Friday, April 17, 2009

Afghanistan, Development and Understanding

Scott Taylor has a good article in this week's Embassy, the highlight of which was this part:

One NGO colleague working in Afghanistan did an assessment of a small village just north of Kabul. He observed that every day the women had to spend four hours a day labouriously hauling well water for cooking and cleaning. At a cost of only a couple of thousand dollars, this NGO had workers install a pump and a pipeline that brought water directly into the centre of the village. All the women had to do was turn on the tap and their chore was complete.
About one week later, the NGO representative returned to the site to discover the pump had been sabotaged and the pipeline dismantled. Outraged at this destruction, he asked who was responsible for the damage. Through an interpreter, the tribal
elder explained that it was the women of the village who had destroyed the labour-saving device.
As it turned out, the walk to the well was the highlight of the day for these women. They were out of their homes, away from their husbands and able to socialize and gossip. The extra four hours a day in their lives meant nothing to them, given that it was not replaced with any other form of entertainment, education or social activity.

As always, with development one has to be so cautious.


Blogger Dallas said...

That story is told so often in so many different contexts, I'm starting to wonder if there's any truth to it, or if it's purely allegorical.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Jono said...

I suspect the same logic that underlies 'development' that takes the form of assimilation also motivates the tendency to believe a that a ubiquitous response across context is more likely to be 'allegorical' than reflective of an ethnocentric approach to development (or, perhaps, that 'development' is ethnocentric).

12:07 PM  

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