When development efforts “disdevelop” other people

I have just received an email from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) notifying me about the launch of Food Security Portal for Africa South of the Sahara. This particular part of the mail has captured my attention

“Policies that are formulated without evidence and analysis may not meet the region’s specific needs and could exacerbate the conditions that are fostering poverty and food insecurity.”

This has reminded me of a case I came across some weeks ago in Mchinji district in central Malawi. I chanced upon a community of smallholder farmers who used to practice irrigation agriculture in a communal wetland until a reputable International NGO constructed a dam upland for a potable water project for urban dwellers 50 kilometers away from the community. Gone with the water they used to irrigate their crops with was their main source of livelihood.

This experience got me thinking if development planners conduct ex ante impact assessments of their “development” activities at all. And If they do, I wonder how comprehensive the assessments are. For example, who do they involve in the evaluation and why? do they consider the net welfare effects of their development activities well before project implementation?

Now, my experience with program planning in this part of the world is that most development practitioners”plan” development activities without conducting any situation analysis to understand the depth of the problem/opportunity they try to solve/leverage on. Furthermore, they do not consider who will be made worse off by their interventions, and to what extent. Mostly, they only concentrate on their “beneficiaries” and leave everyone else to their fate. It is not surprising then to see a project that claims to be developmental in purpose actually “disdeveloping” other sections of the community.

All in all, I agree with IFPRI when it says poorly made policies [and development activities by extension] could exacerbate conditions that perpetuate poverty and I join it in calling for evidence-based development interventions.

One thought on “When development efforts “disdevelop” other people

  1. It is an interesting scenario, paradoxical in nature. To some extent I would wonder as to why would a particular project benefit a particular community at the expense of the other community. Speaking of which, should we assume that a balanced setup of shared benefits in such project is not possible?. To some extent it would be safe to assume that such projects are implemented without a through insights of net impacts that follows to the communities who have a stake in a particular resource (s) being used (in this case wetland) at the same time It would be also safe to look at it in a way that development is favouring particular community setups. This draws me to a paradoxical view just as it has been observed on the blog post. Maybe the term “Development” should be reviewed or developmental players should think of new ways of addressing such scenarios just as the one presented on the blog.


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