1 July 2017

Ethiopia: What It Takes for Change


From the political angle, positive thinkers hope that problems are only transient. The long time campaigns to address food self-sufficiency supply hopes that food reliance is achievable.

It is indeed. But it requires someone to employ the right methodology. Problems do not go away simply because politicians say so. They ask actual policies, strategies and effective implementation of them to alleviate societal problems. Besides solving problems, especially community ones, the involvement of the beneficiary should take priority.

Such a process can be supported by the free media and communication technologies. This time, participation may not require people to come together and waste their time.

They can be reached wherever they are. What they mostly need is to receive the right information and their feedback to be appropriately considered.

In such a manner, development participation can be enhanced, and the feeling of ownership towards a certain project or development activities can be nurtured. That is what sustainability brings.

However, exchanging information would not come without laying the necessary infrastructure and other preconditions first. There must be an expansion of education, especially in the rural areas. Without avoiding illiteracy it would be hard to deal with participation to fight against poverty.

Affordable media and information technology infrastructure is a must. With the necessary things laid down, it would be possible to go for transforming the traditional agrarian society into a better mode of production. Rural areas can be centres for small industries and self-sufficient communities with more jobs.

An incentive mechanism that neglects the involvement of people in a development process would not bring any significant change. The rural population need to be consulted when they are given orders, as they have the right to be convinced and get enough information. The same is true with the urban residents.

In their locality, doing something for their benefit but without their significant participation amounts to forcing. The talk of sustainable development cannot be materialised short of participation.

If local contexts are not considered, if people are not consulted and know the reason behind doing something, there is no way that they will care about what has been done.

In many parts of the country, it has been seen that a lot of development projects were accomplished but could not sustain for long to benefit the people. Because people could not own them as they did not understand them or they felt that they were not part of the process, and therefore did not belong to them.

The problem stems from the authoritarian type of administration the country follows, and partly because of the urgency of doing things in the name of "there is no time". But that is a naive strategy and will take the country nowhere.

Of course, the culture of the society is also hierarchical. Parents know what is good for their children. Community elders choose what is best for their neighbourhood, the words of religious leaders are not to be questioned.

Almost all the communication in the society is power based. People interact based on the social power they have. Equality is absent in the name of respect. Both should have been integrated to maintain the balance.

It may be not surprising when a government that is part of this culture feels it is a guardian of all and can do anything without consultation. It may not also be a strange thing to see development experts and agents consider themselves above the community they serve, and everybody should listen to them. However, the consequences are fatal.

For instance, the issue of climate change has been talked about much. People have been working to conserve the soil and natural resources. Billions of seedlings have been planted, millions of terraces have been built.

The positive effects in reforestation, ground water development, avoiding drought is still minimal. The reason is simple. First, people were not doing all these properly. But importantly, because they were not working convinced, they did not own it and make the necessary protection after that.

What the politicians should know is that people by their very nature demand participation and consultation. That is how they feel recognised.

And beyond that, they would like their ideas to be incorporated in the process of change or development of any project. If this cannot happen, it will be less that the people will own the system, process or project. In such a situation there could not be a talk of sustainability.

Therefore if a change is to be positive, it should always have participation, intense engagement, and ownership of the people.


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