Posts Tagged ‘Development Practice’

Microcredit, a Social Development Tool

December 7, 2016

Sheltered from a pouring rain  by a palm leaf,  Reang is working on her loom, employing at the same time, her feet, and her hand to operate. Every move is graceful and coordinated as a hammock production is in full swing ! Although, traditional activity in the region of Battambang in Cambodia and in a lot of other place around the world are unfortunately in decline.

Many women subscribe to microcredit from microfinance institutions to buy raw materials and upgrade their equipment. Development through financial inclusion of  poor people is

burgeoning and is implemented in the majority of developing countries.

The Concept was developed by Muhammad Yunus,  the Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 2006, and involves the provision of financial assistance to people excluded from the traditional banking system. These poor, often illiterate and mostly unsecured individuals, do not fit into the boxes of large financial institutions. Lending money to them would be too risky.

The microfinance institutions work  in contrary to conventional banks trusting these future entrepreneurs by providing loans to expand or create an income generator. Credit modalities varies from country to country. The amounts are up to 60$ in India and 3000$ in Peru with a repayment spread over 3 to 24 month. Thus the microcredit institution does not only  supply a loan to a single woman or group of women (the latter appear to be more responsible than men) but also provides social and corporate management formations based on playful tools. The topics can range from the importance of not subscribing to several loans at the same time to the use the capital for business and not for consumption.

The practice shows that microcredit institutions have reason to believe in these people: the repayment rate is nearly on average of  98% . Through these actions, they are entire communities who see their standard of living and their social environment improve. Inclusive microcredit used in this manner proves to be a formidable development lever.

Most of the time, beneficiaries need significant cash contribution at a given time. Many micro-entrepreneurs use the money to build up stock, artisans (carpenters, weavers, shoemakers …) are applying for loans to purchase their raw materials needed to make their products. Finally, rural activities are numerous, the loans are used more often to purchase inputs, tools or animals.

Microcredit programs affect the development by creating physical, human and social capital. In fact the activity promoted by the loans increase production and consumption for common pool resources and units ressources. Microfinance has created a new system which is an important lever for sustainability.

 

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Development Practice Should Learn from the Lessons of History

December 14, 2014

I would like to end my Sustainability and the Commons blogging experience by sharing my most profound moment in this class; the first lecture, the first slide and my first real inkling of what this module would encompass:

Chief Seattle“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites our family. All things are connected.”

Chief Seattle, Suquamish Tribe, 1848

Revisiting Chief Seattle after all these weeks makes his words more powerful, thus enhancing their gravitas further. In addition, anyone else who has read William Easterly’s latest book, The Tyranny of Expertswill agree with me that this passage epitomises one of Easterly’s three major thematic shifts in the paradigm of approaching development practice that he has labelled as ‘history vs. blank slate thinking’. The other two are nation vs. individual, and central planning vs. spontaneous solutions. 

According to Easterly, “Blank slate thinking thus opened the door for development experts to reject the utility of the West’s history of individual rights and development as a precedent.”  He goes on to add that, “The conventional approach to development…is based on a technocratic illusion: the belief that poverty is a purely technical problem amenable to such technical solutions as fertilisers, antibiotics, or nutritional supplements.” 

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Christopher Stern’s blog, ‘IN MY EXPERT OPINION: EASTERLY, EXPERTISE, & DEVELOPMENT PRACTICE’, reviews the book in more depth here.

Nevertheless, I would like to echo Christopher’s appeal to his fellow Development Practice students, Class of 2015; as MSc NGO and Development Management students, Class of 2015, let us engage with history and historicity in our development practice, such as the normative concept of the commons which we are all experts on now.

I agree with him that this is truly imperative if we are to avoid the folly that Chief Seattle is talking about. The fundamental concepts of import here are agency and accountability.  As Easterly puts it, “The sleight of hand that focuses attention on technical solutions while covering up violations of the rights of real people….is the moral tragedy of development today.” 

Therefore, let us guard against allowing our legacies, as ‘Informed Development Practitioners’ (Meera™), to mirror Chief Seattle’s experts who never even considered the possibility that his history or that of any of the other ‘developing’ regions could exist outside of their relationships to Western economists.

For all the criticisms labeled against The Tyranny of Experts, I accept Easterly’s ‘shocking indictments’, to all of us ‘experts’, and his insistence upon a development practice that learns from the lessons of history. The salient point here being the appreciation of contextual heterogeneity, not a universal application of the same old lesson.

As Christopher puts it, if one is to speak of sleight of hand, it is quite a trick to use history to recast the unrestrained capitalist impulses of Europe as the would-be heroes of global development while construing local dissenters as antagonists. Let us go forth with confidence in our quest to bring ‘good change’.