Thanks to The Globe and Mail for running the series on “innovative ways to deliver aid in our conflicted world” and for publishing today my letter (as follows) in response to the articles, although I was disappointed that the newspaper chose to delete my comments on CIDA's funding of Canadian mining companies.
“Delivering aid” is an unfortunate choice of words, implying a one-sided, non-consultative approach. My experience, spanning 46 years and seven African countries, is that successful development assistance depends on long-term (one to two decades) community-based programs implemented collaboratively by relatively equal, mutually respectful partners.
The three-year project model is a quick fix favoured by reluctant donors always looking for the exit. As a continental strategy for Africa, it’s a rude and counter-productive little hello-goodbye game, and many well-conceived projects fail simply because their life span is too short.
CIDA’s recent “innovation” (funding Canadian NGOs to work in poor villages under the umbrella of Canadian mining companies) is a throwback that will probably deliver more harm than good and turn poor villages into little neo-colonies or factory towns with NGOs as paternalistic, if not parasitic, social overseers.
Entrepreneurs can be effective change agents, but they seldom emerge from subsistence farming villages. When good roads connect farmers to their markets, a country’s internal economy begins to grow and then entrepreneurs may emerge and help to diversify the economy.
Burris Devanney is a Canadian educator, development worker