|GATE - 1985/4 - Renewable Energy - Biogas (GTZ GATE, 1985, 56 p.)|
Making the Network Links Closer
Report on the DSE/GATE Conference in Berlin
by Renate Wilke-Launer
A letter from Central America for GATE's Question-and-Answer Service - the person in charge of these matters in Eschborn sent it back over the Atlantic to be dealt with at the Centro Mesoamericano sobre Technologia Apropiada (CEMAT), the GATE partner in Guatemala. "The people who wrote the letter," says Armando Caceres of CEMAT, "didn't know about us beforehand. But now that the Germans have told them that we exist and that we work well, they are pleased to accept our advice. In the meantime, we have been working together successfully for some time."
Using this example Armando Cáceres describes the cooperation partnership between GATE and at present 15 groups in developing countries. This represents an attempt to leave the one-way-street of technological information transfer. In order to exchange previous experience, to make future links even closer and to make the network links even tighter GATE had, in collaboration with the German Foundation for International Development, invited its partners to Berlin. GATE staff members, representatives of their project partners and other guests experienced in the field of AT discussed "Cooperation in the Field of Information and Documentation relating to Appropriate Technology", which was the topic of the conference.
There are many aspects to AT
Appropriate technology- as little as 10 years ago still dismissed as the creation of inexperienced crackpots-is today accepted throughout the world. Everyone wants it. Institutions to develop and test it are being established, the donor agencies of the developed world are willing to finance AT programmes. However, appropriate technology is not always understood properly. It is not a question of a bit of simple or consciously simplified technology for under-developed people and societies, but a comprehensive attempt at achieving development. Everyone was agreed on that at the Villa Borsig in Berlin, where the conference was held. The development of an easily produced and easily used device does not in itself result in development; it may even have a negative impact on it.
As appropriate technology can only be developed on the spot on the basis of a specific situation, it was not defined in detail at the beginning of the conference. During the course of the discussion it was defined again and again in ever new ways:
· as a holistic attempt to achieve development in order to solve problems with and through the people concerned,
· as the "religion" or "commitment" determining the course of development of people's own work and not the propagation of any particular type of equipment,
· as the attitude towards solving existing and articulated problems,
· as the common endeavours of a community,
· as the technology of liberation.
However different the approach in each case may be, the philosophy of self-determined and self-designed development underlying all these endeavours was shared by all the participants at the conference. Ideas and experience were exchanged and accepted on the basis of the particular context in question, in the knowledge that they are not valid and applicable everywhere. That is why each of the following generalizations requires a local interpretation.
Although development aid planners and administrators in the donor countries and their partners in the Third World use the same words, they nevertheless frequently speak a different language. This begins with the technical-administrative definition of the target group, at present "the poorest of the poor". A number of quantifiable indicators provide information-at the planning table - about who is poor. But the project partners on the spot understand poverty in a more comprehensive, society-related way. They speak of the favoured and the disadvantaged, both of people who are suffering from hunger and those who have lost hope, those who have been disappointed and betrayed by their leaders, of people who are not only poor but also deprived and oppressed. In order to work together with them to improve their living conditions, what is required is not a research report as incorporated in the donor's planning, but a needs assessment on the basis of a practical malady-remedy analysis.
And because it is still not a matter of course, it was emphasized once again at this conference and included in the written recommendations: Women must be taken into consideration at all stages and on all levels of the project. Many projects still fall because this principle is disregarded.
GATE as an intermediary
It is of decisive importance for the success of the project - and this point was included in the seminar recommendations, too - that the recipient community must be organized. This reflects the experience of the GATE partners that if communities are not organized and do not possess mechanisms for participatory decision-making and the ability to identify and analyse their problems, it is difficult to respond to the genuine needs and aspirations of the communities. The processing of the flow of information can be done better by organized communities. They can also assume greater collective responsibility, and provide checks and balances in the launching, installation, operation and maintenance of projects.
It is the task of GATE's partners to be intermediaries between these organized communities and the donor agencies. They have the central role of acting locally and at the same time of thinking globally. They are responsible for procuring and disseminating information, and also arrange for the council of experts. Calling in preferably local consultants is necessary at certain points. However, what is required are not experts in appropriate technology, but experts in a particular subject who are in a position to apply appropriate technologies. In order to avoid the setbacks resulting from purely technical solutions, the proposals for solutions must be developed and tried out in their social, political and environmental context. A kind of "barefoot" expert is required: neither volunteers who have enthusiasm but lack professionalism nor experts who may be more professional but lack motivation or the perspective of development. One of the participants, Prem Bhai from the Agrindus Institute in India, illustrated this problem with an example: Whilst the electrical engineers spent hours looking through their wiring diagrams trying to trace a fault, the electricians had already smelt out where the fault was and had begun to put it right.
