A Practical Implementation of The Small-Scale Agriculture Model in Developing Countries - Part One (Draft)
Based on the Mentoring Program of
The Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture - www.feedtheworld.org
|The Authors - Erika and Lonny Ward
By Lonny J. Ward, M. S., M. B. A.
Vice-President and Director of Operations, Feed The World SRA
with Erika A. Ward, B. Sc.
Administrative Assistant and Media Writer, Feed The World SRA
POVERTY CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
If there were a simple solution to alleviating hunger and poverty in developing nations, certainly humankind would have implemented it long ago. However, the answers are far from simple, and the problems of extreme poverty and devastating illnesses continue to haunt our modern society. While advances in technology and communication have helped people in all countries to see some improvements in their living conditions in recent decades, most of the world’s rural poor continue to live in circumstances nearly unfathomable in today’s world.
This chapter, A Practical Implementation of The Small-Scale Agriculture Model in Developing Countries, will explain how The Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture, or Feed The World (hereafter referred to as SRA), has used successful time-tested principles to alleviate hunger, malnutrition, and poverty in rural areas throughout the world. The information and examples in this chapter are intended to serve as a practical outline for university educators, community leaders, and non-government organizations (NGOs) who are seeking to alleviate poverty and help families achieve nutritional self-sufficiency through improved agriculture practices.
SRA’s international program was created using principles based on the Small-Scale Agriculture Model (SSAM) developed at BYU’s Ezra Taft Benson Food and Agriculture Institute. This hands-on approach of mentoring and empowerment provides important life-saving agriculture knowledge and skills to help rural villagers find lasting success, enabling them to escape the bonds of extreme poverty for generations to come.
Basic Principles for Alleviating Poverty
Though there are many complicated reasons that poverty exists in developing countries, in our experience, two reasons stand out from all the rest. We have seen that many of the rural villagers who are living in reasonably safe circumstances, free from war and totalitarian oppression, are faced with poverty for two basic reasons: underdeveloped resources and insufficient education. These problems are compounded when charitable gifts are handed out too freely, and when hasty, impractical solutions are forced upon a community without regard to local circumstances.
Poverty Issue #1: Underdeveloped Resources
Those who have not studied the humanitarian field for long may assume that poverty-stricken nations struggle for basic necessities because they have little or no access to potential resources. However, in our experience, the daily reality for most rural villagers is that they have at least some access to natural resources that could meet many of their needs if they knew how to utilize them.
One example of a country that has abundant natural resources is Ethiopia. In fact, despite being the focus of numberless international charity efforts, many first time visitors to this country discover that the climate is not as desolate and dry as they were expecting. But because of international attention following natural disasters, droughts, and crop failures, most of the images that the public sees of villagers in Ethiopia are of starving, desperate people, who need emergency relief. It is easy to see why the general public believes that the solution to poverty in these areas is to simply send the people more resources. A much better approach, however, is to help the people learn to develop the resources they already have.
[INSERT PHOTO #01: Ethiopia Alfalfa]
[Caption:] This beautiful crop of alfalfa grew well in the fertile fields near Shashamane Ethiopia.
Even though Ethiopia has large desert areas that have little rainfall and long periods of hot, dry weather, there are also many places in the country with lush, green and fertile land. In fact, some have compared the Rift Valley in Ethiopia to the San Joaquin Valley in California in its agronomic potential. The biggest difference between the expansive desert lands of Ethiopia and the blossoming western United States is the well-organized water-delivery systems that efficiently bring moisture to otherwise dry fields and neighborhoods.
Ethiopia is just one example of a developing country struggling with poverty because their resources are underdeveloped or completely unused. In fact, in the countries where SRA team members have worked, most of the struggling villages are located in areas with surprisingly fertile land, adequate natural sources of water, and an ideal climate for growing food. What’s missing is the knowledge and skills to develop these resources into usable commodities.
Create Lasting Change by Developing Local Resources
Many well-meaning charities selflessly give away resources to solve poverty issues, and this type of giving has its place in dire situations. However, once emergency needs are addressed, lasting change can only be achieved by empowering the people with the knowledge and skills they need to develop their own local resources. By focusing on the growth of the people, an organization develops human capital that is inherently sustainable over the long term.
In addition, by encouraging the people to discover and implement their own solutions, they are able to feel a sense of ownership over the projects and resources that are helping their community. This approach helps to build confidence among the people as they realize that they can make a difference in their own families and communities without waiting for help from outside resources that may or may not come.
