International Aid

International Aid
by Evans Munyemesha

Over the past two years we have seen amazing women in Northern Malawi take hold of their lives and empower themselves. Their success is based on a simple premise that the very poorest can do the impossible when allowed to come up with and act on their own plans. It is called self help and is done with a little inspiration, education and challenge with NO external financial inputs. When I say none I mean NONE.

I just grabbed this short bit so that someone might read it!! because it shows up, what we are doing, for the monster that it is. Maybe we can look at the current situation as the poor in the developed World donating to the rich of the developing World with a large portion going back to the rich in the developed World. It might be amusing if it were not so serious

With international ‘aid’ to soon reach $100 billion a year (from $60 billion), it will be the final kick in the teeth of the poor, crippling further their Third World economies. Indeed, (as I have found out after researching through reports and what-not), it’s often profoundly dangerous to the poor and inimical to their interests to have ‘aid’ imposed upon them: It has financed the creation of monstrous projects that, at vast expense, have devastated the environment and ruined lives; it has facilitated the emergence of fantastical and devious bureaucracies staffed by legions of self-serving hypocrites; it has sapped the initiative, and creativity and enterprise of ordinary people and substituted the superficial and irrelevant showiness of imported advice; it has sucked potential entrepreneurs and intellectuals in the developing countries everywhere into non-productive administrative activities; it has created a ‘moral tone’ in international affairs that denies the hard task of wealth creation and that substitutes easy handouts for the rigors of self-help; in addition, throughout the Third World, it has allowed the dead grip of imposed officialdom to suppress popular choice and individual freedom. Call it what you will—but I will call it for what it is: Noble Colonialism! Ain’’t that a ‘female dog’?

And there’s more to come


Millions wasted on water in Africa

From the Guardian

Got this from our friends at where Liam Garcia is taking a three year walk for water. On the 30th of June 2013 Liam will leave Sheffield on his way to Cape Town. On foot. Walking 8,000 miles to raise awareness and funds for ten communities in Africa – The Long Well Walk will help to provide clean water. we are planning to work with and support him.

Even though I posted the article on our facebook page I hadn’t really read it until now. A pity because I find it weak and having little of the real shockers that exist in the water business. Maybe the writer should spend a day with our guys in the villages in Northern Malawi.

The next few lines is from our new website and shows why we have been in Malawi since 2005 working on clean water:

Mary and myself went to Malawi for the first time at Easter 2005 and were disturbed by a few things in particular:
        the sight of women and little girls carrying dirty water, long distances, on their heads;
         how shallow the wells only needed to be;
         the huge number of broken pumps and how few were maintained by their original installers.

NOW we know that a pump in Northern Malawi needs to work all day every day so the women in a village need to be able to fix it. 

SO Our pumps are made, in our factory in Mzuzu, from materials available in Malawi. Spare parts can be anywhere in Malawi in one day, by bus. Women can maintain using two six inch nails. They can deliver 20 litres per minute from 25 metres deep wells. Worst case scenario: The whole pump can be replaced in 5 minutes and is fully recyleable. The cost of the pump is less than €40. 

Two weeks ago I spent a day up and down goat tracks in our 22 year old ex-Irish army jeep, following old gogos across barren fields in dust storms and down steep ravines knowing that I would have to climb out again. I explained that God didn’t love me or He wouldn’t send me to such a remote, Godforsaken place; they just laughed. Oh! forgot to mention the failed, broken and useless pumps and the litany of dried up wells. Some lasted just a few weeks, some a few months and only the rare one, a year or two. They would all be considered VLM village level maintainable and sustainable and all the life giving words that donors like to hear and proposal writers try out on their potential victims, before settling on what might separate them from their money. Sometime, in the future, I will write the complete story giving GPS locations with the names of the water gurus that installed them or often got others to install. It seems that everyone wants to install a well, sing the songs, pray the prayers and give glory to some God or other. When another box is ticked these people move on, claim a few more souls or donors, keep their well paid jobs and leave God with a dilema. We regularly pick up the pieces and would do more if we get permission!! If we’re the best solution he gets, its not much of a solution, but our women in villages are the real deal.

