1. Please write a solid, thoughtful paragraph or two about the Appropriate Technology for Sustainability unit. You can critique it from any angle i.e. content, curriculum, design etc. Try to be consistent and make at least one positive comment and note at least one area for improvement (criticism
2. Respond to the Case Study Part One. Write a paragraph or so about what you think the volunteer is doing right and wrong. Be specific. This case is related with sustainable development (this is derived from an old Peace Corps training exercise and most volunteers have no background in development coming in). The basic idea of People-Centered Development is that your job is to build the capacity of the local people to run their own lives in ways that benefit themselves and the community. The formation of coops and self-study are usually key aspects of this approach. But how do you “Never do anything for people that they can do for themselves” (The most basic guiding principle) when you have more knowledge and contacts than them in important areas? Look at all of the decisions the volunteer makes and give your opinion of which ones seem good or bad to you and why.
Case Study of a Development Worker – Part One
Note to 705 students. Try and keep track of the named characters as they will reappear and their interactions are important as are those of the villagers.
This is a case study of a PCV working in cooperatives. He viewed his position as an important one, working in the beginnings of the country’s cooperative Movement. The Minister of Agriculture, whom the Volunteer met during training, reinforced the importance of the job he was about to begin. Since the Minister’s home area was the same as the Volunteer’s working area, the Minister explained in detail to the Volunteer what he knew of the people, their interest in starting a cooperative, and his expectations of the Volunteer’s performance.
After nine months on the job, the Volunteer found that he was concentrating on one rice cooperative. It had taken a good part of the first nine months of his stay to settle into a lifestyle that he was comfortable with. Although he had made a sincere start in trying to learn the local language, he gave it up after a few weeks. He said that he didn’t need it on the job and had a perfectly adequate interpreter through whom he could communicate to the cooperative members. Much of his time was spent moving into his town and building relationships with the townspeople he considered key to his success as a cooperative worker. He applied the same process to the job, establishing contacts and building relationships with those in the Ministry of Agriculture on whom he would eventually have to rely. This he did on both the headquarters and district level. This work was slow and frustrating, but within nine months the Volunteer felt he had established some very strong relationships with many people in the Ministry and town. Needless to say, he knew most of the agriculture volunteers in the country and often spent time with them, talking over their frustrations.
While all this was happening, the Volunteer was in the process of defining his job. Although he was supposed to work with six budding cooperatives, he found himself spending more and more of his time with the one cooperative in his town. This partly due to the difficulties he had in obtaining gas from the Ministry, partly due to the Minister’s interest in the project, and partly due to the high visibility of the cooperative (it was on the main road).
He became the key advisor to the cooperative, working closely with the chairman of the cooperative and the board of directors. He spent a considerable amount of time with each of the twenty members of the cooperative as well, visiting their homes with his interpreter. The result of his work was a group of very enthusiastic farmers who he had taken from skepticism to active participation in nine short months. They had agreed to start a communal pilot rice scheme of some 40 acres, using one piece of land that they had obtained from the clan chief.
Since this was the first project that the cooperative was working on, both the members of the cooperative and the people of the area were watching it very closely. (One measure of their wariness in spite of their enthusiasm was that each cooperative member made sure that his own traditional plot of land was prepared for the upcoming rice season.) During the time that the Volunteer was building up the member’s enthusiasm, he had to cope with many periods of depression, when he felt that he would not be able to bring the members to a state of readiness in time for his first full season. In fact, it took a full four months for the members and their leaders to decide that the project was at least viable with a fair chance of success.
To reach that point, the Volunteer and the chairman of the cooperative had together arranged for certain commitments from the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry carried out a soil survey to determine if the plot of land was indeed suitable for rice cultivation. The Ministry promised fertilizer and helped to arrange a loan with which the members of the cooperative bought the fertilizer. The Ministry promised to supply improved rice seed, and the members had raised money for the seeds by holding a dance, a beauty contest, and by raising their fair share of membership fees. This money they sent to the Ministry via the Volunteer (when he was going down to the capital for his gamma globulin shots) some two months before the seeds were due to arrive.
By the end of April, the members and the Volunteer were fairly satisfied with their progress. A plot of land had been selected and it had been cleared and prepared by the members. The fertilizer had arrived and was stored in a shed attached to the Volunteer’s house. A number of technical advisors from the Ministry and UNDP had visited, each giving a lecture or demonstration which the members felt worthwhile. The money for the seed was with the Ministry, and the Director of the Division had promised that the seed would be available by the mid-April. All things considered, the Volunteer was quite pleased with the progress of this work, and had been suggesting to a number of other volunteers, Ministry officials, and cooperatives that they might want to visit his cooperative during the next months in order to use it as an extension demonstration in cooperative work.
By the middle of May, four weeks late, the seeds had not yet arrived. The Volunteer and cooperative members were becoming worried. People were expecting the first rains by late May or very early June, and the rice had to go in just after the first rains or the yield would probably be severely reduced.
Finally, the chairman of the cooperative and the board of directors met in a special session to talk over the tardy seeds. After several hours of palaver, they decided to send an urgent message to the Division of Director in the capital city inquiring about the seeds. The chairman, whose brother worked for the Ministry in the nearby county seat, suggested using the Ministry radio network to send a message to capital city.
The Volunteer, who had returned the previous day from the county seat, mentioned that the radio was not in good working order, and it was quite difficult to communicate clearly with any assurance that the message was properly understood in capital city. By chance, the Volunteer knew that the Peace Corps mail truck was due to pass through the town that afternoon on its way to the capital. The members agreed and the meeting ended with the chairman and Volunteer drafting the letter to the Director of the Division.
As the Volunteer and the chairman composed the letter, the Volunteer decided to send the letter to the Peace Corps Agricultural Programmer, asking him to take it by hand to the Division Director. He felt the situation was serious enough to ask for the agricultural programmer’s help. If nothing else, he felt that the letter might carry a little more weight if the agricultural programmer discussed it with the Division Director personally.
The Peace Corps mail truck arrived a half an hour later and the letter was sent off.