To accomplish this, charity organizations and educational institutions should encourage international community development by helping the rural poor create their own businesses, farms, and co-ops. In this way, the local economy will be strengthened, providing a much better support to the community than simply dumping excess resources into an already fragile economy. A program designed to build and empower people while supporting the local economy may be rare among NGOs because it is not necessarily the easiest approach. However, as they begin to understand the sustainable nature of this model, donors will see that their dollars will be more effectively spent by ensuring that philanthropic efforts support the development of the people for long term success.
School of Agriculture for Family Independence
Mtalimanja Village is home to the School of Agriculture for Family Independence (SAFI), a donor-supported institution that is focused on helping the rural people of Malawi learn to provide for themselves using improved agricultural techniques. This village houses 30 to 40 families who live on the campus for one full year to take training courses in nutrition, sustainable farming, animal husbandry, fish farming, drip irrigation, forest conservation, tree farming, and other subjects. Husbands and wives attend classes together and their children are enrolled in primary school on the property.
Once they complete the first year of intensive training, the families return to their villages to implement what they’ve learned on their own land. During this second year of participation, they continue to receive mentoring and support through an extension program. After completing the training, farmer crop yields have increased by an average of 700 percent. As the villagers implement their new skills back home, they are encouraged to teach these principles to their neighbors, helping to lift the entire community. Graduates of this successful instruction receive diplomas at a celebratory ceremony each year. As of the first printing of this book, over 180 people have been educated at SAFI and returned to their villages to teach others. To read more about this successful agriculture school, visit forceforgood.org.
Moyenda and Masiye - Working Towards a Brighter Future
Moyenda and Masiye Milazi began their participation in the program because they felt that they did not have a clear knowledge about farming and wanted to find out how to give their children a better future. They both graduated from SAFI school in 2014, and danced their way down the graduation aisle, gripping their diplomas proudly, with their young son riding in a sling on Masiye’s back.
Moyenda tells their story this way: “Before I came to school at SAFI, each year, on 1 acre of land, I was harvesting 20 and sometimes 25 bags of corn. After we learned more farming skills, now our harvest, on the same amount of land, is no less than 60 bags of corn! Some of the skills we have learned at SAFI include: livestock, beekeeping, crops, nutrition, and raising mushrooms. This training will help so much because, in the village I came from, many families do not know modern farming techniques. Now I am teaching them the skills that I learned, so they can also improve their harvest.”
Masiye says, “As a wife, this training has assisted us because we have enough food which we didn’t have in the past, and now our future is bright. My kids will now be healthier because we have enough food. My message to other women in my village is to do farming, especially in sequential gardens, to supply enough nutrition to their family.”
[INSERT PHOTO #02: Milazi family]
[Caption]: The Milazi family proudly displays their graduation certificates. It is important to recognize the achievements of each participant and provide follow-up mentoring.
Poverty Issue #2: Insufficient Education
Without the knowledge of how to develop their own natural resources, rural villagers are often left on the verge of starvation, even whilst living in the midst of resources that could save the lives of their families and neighbors. This leaves the people in a vicious cycle of poverty that is nearly impossible to escape without education in practical life-saving skills.
Even though helpful organizations may come in and build schools to teach village children, the subjects are often limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic. While these are critically important topics to learn, they generally do not address the immediate needs of the family such as how to to make sure they have enough to eat through the end of the day. Without a practical knowledge about raising food and feeding themselves, many children continue to suffer malnutrition, making it nearly impossible to finish their education and find a permanent path out of extreme poverty.
In fact, some may argue that educating these villagers without giving them a way to get out of their situation, can worsen the problem of hopelessness. As the villagers learn about the way people live in rest of the world, it may feel like they are being brought out into the daylight for the first time in their lives, discovering a whole new world that they didn’t realize existed. But without a way to change their own situation, it is like they are being shoved back into a dark hole of despair, with no way to obtain this better life that they are learning about.
A Sustainable Solution: Teach Life Skills to Help People Thrive
Graduates of our program have been taught and mentored in implementing important principles of self-reliance combined with dedication and hard work. These new skills give them the foundation they need to meet their own nutritional and financial needs, to create permanent change in their families, and to make a lasting impact on their communities.
After completing SRA’s self-reliance training, many individuals gain the confidence and motivation to further expand their knowledge. Some of them find success in other areas of their life such as advanced education, business ownership, and new career opportunities.