One of my friends gave me what she thought was a brilliant idea, on pump maintenance, over the weekend. It was some electronic gadget, thingy to attach to a pump handle which would emit a signal if the pump was not in use. This signal would pop to satellite, then to a base, where maybe a fleet of helicopters would take to the air, descend on the location, and fix the pump.

Great I said but we have women in villages with mobile phones, and the just give us a call, we do the triage questioning bit and they fix the pump, or we may decide to unscrew it and screw in another, if that drastic a solution is necessary.

Oh, its that simple? Yes its that simple!!

Report criticises donors, governments and NGOs for installing boreholes and wells in rural Africa without ensuring their long-term sustainability

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on clean water projects in rural Africa, according to a new report.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says up to US$360m has been spent on building boreholes and wells that then become useless because they are not maintained or fixed when they break down. As a result, 50,000 water supply points are not functioning across rural Africa.

According to the report only one third of water points built by NGOs in Senegal’s Kaolack region are working and 58% of water points in northern Ghana are in disrepair.

The report’s author, Jamie Skinner, says that water points are often built by donors, governments and NGOs without fully consulting local people and finding out just how much it will cost to keep the boreholes clean and functioning over a sustained period of time.

He said drilling a borehole in a rural community was akin to asking people to run a cooperative private water supply.

“There is no point an external agency coming in, putting in a drill-hole and then passing it over to the local community if they can’t afford to maintain it over the next 10 or 20 years,” he says. “There needs to be a proper assessment of just how much local people are able to finance these water points. It’s not enough to just drill and walk away.”

This problem has arisen in Katine sub-county in north-east Uganda. In 2007, before the African Medical and Research Foundation and Farm-Africa began their development work in Katine, worms were found in the polluted water supply at the village of Abia, next to the Emuru swamp. A badly constructed and poorly maintained shallow well, dug by a charity, was full of soil and animal faeces and was making local people sick.

Amref’s strategy in Katine is to train local communities to operate and maintain the new safe water points that have been established in the sub-county since the project began.

Water and sanitation committees have been set up to monitor the new boreholes that have been dug and contact newly trained hand-pump mechanics if one breaks down. The committees meet regularly with village health teams to discuss needs and the idea is that everyone who uses the boreholes and wells will contribute financially to their long-term upkeep.

But last year water engineer Bob Reed argued on this website that rural water sources cannot be sustained without continuing external support and that boreholes were simply unsustainable.

Does this new report prove him right?

Nicole and the farm kids


Volunteering with the little people

Volunteering has always been in my blood, my parents did it, but at that time it didn’t have a label, it was part of our life. To me volunteering is simply doing a service to one or many people without considering any possibility of a reward. It’s taking the B team, when all the glory is with the A team, slipping in to ask if your elderly neighbour needs anything from the shop, putting yourself out, going the extra mile, caring and being generous with your time and considering others. Of course there are the really difficult tasks like providing respite to someone with a challenged child or adult and a whole host of quiet, unknown, and undisclosed acts of hospitality that just go unrecorded every hour of every day.

Of course there are many things that are called voluntary work like chairing multitudinous committees, managing super teams or promoting issues in the public eye, many of which appear on election literature later to gain the rewards. I find this disturbing and sad and realise that is opportunism not volunteering.

At the bureaucratic level we have training for volunteers, policies for volunteers, sending agencies, monitoring agencies staffed by people in plush offices, on substantial salaries and as a friend says: milking the system, all on the generosity of the selfless. There is a worldwide phenomenon of, if we regulate it, we can employ more bureaucratic types and then,  we can charge people for doing it, and of course bureaucrats never miss an opportunity

After 6 years of bringing volunteers to Malawi we have had just over 400 volunteers and almost all of these have brought their own, individual and memorable contribution to the people we journey with.

