31 Oct 2010
I never expected to read this in the New English review. I worked as an agricultural volunteer in Thailand and a lot of this rings true. A few other points:
-village life can be very boring. People will turn up to meetings just for the novelty, this does not mean that you can get the truth out of them or that they have any commitment to the aims of the meeting organizers.
-I found that there were a lot of feuds between villagers. You don't need tribes for this to happen, it can simply be because people live together for long enough for divisions to appear.
-if you are going to spend a long time in a village, PRA literature is not a good background. As well as the anthropological literature that the author recommends I would also suggest "the innocent anthropologist" by Nigel Barley. I have never been to Africa but it sounded like the truth. A lot of 19th century Russian novelists (Zamayetin) also write well about village life (but not the later Tolstoy).
-organic agriculture is a waste of time. It requires far more work than most farmers are prepared to put in. In the area where I was there was severe soil erosion, gullies 6 ft deep could open up overnight. The advice of NGOs was that the farmers should stop using chemical fertilizers and weedkillers rather than do anything about the erosion. Tragically the farmers believed them and did nothing (it was impossible to farm in that area without weedkillers).
-State employees had a relatively good scientific background but did not want to spend time in villages; NGO people were comitted but ignorant of modern science.
2 Nov 2010
As someone who lives in sub-saharan Africa, I think this is an honest and penetrating article that goes to the heart of the issues. Unfortunately most sociologists and anthropologists I meet are still stuck in their noble savage views of these problems. I can only hope there are more of you out there to advise these people.
I have tried to get involved in developing solutions to problems but they seem only to be interested in applicants with American or European accents.
8 Nov 2010
if you found the article interesting you may enjoy the above link.