Instead of spending every moment wondering where their next meal is coming from, villagers who have completed our training have the knowledge to take care of their own needs for years to come. They have the self-confidence and education to teach and mentor those around them, and they are prepared to create an improved and enlightened life for themselves and their families for generations to come.
Kevin Chocho: An Example of Teaching Life Skills in Schools
Kevin David Chocho Guandinango is a 12 year old boy who attends Nazacota Puento school in the small community of San Pedro, in the Cotacachi region of Ecuador. Before learning about nutrition and gardening at his school, Kevin lived on a meager diet that was lacking in nutrients. Kevin lives in a home with his mother, two elderly uncles, and grandparents. As the sole breadwinner for the family, Kevin’s mother worked hard all day long, making and selling handicrafts, and growing a cash crop of corn that she grew in the small plot of land next to their home. Despite her best efforts, Kevin and his 3 younger siblings were unable to eat breakfast before school, and were suffering from symptoms of malnutrition, including undergrowth and slower academic performance.
[INSERT PHOTO #03: Kevin Chocho]
[Caption:] Kevin Chocho writing a letter of appreciation to SRA donors for their support of the school gardening program at Nazacota Puento School in San Pedro Ecuador.
Kevin, along with his classmates and their families, have been beneficiaries of the training provided at the school farm and at a larger demo farm built through the cooperation of UNORCAC and SRA. Along with his classmates, Kevin has worked on these farms to receive hands-on training to learn how to plant, care for, and harvest a variety of nutritious vegetables. The students and their teachers have applied what they have learned by working with our staff. Many of them have also planted a garden at home. The children are able to work in the gardens during part of their school day, and the school staff has been taught how to incorporate these vegetables into the school lunch program.
This addition of a variety of nutritious foods has given the students a much improved diet, packed with important vitamins and nutrients. As students eat the vegetables that they have grown themselves, they are given a feeling of accomplishment, and the knowledge that they can change their situation through their hard work. We have found though our research in Kenya that an improved diet will significantly help the children to perform better in school, thus providing them with a good education, critical to future success in a changing world.
To involve the children's parents, the staff invites them to visit the school gardens and help with building structures, as well as planting, weeding, and harvesting the produce. Parents and siblings are given training along with the students, learning the nutrient value of various foods, and gaining an understanding of how to incorporate these foods into their diets. Many families become quite excited about what they have been taught and begin to grow gardens at their own homes. The technicians help them by providing seeds and mentoring them as they deal with the challenges of starting their new home gardens.
Another part of the program being implemented at Nazacota Puento school is the preparation of an area for breeding and raising guinea pigs, as well as teaching them how to plant alfalfa to use as animal feed. This portion of their instruction gives additional skills the students, as well as providing extra protein to their diets. As they learn how to take care of themselves nutritionally and financially through school gardening, crop production skills, and raising small animals, they are gaining important skills that will help them the rest of their lives.
In addition, Kevin’s classmates and their families have experienced a reduction in illness, disease, and malnutrition, helping them to grow properly, develop cognitively, and learn important job skills for the future. As the program participants teach their friends and neighbors, the entire community is lifted, creating a lasting impact on the surrounding communities in the Cotacachi region.
There is no better way to understand the benefit provided to the school than hearing directly from one of the children. Following is the translated text from a letter that Kevin wrote to SRA donors with his own pen: “My name is Kevin, my mother’s name is Ana Maria. I have three siblings, Yarina, Emily and Kilan. I study in Nazacota Puento School. I am happy with the help of the foundation SRA that is implementing the school gardens and the housing for guinea pigs. This will help to improve the nutrition of all my classmates and improve our school performance. I hope that you continue to help us to grow healthy and learn better. ~ Thank you, Kevin.”
These examples demonstrate the success created when an organization combines training and motivation with the knowledge of how to use local renewable resources. Either one, without the other, creates frustration and waste. By implementing a program of sound training and proper motivation with the addition of a minimum bundle of resources, the people are enabled to succeed permanently.
[INSERT PHOTO 04: Kevin’s Letter]
[Caption:] This is a letter that was hand-written by Kevin Chocho to thank SRA donors for the education and training he and his classmates have received.
The Unintended Consequences of Inexperienced Philanthropy
Unfortunately, many well-meaning organizations may inadvertently make poverty situations worse by simply giving things to the people instead of helping them learn how to develop the resources they already have. Giving away items for free may solve short-term emergencies, but it does nothing to solve the long-term problem of the vicious poverty cycle.