We could have started and continued with aims and goals and outcomes. We could go for a SMART plan and spend our time on office work. (Oh it means Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). Now we could have done this, but we asked ourselves, who, are we doing this for. Our Malawian friends know what we do and our volunteers will pick it up very quickly and just as quickly tell our donors. Job done without bureaucracy! Strangely the political classes know only one way to go.

Malawi has had 40 years and more of Strategic Plans, most of which have failed miserably, so why should we add to their burden. If we do plans, they will be with the people we try to serve and for their benefit. We have no expectation of a reward, no Evangelism, no hope of putting it on CV’s or hope of promotion.

This morning, April 17, 2012, 7 of this year’s volunteers from the Dublin Institute of Technology, DIT (the largest third level educational institution in Ireland) set out for the airport, 400km away, at 5 am. They will arrive in Dublin at 7 pm tomorrow and hit class on Thursday morning having made an indelible mark on Malawi. Who knows how lasting it will be, or what ripple effect it will have. What I do know that they themselves will never be the same. We had Cassie (Journalism)and Sinead (Engineering) here for the third lime leading the group of fourteen then Claire, Ali, Georgie, John and Tommy, all film and media students.

They had all come through the interview system which is done by former volunteers, came to our gatherings to absorb our ethos from Mary, myself and former volunteers. We usually meet in Lucan, have a bite to eat, a chat and get to know each other.

We expect them to be themselves, bring their big hearts, journey with the people on whatever a daily task is. Try to Inspire Educate and Challenge those they meet, knowing that we promote opportunities, and don’t allow handouts.

They see and live among people in dire poverty and our policy is that they should have smiles on their faces and be prepared for fun at every possible opportunity. How can you relate to mothers? Play with and admire their kids. Bubbles are a great icebreaker in any village. Glum faces, smart suits and clip boards get you nothing except what they know you want to hear. Laughs and hugs and fun make the bond every time. Irish people can do this and make the connection in minutes. That’s why our volunteers are so loved by all, even in the remotest villagers, where white faces are scarce, where the little ones will often run away and cry at first: but not for long!!. These people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!! What’s a PhD to a woman who never had the chance of going to school, can’t read or write and has barely enough to eat? Without a heart and understanding it’s useless.

Many of our student volunteers have had two or three jobs to fund their trip. The deal is that they pay their way and cost Wells for Zoe nothing. Our hostel costs them 5 Euro per day to cover Water, Electricity and Security.

What do they do is a regular question? Well we have numerous programmes on the go and they spend at least the first day seeing most of what we do. Then they chose what they want to try out. Nightly debriefing and planning keeps us going, and time flies when you’re having fun!

Naturally the film and media people worked on a documentary, but also got amazing insights as Malawians love talking. Cameras are no bother to them.

They also did a course in the teaching of English to the teachers in ZolaZolaSecondary school. The original idea was to do the course with the students but an edict from on high ordained that there should be no teaching in Government secondary schools over Easter as it might give unfair advantage to those who got it. Of course the bureaucrats forgot that all the private schools where their children go could get as much tuition as they needed. Unfair advantage, to a community based school with no Government funding?? What a load of pig manure. Leaving the rant aside, this course worked so well that the District inspector and Heads of schools has asked for it to be continued and expanded and as a result Mary got to give the keynote address, at an inset conference for the inspectorate and local second level teachers. I would rate this achievement as remarkable and also confirm that it came at no cost to our donors or even the Irish taxpayer!!

We and all our volunteers have learned again that, in Malawi, you must be prepared for situation A, B and C at least, and have the character to be unphased by any eventuality.

Maybe I should tell a little story to typify the daily happenings. Cassie and Sinead got up early on Friday last, got a taxi and brought a 41 year old man, whose children they got to know over the years, to the Central hospital. They paid for his care and left a phone with the nurse so as she could make contact. He was admitted and died within 48 hours. We are all so sad, but happy that the, reaction of the heart, by the girls, meant so much for his dignity and that of his family.

