By Ramadhani Kupaza
Community consultations for development
Politics, training, education, diplomacy, dialogue, democracy, transparency, law, communication, economics, religion and even war may solve certain development problems. Meanwhile, technologies can address other development issues. Adequate consultations with beneficiaries are important in order to make any development solution relevant and therefore effective.
With regard to development solutions like training and technologies, trainers may consult members of communities to understand technologies that are relevant to beneficiaries and to determine approaches to consider when teaching or when introducing a technology to a community. Far too many technologies that have been introduced to communities in the past were irrelevant or they have been ineffective in solving development problems.
Through dialogue or even research to assess community needs, trainers may learn about relevant technologies to teach based on the revelation that development institutions or communities would accept and therefore apply such technologies. Experience indicates that, members of communities would not apply even the best technology if they don’t understand why it is necessary to adopt such technology.
If they consult, trainers may be able to teach students how to design technologies that communities can afford. It reminds of the collapse of the “appropriate technology” movement which emerged during early 1970s but virtually collapsed in year 2000 or thereabout. The movement collapsed in part because it was promoting technologies which members of communities in developing countries could not afford.
Some colleges and universities offer maintenance, design or application of technologies as separate courses. Yet, members of communities use and also maintain the technologies they acquire. It suggests that it is important for trainers to teach designing, application and maintenance of technologies as one rather than separate courses, albeit from community perspectives.
On a related note, trainers may consult to learn that it is important to consider availability of raw materials for clients when teaching how to design a particular technology. For instance, a development NGO in Arusha has introduced water filters to a rural community in order to remove fluoride from drinking water. The filters use charred bones as raw material to absorb the harmful substance from water. But charred bones are not readily available to refill the filters when the used bones in the filters are to be replaced. As a result, members of communities have abandoned the technology. Such situations would destroy credibility and development of even the most effective technologies technically.
Educators may learn other aspects to consider for training when consulting with their beneficiaries. They may learn to consider teaching technologies which are adaptable, durable, safe, gender and environmental friendly. Meanwhile, trainers may learn that communities often embrace technologies that are ethical and which they can own.
For example, it is possible to enable members of communities to own renewable energy technologies based on solar or wind systems. On the other hand, members of communities cannot own or operate fossil fuel technologies like those associated with petroleum or nuclear reactors. Communities cannot operate such complex technologies.
It reminds trainers to consider incorporating social subjects like sociology in all technical subjects like engineering. For instance, some community development experts suggest incorporating business models when teaching courses involving designing and production of technologies. Other experts suggest incorporating sociology subjects when teaching technical courses.
In addition, trainers may learn through consultations that communities prefer small size technologies. In case in doubt, the laptop reminds that small can be modern and powerful. Also refer in that regard, to an African proverb which says “If many little people, in many little places, do many little things, they will change the face of the world.”