The old saying, "Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once, but teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime," applies perfectly in these situations. While it is honorable to collect donated resources to give to a poor community in an underdeveloped country, it is also important to think about the long-term consequences of the gift. Here are a few that we have personally experienced through our work in developing countries.
Unintended Consequence #1 - Damage to the Local Economy
Many people running charitable relief organizations want to give because they have seen the shocking level of poverty and want to do something — anything — to make a difference in the lives of these people who are lacking so much. However, when resources are handed out for free, though immediate emergencies may be alleviated, lasting damage to the local economy can be one unintended consequence.
For example, in 2001, thanks to support and development projects, Ethiopian farmers were able to produce bumper crops and make a significant profit for the first time in many years. These families were able to send their children to school, and feed and clothe them better than they ever had. The farmers were so excited about their success that they re-invested most of their profits into supplies and preparation for the next year’s crop planting, eager to change their lives for good.
Unfortunately, in 2002, because such a large number of these farmers over-planted, there was too much grain available on the market, and it could not all be sold. Insufficient transportation and undeveloped markets left farmers without a buyer for their grain. Some of the excess was stored in the few storage facilities around the country. However, because of this huge loss of income, many of the farmers could no longer provide for their families, or buy supplies for the next year’s planting.
Then in 2003, Ethiopia had its worst famine in 20 years. Due to lack of rain and lack of financial resources, very few plants grew, and there was a terrible crop failure. Despite the famine, the good news for the people was that since there were some stored crops from the year before, there was a little to go around and the higher price would help the farming industry rebound.
Soon, news of the terrible famine in Ethiopia got out to the international philanthropic community, and they banded together to help. In this charitable effort, millions of tons of grain bags were shipped into the country from outside sources. While this effort did save many from starvation, it completely destroyed the grain market for the Ethiopian farmers who had worked so hard to develop their farms. In many cases, leftover grain was simply dumped at the side of the road by farmers who could not sell it in the local market, because everyone could get it for free.
This huge grain donation, though intended to help, left the farmers bereft of income, with no money to invest in crops the following year. Many of them lost everything, including their livelihood, and the grain market was destroyed for several more years.
Had the international community fully understood what was going on, they could have better helped to solve the problem by assisting the Ethiopians to improve transportation and communication to deliver the stored crops to the famished areas of the country without destroying the value of the local grain. This would have helped the people who were starving, and given a boost to the economy instead of devastating it.
Unintended Consequence #2 - People Robbed of Work Incentive
When resources are continually given away without requiring any effort on the part of those who are being helped, it may diminish their incentive to work. This is especially true when the people have not been able to observe models of success or have personal experiences where hard work has paid off. People can become satisfied with a marginal standard of living resulting from continual assistance, not realizing that with education and hard work, they could rise above their circumstances and become truly prosperous.
Many rural villagers have only experienced the short term view of how they are going to fill their bellies today, and don’t have the means or knowledge to get ahead. This creates a vicious cycle where generations become stuck in a life of extreme never-ending poverty. Giving away free food, clothes, infrastructure, and supplies may help with emergency needs, but it does nothing to help the people out of their situation permanently.
Mentor and Empower for Lasting Impact
A better approach is to mentor the villagers as they learn to develop their locally available resources into products that will help them change their lives and circumstances long term. Once this knowledge is imparted to the people, it is theirs forever, giving them the potential to get out of their situation for good.
Instruction based on empowerment towards self-reliance helps to preserve the sense of honor and integrity that these people have, helping them to learn from the experience of others, develop their own solutions, and create their own success. With each progressive step through the program, they gain important life-sustaining skills, and develop a buffer between themselves and starvation. This new lifestyle is the key to freedom from poverty for a lifetime, which in turn creates lasting change for generations to come.
Learning how to take care of their families, receiving the tools to achieve success, and working hard to get there, gives people a feeling of self-worth and empowerment. They begin to see their own potential and their ability to change their lives for the better. This personal growth gives participants the confidence to succeed, and in some cases, our graduates go on to advanced education, finding new areas of talent in which they can contribute to the community in a meaningful way. For more information on how to improve teaching for more effective application and retention, see the “Teaching Strategies” chapter by Joel Black in the Appendix.