How can you measure this, its impact and the ripple effect in Salisbury line where he lived. What would it cost the bureaucrats to achieve this? He was just one unknown man, who was battered and bruised by Geography, his culture, tradition, and poverty, who finally got to pass-on with some measure of dignity. It took an hour of their time on their way to do a day’s work. People can’t be trained to do this. What they had was heart and a caring spirit, and a habit of journeying with these poor people, like Stanley’s dad, as they call him. You can’t do this living in a five star or even a two star hotel and doing the four by four, ritual. This is real volunteering, real caring. I know there is a paid-forward waiting for them somewhere along their journey, well there should be, but they didn’t do it for that. The Universe has its own way of colluding. This is our dream, caring for individuals, not ticking boxes for millions

There is a book of, other stories about these and our past volunteers. They have been, and continue to be special people, who make a real difference to real people by their presence here.

We love them and wish them well in their future lives. They are better people because they came and cared.

When our volunteers come, we don’t put on a show (I’ve seen the shows). They get to see everything both good and bad, things that are successful as well as our failures. We want them to see how and why things fail, but we don’t plan for them. We want them to see Malawi in the raw, warts and all.

Their overall impression from them, of their time in Malawi: Magic, best time of our lives, where did the time go and we’ll be back, as with those who preceded them, they certainly will.

Malawi is not for all. Some people just don’t get it. Before volunteers come, in so far as we can, we try to rid them of their preconceived notions and most of what they have heard, learned and seen about Africa. Africa is a huge continent with an amazing array of cultures and traditions and diversity. Malawi is Malawi, with its own tribes, cultures and traditions and certainly not a homogenous, inert mass of humankind. You can’t assume that a plan devised by one village will work 50 km away. Even though there may be 13 or 14 million people here, we work, not with the millions but the individual people we journey with each day.

Working with small, women’s cluster groups we get to know them, little by little and they us. It’s a patient and painstaking process like taking layers of an onion, but is there and other way? Trust and friendships develop over time and eventually, in most cases, the seemingly impossible happens and people empower themselves.

This is the Africa of Wells for Zoe where most of our volunteers learn that there is a new and simpler way to help: a small, personal and direct relationship with the dark Continent.

Is development aid to Malawi anything more than Neo-Colonial Life-Support?

By Nick Wright August 8, 2012 · Nyasa Times

A reflection on the new state of Malawi

President Bingu wa Mutharika (with encouragement from Robert Mugabe) was beginning to develop a policy in Malawi that was designed to free Malawi from aid dependency. It was a poorly-conceived policy, and very crudely executed, like everything under Bingu’s immediate direction, but it had the potential to free Malawi from its humiliating status as international beggar.

There was something almost heroic in Bingu’s defiance of the world-order as he, the leader of one of the poorest countries in the world, sent the British ambassador packing and told the donors to “go to hell”. His sudden death in April of this year changed all that. His Vice-President, Joyce Banda, took his place according to the rules of the Malawi Constitution, and reversed that policy. The donors (IMF, DfID, EU, USAID etc) are now pouring back into the country with their bags full of aid-money: hoping to get things back to the old order when that money was injected direcly into the Malawian government as “Budget Support”. Back to the good old days of past-president Bakili Muluzi and his UDF party who knew how to get rid of that money quickly, and without fuss.

No-one has a good word to spare for Bingu these days. The foreign-exchange bureaus are functioning again and the petrol pumps have fuel to sell. Bingu’s appetite for personal self-enrichment and luxury, always suspected, is now obvious for all to see. His scowling, bullying, finger-wagging brand of leadership has been replaced by a more open, more honest and more colourful presidency with a genuine freedom of speech and of the media. The Police and the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation are no longer agents of dictatorship.

These are very important developments and the western donors are as pleased with them as are the Malawian people.

