Attaining Sustainable Development in Zimbabwe (An analysis of IIDF’s contribution to the face of progress)

These two decades preceding the dawn of the millennium have brought with them a lot of challenges for Zimbabwe. Agricultural production fell by 80% in the early 2000s, inflation sky rocketed to record breaking extremes by 2008 and economic activity is as good as insignificant today. This has been a tough experience for various Zimbabweans and a lot of them have left their home country in search for greener pastures. It is however interesting to note that a lot of international aid has been given to the country and various Non Governmental Organizations have carried out various initiatives to foster development. With billions of dollars in aid and in loans, the progress is insignificant in most cases except for considerable progress in health and education. The orthodoxy in donor organizations’ operation clearly hasn’t made them very effective in their methods. A few organizations have been insightful enough to break from the orthodoxy and introduced relativistic concepts.

Notably the International Institute for Development Facilitation (IIDF)has made this stride. This is a local NGO based in Mutare and has worked with various communities in the Manicaland province. I had the chance to sit down with the Programs Manager, Mr Christian Mataruka to catch up on the strategies that the organization takes and how they have worked for the initiatives it has carried out so far.

“It is simply the bottom — up approach taken in its rightful context,” he said going through the progress reports from the Community Based Planning (CBP)process they carried out in two districts. Community Based Planning is a common strategy employed by various organizations, how was this particular one more significant and getting more positive feedback?

“Well most Community Based Planning programs are understood as a bottom — up approach in the simplest sense,” he replied, “When we talk about roots, a lot of development practitioners consult village leadership instead of everyday people and so the program ends up being a picnic for chiefs and local leadership instead of the various socio-economic groups that make up the society.”

This is overwhelmingly true, most CBP programs are understood more as capacity building processes instead of human centered development initiatives. The same structure that oppresses women, children and the marginalized is the establishment that organizations seek to strengthen while the must have been beneficiaries have no say in the decision making process. There is a common fallacy in the development society in Zimbabwe that local leadership is the community. Organizations have for years consulted these leaders who are government appointed Councillors and traditional leadership. This is an establishment that maintains the status quo and is bureaucratic rather than democratic. This is an establishment that maintains that cultures have rights and humans don’t. Since 2000, donor organizations have strengthened their capacity through pseudo- CBP programs while continuing to marginalize the marginalized socio-economic groups.

IIDF has sought to work only with progressive leadership and make the socio-economic groups key decision makers in the process. The organization has reformed CBP from a Capacity building process to a Community building process. The privileged leadership has maintained an anti-progress system and fostered a dependency syndrome where the donor funding is not used for community development, but for their enhancement through the capacity building approach. IIDF’s reform is indeed a bottom — up aproach in its right context.

The same error in development thinking has been behind the lack of progress in Zimbabwe despite all the funds that have found their way to the country. An approach that focuses on the Zimbabwean rather than the Zimbabwean political system will be more effective and progress would be guaranteed. The same goes for the rest of Africa… it is not cultural or political establishments the development practitioners should seek to preserve or strengthen; its progress we seek to nurture from the African buried under the establishment!