Dolores and Felicita - Mentoring in Monte Castillo
Dolores More Villegas and Felicita Flores Ancajima are graduates of SRA’s mentoring program in Monte Castillo, Peru. They are the parents of five growing children who range in age from 6 to 14 years old. As their family completed the training, they learned how to improve their nutrition by growing a variety of vegetables in their sequential garden. They also worked hard to start a guinea pig facility that provides at least two animals per week to supplement their diets, and consume additional protein by eating chicken, eggs, and fish. Their family has had considerable success growing peanuts and soybeans, which had not been planted in their community previous to the training.
After being a farmer for some time, and encouraged by his success in the program, Dolores went back to school for an advanced degree, and now supplements his income by teaching math to students in nearby Piura. Felicita enjoys working at the local health center, helping to teach people how to stay healthy with the principles she has learned. Together, Dolores and Felicita have improved not only the nutrition of their own family, but they have worked tirelessly to help many other community members change from a situation of severe or moderate malnutrition to one of good health. They have helped organize their neighbors and continue to have an extraordinary impact on their community.
Dolores and Felicita have a goal to make sure their children have a more successful life than they had before the SSAM training. With the education and skills the family has mastered, their children are well on their way to a healthy and prosperous future.
[INSERT PHOTO #05: DOLORES & FELICITA]
[Caption:] The Villegas showing off their bumper crop of sweet potatoes.
Unintended Consequence #3 - Lack of Ownership Fosters Indifference
When inexperienced NGOs simply give resources away to a community without letting the local people gain a feeling of ownership, many of these “gifts” will not be fully embraced or understood by the community, and may become unused after only a short time. For example, when an organization comes into a village and installs a well, the locals may view the well as belonging to that organization, rather than belonging to their community.
This is much the same as in a fully developed country when the water in the neighborhood goes out unexpectedly. Residents will view the water problem as the water company’s problem, not theirs. Instead of going out to solve the problem themselves, they simply call the water company. The problem for the rural communities in these developing countries is that there is likely no “water company” to call, because the people who installed the well live thousands of miles away.
Once the NGO volunteers leave the area, there will likely not be anyone local who knows how to fix the well when something inevitably goes wrong. In fact, it may not even occur to the villagers that they can or should try to fix the problem themselves. In this case, they will usually revert back to their old ways, perhaps walking for miles to get to a stream to haul unclean water back to their homes. In the meantime, there is a broken well in the middle of the town, and though the NGO got its fundraising and video opportunity, no one benefits in the long run.
A Better Approach: Foster Dignity through Ownership
In the early 1980’s, international development specialist James B. Mayfield was hired to gather information and file an audit report of all projects planned and paid for by the World Bank and USAID. What he found was that an astounding 83% of all the charity projects had failed, and the results were broken wells, unused hospitals, and abandoned schools. (For more information see Elizabeth Stuart, Deseret News, “It Takes a Village: Humanitarian projects better sustained with local leadership,” 8 Oct 2011.)
When looking at one particular broken well, Jim asked one of the villagers why it was not functioning. The man said, “Mr. Mayfield, we are waiting for the Americans to come back and fix their water pumps.” As the situation dawned on him, Jim realized that the villagers did not feel ownership over the resources that had been given to their communities. In addition, they did not have the parts, knowledge, or confidence to fix the wells themselves. Notice that this man thought of the pumps as belonging to “the Americans” rather than belonging to his village. This story highlights the problem of giving gifts without letting the local people lead the way.
After this experience, Mayfield began encouraging charities to focus on the important principle of ownership when helping a new village. For example, when building a new well for a community, charities could require the people to fulfill some basic requirements first. For example, CHOICE Humanitarian requires their target communities to pay for some of the investment cost of the well, and to create a water board comprised of local villagers who will be in charge of it. The individuals on the water board are trained on how to fix simple problems with the water pumps, and other aspects of well maintenance. Villagers pay a small fee to use the water, and everyone works together to keep it running. With stipulations that are aimed at creating ownership over the project, the people will have the dignity of self-ownership and responsibility, and the project is much more likely to have lasting impact on the community. For more information on sustainable village programs, visit www.choicehumanitarian.org.
Unintended Consequence #4 - Monuments to Philanthropic Ignorance
Many well-meaning charities and development agencies go into the rural villages, tell the people what their problems are, and offer a quick solution that may or may not make sense for that particular village. In effect, this method of “helping” inadvertently tells the villagers “You are not capable of resolving your own problems, so you have to rely on us, or someone else from the outside world, to help you solve your problems.”