But is Malawi in danger of losing something important as the aid-money begins to flow again into Lilongwe .The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) is a good example. It is back again as Malawi’s biggest donor, with £90 million. to spend every year there from its overall budget of £8,000 millions. DFID will be followed by a new British High Commissioner to occupy the vast British embassy in Lilongwe. The hundreds of Malawian NGOs and international charities with offices in Lilongwe are lining up again to spend that DFID money, as are the government ministries (Agriculture, Education, Health) which no longer have to worry their heads about awkward policy- issues and budgets. With an exchange-rate of 436 kwacha to every pound, £90 million pounds converts to so many devalued Malawian kwacha that no-one needs to worry about exhausting that pot. There’ll always be another western donor standing eagerly by, to fill any awkward holes. Hilary Clinton is due into Lilongwe at the end of this week.

In Britain, and in much of Malawi, DFID is considered to be a benevolent and politically-neutral player on the world stage: concerned only with reducing poverty. Indeed, the money DFID spends on fertilizer- and seed- subsidies in Malawi: (that part of it, at least, which gets past the corrupt Malawian middlemen who are given the government contracts for its purchase from South Africa and Saudi Arabia and for its transportation to the Malawian farmers) DOES some real good for the poor. There really IS poverty-reduction in Malawi, if only for a few months.

BUT does this aid come at a serious political price? Is DFID really politically neutral? Is Joyce Banda’s “good behaviour” as interpreted by the western donor countries irrelevant to it? Is President Banda, for example, free to re-value her hugely de-valued currency without the donors’ authorization? Is she allowed freely to interfere in the tobacco-market, as Bingu so often tried to do, against the US tobacco-buying monopolies and on behalf of Malawi’s tens of thousands of poor tobacco-farmers? Is any of this aid money allowing Malawians to be more self-sufficient? I guess not.

Joyce Banda is the darling of the West, at the moment, and will remain their darling as long as she does what they tell her to do. Paul Kagame, in Rwanda, who was, only yesterday, the blue-eyed boy (so to speak) of the US and British political establishments has now been stripped of his DFID aid-money because of his support for the “wrong” side in the DRC.

As long as the aid money keeps flowing to Malawi, will anyone care about the almost-invisible strings attached to it? The strings will always be pulled by very nice, university-educated, well-intentioned, people, in London, like Andrew Mitchell (the British minister currently in charge of International Development). These people would reject any accusation of “neo-colonialism” with genuine indignation and they have a huge British government department to prepare their self-justifications. Malawian politicians in Lilongwe will hardly feel the pressure exerted by these strings until they dare to renege on the unwritten contracts. Then there’ll be no mistake about the pressure, as Malawian subsistence-farmers are forced to confront serious famine once again and as Malawian voters threaten to change their minds about their political masters. What is a political master worth in Malawi if he doesn’t have “development” funds at his disposal?

The British Empire of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was administered by nice and well-educated men like the British prime minister, David Cameron, and his Conservative party-colleague, Andrew Mitchell, who believed that they were doing good for the silly “natives” in Africa. It was called “Civilization” then, and is called “International Development” now. In the cold light of history we can now see that the British Empire did as little lasting good for the colonized natives as it did for Britain itself. It actually impoverished them both.

DFID is following a very, very, familiar track.

*Nick Wright

Miriam with present

There is always a Malawi solution.

Wells for Zoë is in its seventh year in Malawi and learning something new every day, about the people and their ability to cope, imImageprovise and initiate. Very poor people must have super coping mechanisms or they would already be dead.

From the beginning we worked on the principal that there would be no hand-outs, but must confess that there has always been slippage or failure to do what we knew was better, because firstly we are driven by the heart and secondly it took me a while to learn the art of patience in getting things done (but I’ve learned).

Sometimes even the best laid plans succumb to the sight of starving children, mothers giving birth in hovels and people dying from cholera while there are still pumps in the factory. Most times we strike excellent balances between heart and head, like with pumps, where communities dig wells, supply bricks, sand, and all labour, while we bring the pumps.

