Development Visions from the Impoverished - Eradicating Extreme Poverty Becomes Not A Dream Or...
10 October 2014
By Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir
The world's most extreme poor are located primarily in
rural places. Clearly, people's proximity (or lack of)
to city centers of decision-making, power and relative
affluence is a determining factor in their life
experience, alongside other conditions that lead to
the systemic poverty experienced by rural families.
Addressing rural impoverishment involves implementing
projects relating to water provision, agriculture,
building schools and designing curriculum content as
well as gender issues and other matters of historic
justice. For development in these areas to be
sustainable we know that the participation of the
ultimate beneficiaries in project design and
management is the critical determining factor
In order to catalyze such participation we also know –
through decades of international development successes
and failures – that providing facilitators of
community dialogue and consensus-building is
essential. After all, local community members – young
and old, women and men, the haves and the have-nots –
generally do not come together spontaneously and in an
inclusive way to identify common goals.
Ministries responsible for promoting human development
and international agencies that share that mission
frequently find it difficult to serve the most remote
communities since, in order to achieve popular
participation and therefore sustainability, close and
constant proximity to the people is required.
Eradicating extreme poverty therefore necessitates an
extreme, three-point shift in the approach taken to
meet human needs.
First, concerned national and international agencies
must base their plans on community-determined project
priorities. In order to ensure that these priorities
are a genuine reflection of the people's will, agency
representatives must live and work with - and listen
to - communities.
Second, donors, in order to meet communities'
self-described needs, should have funding arrangements
that are flexible with regard to project type
(agricultural, health, educational, etc). In other
words in order to sustainably alleviate poverty, it is
the charge of donors to adapt to the goals of
beneficiaries, rather than vice versa.
Finally, participatory methods for community planning
need to be expanded, adapted to local circumstances
and recreated in new social contexts so that their
dissemination and applicability may be significantly
Practitioners of partipatory approaches to development
usually rely on a specific family of methods,
typically including a dozen or so activities that
groups utilize to effectively evaluate their
development-related challenges and opportunities.
However, there are hundreds of families of such
methods applicable to popular participation and
planning for social change.
Agencies dedicated to sustainable development must be
made aware of the full extent and scope of these tools
before employing, testing and improving upon them
together with local people. Eventually, globally
accessible ‘warehouses' of appropriate methodology
will be available to assist communities as they embark
upon their sustainable development course.
When these three factors have been addressed,
eradicating extreme poverty becomes not a dream or a
utopian condition removed from the present reality,
but an historic human calling answered by policies,
programs and investment centered on the beneficiaries