This unintended message is not only false, but holds the people back, because they are not able to develop their own abilities to creatively solve community problems themselves. Handing out solutions freely, without taking the time to fully understand the problem, has the added danger of possibly prescribing an idea that is completely wrong for that particular village. In addition, this approach leads to wasted philanthropic dollars as organizations inadvertently create abandoned “monuments” of projects that were never fully implemented or embraced by the community, and which were eventually abandoned.
When traveling through Africa and other developing areas of the world, it is all too common to see the remnants of projects started by well meaning organizations that are now abandoned and unusable. They are physical evidence of the unintended consequences of uninformed charitable giving based on trying to solve needs without fully understanding the long-term consequences of the gift. Following are just a few examples of the many monuments to philanthropic ignorance and abandonment scattered throughout the world.
Dangerous Water Cistern in Malawi Orphanage:
In Malawi, one philanthropic group spent thousands of dollars to make a large open concrete water collection reservoir in the middle of an orphanage. This pit is very deep, with no easy way to get the water out, and no way to rotate and filter the water, making it totally unusable. Unfortunately, because no one working at the orphanage knows how to fix the problem, or has the money to do it, this cistern has become a large breeding ground for malaria-infected mosquitoes, and a dangerous trap for the children to fall into.
It is very likely that when this reservoir was originally constructed, those who helped to fund and build it thought they were doing something very noble for this community. But because of philanthropic abandonment, there is no longer any use for this water cistern, and another NGO has come in and built a well and water pump nearby. In the meantime, the pit just sits there breeding mosquitos and posing a threat to the safety of the children.
[INSERT PHOTO #06: Malawi Orphanage Cistern]
[Caption:] A huge, unused water cistern at a Malawi Orphanage shows the heartbreak of monuments to philanthropic ignorance and abandonment.
Abandoned Facilities and Useless Equipment:
In another case, a secondary school in Ethiopia was given a state-of-the-art dairy processing facility and agricultural equipment by a charitable organization. Things went well for a few years, and the school children had milk, butter, and cheese to supplement their diets with protein. Unfortunately, as time went on, the only person who was trained on operating the facility got a job in another area and moved away. Since no one else knew how to run the place, they just locked it up, and there it sits, useless.
Although keeping the facility open would have been relatively easy with a fully-trained staff, it has become another monument to philanthropic ignorance, and the school children are no longer able to have the important nutrients from dairy products in their diets. It would be so easy to fix this problem for someone with resources and connections. But the villagers running the orphanage don’t know how to find someone else to run the dairy facility, nor do they have the funds to hire someone to train them. So it sits there abandoned and useless.
Additionally, members of our team have visited university laboratories in developing countries that are cluttered with expensive equipment that has never been used. Though donated by well-meaning charity organizations, it appeared that no one had considered making sure that the people were trained and mentored on how to use the equipment. Since the local people cannot afford to pay experts to teach them, this high-tech medical and laboratory equipment sits unused because no one knows how to use it. This is an example of what happens when a philanthropic organization simply donates supplies and equipment with no thought of making sure their gifts are actually useable by the people.
[INSERT PHOTO #07: Abandoned Baler
[Caption:] This farm baler sits abandoned in Ethiopia, apparently having never been used. Now parts have been robbed from it making it useless.
A Sustainable Solution: Use Appropriate Technology
These “monuments to philanthropic ignorance” show the importance of evaluating each charitable giving opportunity carefully to avoid the wasted resources that are a result of failing to do this. Educators will need to adjust their thinking to carefully evaluate the unique needs of the target community before jumping in with an “obvious” solution to the problem. Project leaders should ask the local people what their needs are, and help them determine for themselves what the best solution is, based on local resources and technologies unique to each cultural situation.
Remember that what works for the farmers back home may not be practical to use in rural, underdeveloped regions of the world. Before you recommend a change, first ask the local residents why they are doing things the way they do them. There may be an important reason why they do things that way, and your ideas could cause more problems. Observe carefully and work as a team with the locals to come up with a solution together rather than just telling them to do it your way.
It is critical for students, educators, and international developers to go into each village with an open mind and a listening ear, rather than with their minds already made up. Once there, it is imperative to work closely with the people, helping them discover the best sustainable solutions. With this approach, the villagers will be empowered to solve many of their own problems while maintaining their pride and dignity. For more information on applying the SSAM properly in a variety of circumstances, see the “Appropriate Technologies” chapter by Richard Brimhall.