Since I was very little, I was taught that trying and getting it wrong was a learning process, while making the same mistake twice was bad judgement and bad business. I have worked hard on this all my life and now in Malawi, our people are free to try anything, make mistakes, and learn.

I always appreciated that even the poorest village women had amazing intelligence and spirit to succeed, but as I work with them and listen, I realise how much AID has got in the way of progress.

MICA school is a top rate example of how Malawi can cope without us. Miriam and Casca, the founders of MICA, came to work for us in Áras Kate in Salisbury line, both initially as volunteers. It was obvious from early on that they had a gift for teaching. Mary worked with them and later sent them on a short training course. When they could no longer work in Salisbury Line, they both did a training course in Adult Education and while Casca now manages nineteen preschools, Miriam runs our Adult Education programme.

During the Summer of 2011, Miriam started a small preschool in her own home, but soon it was too small, so she set about finding a suitable building, a local Church which could be rented, by a very helpful and caring pastor.

In her discussions with Mary it was obvious that her plan was better than we could ever have devised.

MIriam and Casca went for it, setting up MICA preschool. They organised their open day, registered over 60 little ones (3 to 6 year olds). Our Summer volunteers helped with, books, other bits and pieces and craic.

They changed the model. The little ones bring their lunch with them and those with a lunch share with those without. Jen and Grace, other carers from our Salisbury Line days, joined, as volunteers at first, and now a small school fee pays their wages.

This is another story about inspiration, education and challenge. They have met the challenge head-on and now they have one of the best preschools in Mzuzu.

They use the school to hold training courses for other carers and constantly up-skill themselves.

After a few weeks of help from newly qualified, Julie Thornhill, this place could compare favourably with a preschool in any suburb of any city in the world, but this is a pretty deprived area of Mzuzu.

The rent for the school is less than 2 Euros per week!

They get by with a little help from their friends!! (The Beatles get the final word)

Why Development Aid for Africa Has Failed

A commentary by Kurt Gerhardt

Development aid to Africa has been flowing for decades, but the results have been paltry. Instead, recipients have merely become dependent and initiative has been snuffed out. It is time to reform the system.

Development aid to Africa is a blessing for all those directly involved — both on the giving end and on the receiving end. Functionaries on the donor side, at least those abroad, earn good money. Many of those on the receiving end, for their part, know how to organize things in such a way that their own personal interests don’t get short shrift.

There is no reason for these two groups to be interested in changing the status quo. Yet even so, some within their ranks are starting to suggest the situation as it stands cannot continue. The development aid of the past 50 years, they say, is hardly justifiable given the disappointing results. Even individual donors, who know little about how development aid works in practice, increasingly sense that something might be amiss.

They’re right. The aid has failed to a large extent.

We have taken on too much responsibility for solving African problems. We have essentially educated them to, when problems arise, call for foreign aid first rather than trying to find solutions themselves.

This attitude has become deeply rooted inAfrica. This self-incapacitation is one of the most regrettable results of development cooperation thus far. Poorly designed development aid has made people dependent and accustomed them to a situation of perpetual assistance, preventing them from taking the initiative themselves. It is this situation which represents the greatest damage done, far worse than the enormous material losses engendered by failed aid projects. And there are many.Africais strewn with idle tractors, ruined equipment and run-down buildings.

Deeply Rooted Misconceptions

The mothering mindset, widespread in industrialized countries for decades, is in direct violation of the subsidiarity principle. This principle states that providers of aid, whether private or governmental, should not assume any duties that could be carried out by the receiver country itself. Furthermore, it mandates that aid be given such that those providing it can cease giving as soon as possible.

Plenty of Lip Service

The subsidiarity principle should have been key to designing this cooperation from the beginning. In reality, it has played far too small a role.

The donor side is certainly not lacking in theories, clever strategies or concepts — international development agencies have cabinets bursting with them. What’s lacking is a basic understanding and clarity when applying principles. The realization that northern countries cannot develop the South — that people and societies can only do so themselves — is given plenty of lip service. In practice, however, the idea hardly plays a role at all.

