Memorandum submitted by Peter Yeo
Three ways in which aid personnel can combat
1. Avoid negative demonstration effect
The activities of expatriate aid personnel too
often encourage practices which have a negative effect on climate
A Project concerned with village-level
education attempted to give equal attention to all parts of Nigeria,
which meant spending about 30 per cent of their time travelling
by road. It would have been more useful, and less damaging, to
work in depth in a single state, and later to spread knowledge
based on this local experience.
The same Project used a Land Rover
when more fuel-efficient vehicles could have been used.
A Project in Tanzania, also concerned
with village-level education, created the implication that mobile
teams with Land Rovers and generators were necessary to do the
job. Unintentionally, they devalued the work which officers based
at District Headquarters could have done in the villages they
could reach by public transport, without carrying generators.
2. Communicate local best practice
In most countries, some local people have already
developed sustainable farming practices. Aid personnel can help
to spread such good practice by applying communication expertise
and by lending their aura as "experts" to peasants who
would not otherwise be seen as worth copying.
Along the Southern edge of the Sahel,
ordinary farmers sometimes manage to push back the encroaching
desert (New Scientist, 27 October 2001, p 44). Aid personnel
could help to spread these local good practices to farmers who
are less successful.
Aid personnel in Nigeria, whose expertise
was not primarily in agriculture, were persuaded to make some
five minute "filler" items for radio on such topics
as composting. The senior official in the federal agricultural
ministry who commissioned the work was asked why he didn't ask
his own colleagues to do this work. He said, "none of our
agriculture specialists could say anything in five minutes".
He needed environmentally conscious communicators more than he
needed expatriate agriculturalists.
3. Changing local bad practice
It is usually easy to identify practices which
damage the environment. Stopping them is the difficult part. Attempting
to change public opinion is often more fruitful than punishing
A woman in Vietnam who admitted that
she had misused her loan from a micro-credit scheme to buy equipment
for electric fishing. Regulations to ban this type of fishing
and the giving of loans for this purpose were already in place.
However, coming down heavily on all those who had broken the law
in this case would only have ensured that future crimes would
be better concealed. The long term solution lay rather in attempting
to persuade her fellow members (whose approval was needed for
all loans) that destroying fish stocks would be bad for all their
futures. The people running the micro-credit scheme recognised
that they needed advice on adult education much more than on fishing
or law enforcement.
(Mr Yeo was employed by the Co-operative College
UK for 30 years)