Friday, November 22, 2013

The west comes to save Africa, with western ideas that fail

"For villages unconnected to national networks of any kind—roads, education and health systems–the project had to create everything from scratch, building oases of technology and resources in the middle of nowhere. Costs rose. Clinics failed for want of supplies, generators failed for want of parts and fuel, new crops like cardamom could not be sold, and many villagers could not be socialized into new ways of thinking in a few short years. In fact the villagers who resisted are perhaps the smartest people in the story, knowing how risky it might be to abandon the tried and true in favour of fanciful promises from outsiders. For the outsiders it was an experiment; for the villagers it was about survival."

"In 2006 the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) announced a $60m public-private partnership with Playpumps International, with $10m to directly come from the US government. As well as personal endorsements from both George and Laura Bush, the charity has the celebrity X-factor. Jay-Z raised $250,000 and DJ Mark Ronson pledged $1 per album sale to the charity. Large organisations have also been active in their support. The Co-op pledged that for every purchase of Fairbourne Springs mineral water, the company would make a charitable donation to go towards Playpumps. Millions of dollars are flowing, but is it just money down the drain?
In various press releases, interviews and on its website the charity has repeatedly referred to its ambition to build 4,000 Playpumps by 2010 to bring the "benefit of clean drinking water to up to 10 million people". The concept is simple: a merry-go-round is connected to a bore-hole. As children play, the spinning motion pumps underground water into a raised tank.
However, the Sphere Project states that the recommended minimum daily water requirement is 15 litres per person which – based on the pump's capabilities – would require children to be "playing" non-stop for 27 hours in every day to meet the 10 million figure. Under more reasonable assumptions, a Playpump could theoretically provide the bare minimum water requirements for about 200 people a day based on two hours' constant "play" every day – considerably less than its claimed potential."

I don't know.  This seems to be one of those times when we should step back and consider whether the locals might actually know more of what is needed than the outsiders with grand ideas.  Crowdsourcing anyone?

1 comment:

Jeff Jacobsen said...