Development experts sent to Africa come from societies that tend to value efficiency and speed to a greater degree than is generally found in Africa. Furthermore, foreign aid workers, as a rule, only spend a few years in a target country. Their desire to “achieve something” often leads them to do more than they should according to the subsidiarity principle. But by doing so, they inhibit Africa’s own momentum and prevent it from growing stronger.

A further breach of the subsidiarity principle is found in the existence not only of the immense national and international development agencies, from the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) to the World Bank, but also of myriad private organizations both small and large that cover the continent with their network of charitable works.

Occupying Powers

These are the de facto occupying powers of the post-colonial period.

The second tenet of the subsidiarity principle holds that aid should become dispensable as quickly as possible. In Germany alone, the livelihoods of up to 100,000 people are dependent on the development aid industry. One can imagine the outrage that would result should someone seek to dismantle these agencies. But exactly that should ultimately be the raison d’etre of these agencies. After decades of providing aid, their continued existence is proof of their failure.

It is contrary to the logic of subsidiarity to give a person something that he or she could acquire or produce on their own. Yet in the hopes of doing good, we have done exactly that far too often in recent decades, whether it be a grain mill in a village or a council of GTZ experts for a government ministry. A considerable portion of Germany’s bilateral aid, amounting to more than €1.5 billion ($2 billion) per year, is given as grants — in other words, as a gift. Indeed, all of the least developed countries tend to receive foreign aid in the form of grants. Two thirds of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa belong to this category.

These perpetual gifts have made partners into beggars, ones who no longer value the things they have been given and consequently have not maintained them well. Apart from a few exceptions, emergency aid being one example, free aid was and remains fundamentally wrong.

Part 2: The Question of Money

Aid given with no strings attached robs the recipient of competence. The method has resulted in a divorce from reality inAfrica, at all levels of society. It’s time to accustom our partners to normalcy — those who want to initiate a project but lack the necessary funds to do so, must take out a loan and pay it back. Indeed, this is where aid from abroad can make a significant contribution: by seeing to it that everyone committed to development has access to loans, and particularly by supporting microcredit programs.

The urge of foreign aid workers to quickly produce results promotes quantitative thinking and gives short shrift to efforts aimed at helping locals learn how to develop themselves. One example of this erroneous notion is the goal among donor companies, adopted 40 years ago, to donate 0.7 percent of GDP in the form of development aid.

It makes no sense to establish amounts before discussing the projects that should be funded with that money. The worst thing about this discussion is that it, once again, is purely quantitative. It feeds the disastrous attitude that more money necessarily means more development. In this way, lessons learned over the past decades are completely ignored.

Instead, people like Bono and Bob Geldof are allowed open access to our governments, where they propagate the “more money” idea — and where they become stumbling blocks to African development.

Nothing to Do with Development Aid

It is easier to evaluate numbers than the qualitative effects of development aid. We cannot develop others. Only endogenous development — what people and societies achieve themselves with the power of their own minds and hands — deserves the name. No one can be developed from the outside.

Many would argue that when development aid brings water pipes and roads to Africa, it stimulates and strengthens local efforts. But perhaps the opposite is true, and the more we do, the more likely it is that our partners will sit back, because foreign aid is taking care of things to their satisfaction. Although the latter has proven to be true a thousand times over, development aid functionaries still overlook it with astonishing consistency.

Pouring further billions into funds for the climate, AIDS and other issues may, in fact, be necessary. But it has nothing to do with development aid. These payments will not cause political leaders in the Sahel countries, for example, to make more of an effort to combat soil erosion on their own. These countries could long ago have begun doing something on this issue — they could even have used their masses of unemployed youth for the job. But so far, in cases where something has been done, it generally was the product of foreign initiative and not endogenous.

Our development aid has not lent enough support to the efforts of people in Africa themselves. Often it has even been an impediment, because our aid was focused too much on the object and too little on the subject. Too often the project or program, not the people, was the focus. The aid passed the people by.

