Lessons to be learned in international development
I truly do believe that international donors and aid workers have the best intentions in mind when they embark on aid and development projects. Unfortunately, it sounds like many of these people are going about it the wrong way and as a result, money is wasted on unsustainable aid projects that fail because donors/aid workers did not consult with locals first.
The latest victim of such lack of foresight are clean water projects in rural Africa which, according to a report, amount to a loss of hundreds and millions of dollars:
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says up to US$360m has been spent on building boreholes and wells that then become useless because they are not maintained or fixed when they break down. As a result, 50,000 water supply points are not functioning across rural Africa.
According to the report only one third of water points built by NGOs in Senegal’s Kaolack region are working and 58% of water points in northern Ghana are in disrepair.
The report’s author, Jamie Skinner, says that water points are often built by donors, governments and NGOs without fully consulting local people and finding out just how much it will cost to keep the boreholes clean and functioning over a sustained period of time.
While doing some investigative work before starting a project may sound simple, it seems to be a commonly overlooked task as evidenced by these findings. However, there are lots of lessons to be learned from such mistakes and anyone who has been involved in aid/donor/development work of any kind could list for you volumes of advice on how to better approach a project based on past experience.
Project Diaspora has a great write-up all aid and development workers/volunteers should read. One of the best ways to learn is from our mistakes – the sin and tragedy is when we repeat our mistakes over and over again. May the distribution of information prevent that from happening – spreading the word is a good first step.