meager electric consumption. Rather than create a massive new appendage of the Federal government, rural communities created over 800 member-owned electrical cooperatives to sustainably manage and maintain their infrastructure for the past 80+ years.
  • Remote water distribution systems installed by NGOs such as Engineers Without Borders USA have a lot to tell us about project sustainability. In 2013, EWB-USA hired local practitioners to audit all of its water distribution projects in Guatemala. It turned out that all of the projects with a full-time paid circuit rider (maintenance personnel) were in good working order, whereas the working condition of systems without a budget for cooperative maintenance was much more inconsistent. In other words, the sustainability of the bricks and mortar were primarily dependent upon the resilience of the cooperative social network that maintained it. Going forward, EWB-USA and many peer organizations now require a “water board” (basically a member-owned cooperative) to own and maintain its infrastructure and technology for improved sustainability.
  • Large-scale worker-owned cooperatives, such as Mondragon in Spain, have demonstrated the capability to compete in highly competitive consumer markets without compromising labor conditions or workers’ rights. The question remains whether this paradigm can thrive in emerging markets where skilled labor and capital are less plentiful.

In the matrix below, I examine differential factors and outcomes of various governance structures.

Matrix

Let’s start by asking the right question

As Einstein would say, “we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” When we fail to transcend the exploitation, oppression, and dependency of neoliberal and neocolonialist interventions, we replicate the same broken promises that developing communities have come to expect from Western intervention.

Aspiring development engineering practitioners often ask, “Should my big ideas be for-profit or non-profit?” In fact, the premise of starting the conversation around “my” ideas for other people’s livelihoods is inherently flawed, and perhaps reflects implicit bias in favor of foreign intervention rather than local self-determination.

On the other hand, philanthropists and impact investors looking to support big ideas often ask, “Should I be an investor or a donor?” In fact, delegating our capital to foreign owners presumes that community members are somehow incapable of taking ownership and autonomy for their own capacity building. Such presumptions are frequently built on discrimination, racism, or cultural superiority—infantilizing the very people we attempt to help.

Let’s re-frame the discussion. Let’s make the most significant question become, “What structure maximizes the resiliency, ownership, and self-determination of the end users?” Quite honestly, why else would we have been invited in the first place? If we really believe that the role of development engineering is to collaborate with communities in pursuit of a brighter future of shared possibility, then development practice must be re-oriented as pedagogy. Engineering-For-Change does not mean depositing “our” ideas and technology into “their” community, but fostering the mutual discovery and amplification of voices we’ve never heard before.

Design is a manifestation of creativity and creation is a means toward liberation. The goal of humanitarian development is not only to reduce vulnerability, but also to increase resiliency. Therefore, empowerment won’t be the destination unless it was also the journey. As development practitioners, establishing leadership and ownership within a local cooperative is the most effective way of deliberately working ourselves out of a job and leaving communities stronger than we found them.

 

If you’re interested to learn more about these concepts join Frank Bergh for his Technology and Community Development online course now enrolling through April 17. The course runs April 21 – May 26, 2017.