The result has placed Africa in an undignified position — and no amount of money from the enormous, globally organized network of aid organizations will free them. Only Africans themselves can accomplish that.

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein,1518,712068-2,00.html

Who said that Malawians need AID?

Getting the best return

Mary often asks me who I’m writing for, but I never really know, who reads or who cares, but being just off the plane after 32 hours travel, maybe it’s therapeutic!!.

Six weeks in Malawi was again exciting, enlightening and generally crazy. We had the sudden death of the President, his body sent to South Africa to allow time for an attempted coup, the grand tour in the golden trailer RIP 1, the millions of dollars, allegedly, found in bags in his bedroom and in his gold plated mausoleum, the vice president sworn-in, a palpable sense of relief and hope among our village friends, and the certain possibility of a better future. We’re told,  by our Malawian friends, that Ireland, almost alone, supported him to the bitter end, something they always question.

In Malawi, this was the hungry season when most villagers are down to one meal a day, still in the cold, rainy season. The maize has grown if you have fertilizer and the wet, red soil sticks to everything.

We had hardly drawn a breath of the rarefied air, before we were reminded of our commitment to a 200 strong women’s cluster in Doroba. Four of their representatives had trudged 30 km, in the downpour, to our pump factory, in the city to say thanks for the fifty pumps, but what about our preschools? In only one year of self help success, these shy, helpless and hopeless women had become eloquent, forceful and focused. Yippee!! They knew their community needs and our requirements and had a list of five areas where preschools had already begun operations, with carers, the use of a building, a school committee and the chiefs on board. Mary decided that we should meet each community separately and make sure that they all understood that they needed WORKING committees and school gardens for a feeding programme. By the end of six weeks we now have 11 new preschools (17 in all), where all the carers have had one day’s hands-on training, with Mary and her crew, just to get them started. I have’nt mentioned the cratered tracks, the desperate journeys, the nightmares for the bony-assed!, the magical scenery and the dire poverty. All that matters now is that these communities have a common mission, to get their little ones to school and keep them there. In these remote rural areas education is prized.

Meanwhile we opened our second adult education class in another deprived area of Mzuzu. Both will be models in a new push for adult literacy. While working closely with the District Education Manager we will continue to move the process forward in the villages with preschools.

Continuing with education, our volunteers from DIT, continued work on an English language project, for secondary school begun last year, while Mary gave the keynote address, and a workshop, at an In-service day on School Management. Plans are well under way, with the Education Ministry, for a two week training programme, by experienced, Irish teachers, to enable Malawian teachers to deliver training to their peers.

Despite the fuel, forex and sugar shortages, we managed to deliver 160 pumps to our partners in Zambia which will enable them to bring clean drinking to over 70,000 remote villagers. Considering the population of Roscommon is 63,896, I figure this is a bit of an achievement!

Oh, Our beehives are going great and we bought 2 piglets for breeding on the farm.

Land ownership in Malawi is very low especially for women, but in the last ten days we managed to buy 23 acres of land, in trust, for a group of 21 women and three men to enable them to set up a model, commercial, co-operative farm

It has the backing of all nine chiefs in the area, as well as support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro forestry, all of whom attended the hand-over meeting, at one day’s notice, under their own steam and without allowances. (maybe a first)

All this was achieved by a unique farmer, Dupu Mshanga, who will facilitate the project.

The Wells for Zoë  funding will be repaid by the end of four years and then passed on to a similar project elsewhere.

They have plans for cows and pigs, (with the help of the Ministry) paprika (for which we have a market) and pidgeon pea, Bananas and bees (we have a market for the honey), sunn hemp and velvet bean, no organic fertilizer or chemical pesticides.

These self help women will achieve all this because they are women, and because they are inspired. They will empower themselves, because they are the only ones who can do that. The final remark by Dupu was that they were never the recipients of Aid, they can do it by themselves and while they appreciate our help, he agreed that, in five years, W4Z would have convinced them that they had done it all by themselves.

John (and Mary Coyne):