Need-based approach in community development
Farming activity was the main body of community development in Ethiopia with the aim of building the capacity of rural people in agriculture by providing training and transferring advanced knowledge and experiences. Professors in agriculture from Korea visited a village in Ethiopia in 2013 to provide advice on a horticultural program where discussion on what kinds of crops would be appropriate to be planted was in question. The experts from Korea suggested that carrot, potato, and tomato be planted in conclusion of their two weeks research on agriculture in Ethiopia. The project operation team accepted the recommendation and those horticultures were planted in the common farming area.
To be honest, two things are found to be wrong in this story. First, lack of quality research on the local context of horticultural practices prevented the expert group from examining the reality correctly. If they had studied the surroundings of the target village thoroughly they would have selected those crops that could be easily managed with little of water and basic farming skills. In fact, what they have chosen were profitable in the market, but it was difficult for the members of the village to manage the practice given that water is scarce, and they are not used to making a living out of farming in the first place.
Second, the project team failed to reflect the needs of the village members in designing development program. Sufficient and sincere communication was not conducted between the project and community in the process of setting activities, allegedly based on the a false belief that the community is ignorant of agriculture and needed to be educated. In the end, they were asked to participate in cultivating vegetables on which they have little interest, and that were not not even fit to their tradition and natural surroundings.
The project would have been much successful if it had coordinated with the village members in seeking out solutions to problems with love, humility, and faith in their capacity. Simply speaking, for example, the project team could have visited one of the villagers’ houses to see the food ingredients on their dinner table. It may figure out of discussion with the village members that what the expected return on invest of growing a particular vegetable, and that how the cultivation can fit into the environmental factors of the community in consideration of soil, wind, and water? This kind of inquiry and analysis should have been carried out with the engagement of the community for the effective project implementation.
Later it was found to be lentil that satisfies the need of the villagers. It is one of the essential ingredients for the diet of people in Ethiopia. It is easy to grow with a little amount of water and labor. It withstands strong wind, and productivity ratio is high compared to the size of land in cultivation. It turns as a good market value in dry season so that the village members
can be stable in cash flow. In addition to these, it provides a good nutrition when they eat and keep them healthy.
In conclusion, it was not a complex and sophisticated data analysis to know the needs of the community, but a kind and humble observation and dialogue with the them to understand better their lives.