Duncan Green outlines an emerging new approach at Oxfam;
how do these projects differ from traditional income generation? For decades, NGOs have been showing up in communities and persuading people to raise chickens or rabbits, open tailors, or plant the latest new wonder crop. The record is decidedly mixed. What’s different about this latest round?
- Involve local government and private sector from the outset – they are the only long term guarantors of ‘sustainability’.
- Scale – it’s no use just running a pilot and then crossing your fingers. From the outset, you have to think how your intervention needs to be designed to benefit 100,000s of people, rather than 100s
- It’s about value chains, not just production. Often the real barrier is not growing or making stuff, but finding the credit you need to keep you going between planting and harvest, getting the product to market (the roads here are terrible, gulleyed by rain and gouged by illegal logging trucks), or finding a reliable buyer who pays decent prices. Multiple actors need to be involved – it’s no use just funding a local NGO to hand out seedlings. Systems analysis is essential
- Advocacy: a systems approach resembles a micro version of Dani Rodrik’s bottlenecks to growth. Resolving one bottleneck (eg supplies of decent seeds), allows the effort to move on until it hits the next one (roads, access to finance, quantity and quality). Some of these can be incorporated into the programme, but many require local level advocacy (eg lobbying the public works department to do something about the roads, or the state bank to start lending to long gestating crops like rubber).