‘Asoso’ , The power of collective Action

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While many Development experts consider those who live on less than $1.25 to be very poor, the ‘Asoso’ groups have proved that, no currency can measure what Happiness really means. The term Asoso means lets pool together.It is mainly practiced in North Western Uganda also called West Nile Region. This is a region that is much neglected by the government and international organizations because of its location in between South Sudan,Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. There are debates on where exactly it was meant to belong so many development initiatives for this region have been frustrated.

Many people in the rural parts of the West Nile have created a world for themselves by working together in groups called Asoso.It consists of a group of between 10-30 people or as big as a whole clan depending on their like.They set their own objectives,rules and elect leaders for themselves who are accountable to the group.Their actions are based on the principle of collective action.The men pool small amounts of money occasionally but mainly during group formation.This is used to buy stationery for record purposes and seeds.They distribute the seed among themselves during planting season and every member is supposed to return a portion of their harvested produce to the group store called Ero.The men do the digging and planting while the women harrow the field, weed the crops and do the harvesting .This is all done on reciprocal terms where the host prepares food which is eaten collectively from the same plate.

When a member has a misfortune,like loosing a dear one, everyone comes to support them with a contribution from their produce. This may include beans, vegetables, chicken, goats (if you are an in-law to the family) and even fire wood. Food is prepared from the pooled resources for the people to eat during funeral. Some of the resources in Ero is used to support other festivities like weddings of group members, child birth celebration called Oresi and many others. In most cases, no or very little money is being used which means, all that is being achieved is more than money. The most exciting part in the lives of the Asoso groups is during big festive seasons like Christmas and Easter where the women different kinds of food and pool them together at a members home. Then the families eat and merry together as the women share knowledge on different ways of preparing  food.

This then leads to the question of weather measuring poverty in terms of currency is sufficient because some people leave a more fulfilled life in the absence of money. While others have all the money but they seem not to be happy. In this case of Asoso where a lot is being achieved without money but by simply coming together, would they still be considered to be extremely poor?

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4 Responses to “‘Asoso’ , The power of collective Action”

  1. sdiederichs Says:

    It is my dream to live like that and it is very sad that we have lost this wonderful community spirit in our Western societies. As we say in French “l’argent ne fait pas le bonheur” (money doesn’t make happiness). I am seldom happier than with just a backpack trekking for a week or more. I don’t need many material things to be happy, I need people I like to be with people I like and trust in nice surroundings.

  2. u0953238 Says:

    The collective action theory first published by Mancur Olson in 1965 .Olson argues that any group of individuals attempting to provide a public good has troubles to do so efficiently. On the one hand individuals have incentives to “free-ride” on the efforts of others in certain groups and on the other hand the size of a group is of high importance and difficult to optimally determine.

  3. mundurugertrude Says:

    U0953238,thanks for your comment. But I think the people in rural places have fewer cases of “free ride”. All they know is , if I do not do for and with others, they will not come for mine. You just know you need others so you end up contributing.

    Though they don’t even know any theory, their leaders know how to deal with ‘free riders’. One of the ways is to either tell members to hold back when a ‘free rider’ is in trouble or charge them double the next time.

    About the size of the group, they don’t have any formal number,it just depends on the members. Sometimes these theorists make life look impossible for nothing. I believe life is more to what you make it than what people think it should be.

  4. maryyamghani Says:

    This is a great example of a happy Community and the Commoning………. you proved your point that money can not buy you every thing especially Happiness

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