As a rule the intermediary role can only be taken over by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as the objectives of the projects - social justice and participation - could well result in conflicts with the authorities. However, this does not mean that working together with the government agencies is not possible or meaningful. In some countries the NGOs have been able to occupy and make use of free spaces in the socio-political context. "We must cooperate where we can and resist where we must," was the way Prem Bhai described this selective collaboration.
AT groups cannot be politically neutral. They do not merely aim to help develop the "gaps" and to put right the mistakes of others which, for instance, have come about as a result of large-scale projects. Their work aims much more to be an appropriate reorientation of the entire development process.
Self-reliance is also an objective to be aimed at in the work of these intermediaries. Although they do not understand their work as a charity provided free of charge and try to bring about self-reliant processes of development, in the foreseeable future this cannot be achieved without financing from other agencies. The endeavour, however, is to achieve a diversification of the sources of aid. Furthermore, the NGOs are encouraged in the conference recommendations "to look for additional funds from other sources which are suited to their own conditions, e. 9. generating funds through the commercialization of products, the selling of expertise, and negotiating subsidies or contracts from government agencies. It should be noted, however, that commercialization results in certain problems related to conflicting objectives and attitudes to work, and experience suggests that commercial projects should be organized separately from other development work."
When calculating the projects one must take into account the fact that the calculations for cost effectiveness must be adapted to the project: "A cost-benefit analysis of programmes and projects relating to basic needs and services may not be easily quantifiable in terms of cash flow, income or profits. For example, it may not be easy to present the provision of water pumps to supply the drinking needs of a community in a cash balance-sheet."
Apart from these considerations of a more fundamental nature, recommendations based on the practical experience of the cooperation partnership were also formulated in Berlin. Thus, the aim should be to reduce the work involved in management of the project, for example in the statement of accounts. Instead of this, GATE should take a more active part in the projects. "GATE staff and the staff of other donor agencies should have a closer look at the local environment not only for the purpose of evaluation, but also in order to be able to understand better the social mechanics operational in the areas covered, as well as such factors as the environment, the topography and the level of life of the communities. The aim is not only to achieve better and more objective evaluation, but also to be able to communicate to others within their institution or agency their personal experience of the process."
It would also be possible to encourage a more intensive discussion about feedback for the project reports of the GATE partners. As far as financial support is concerned, the recommendations are in favour of increasing the funds for GATE. "GATE should have more funds in order to increase the rate and quality of technology transfer, but too much money in any one project may stifle thought and initiative. The allocation of resources should be assisted by an advisory board which includes cooperation partners. A grouping of smaller potentially valuable projects could result in administrative economies and facilitate worthwhile local initiatives." Such a strategy would not only encourage cooperation and the formation of networks within the various countries, it would also help to decentralize the structures of decision-making and also reduce the problem of "low absorptive capacity", which is so often deplored by the donors. In addition to this, GATE should assist its partners in finding further sources of funds and through public relations work in the media (publishing reports on successful projects, AT Award) endeavouring further to disseminate the idea of Appropriate Technology and to make it a recognized discipline.
Although AT work is local, listening to the people, living and learning with them, it needs at the same time a national, regional and international exchange of information, ideas and networking. This is not an asset in itself, but should be field- and action-oriented. So there is a fundamental difference between a "normal" documentalist and one involved in AT. A working group at the conference described the task of an AT worker as follows: "Besides the normal activities of an information worker, the AT information manager has to consult the potential users direct, he has to translate information into a language that users can understand and has to feed back information, including that gained in his own field-work, into the international AT info network."
A proposal with specific work assignments (e.g. the development of curricula for the training of AT info managers) is to be discussed at the SATIS (Socially Appropriate Technology International Information Services) meeting in New Delhi in December and then submitted by SATIS to UNESCO, who are to be requested to encourage these activities in the context of their programme.
The national, regional and international networks are to assist the exchange of information between the various groups. Apart from the exchange of information, their purpose is to improve communication between the various organizations, to take over coordination tasks in order to avoid doing work twice, to facilitate the implementation of programmes and to help strengthen the AT movement by means of lobbying.
In order to make the network links even closer, the objective - of GATE, too- is to promote programmes of face-to-face interaction (both South-South and North-South) and the exchange of experts between the various groups.
In his article on "Networking" Paul Osborn from Satis attempted to remove the veils from the bureaucratic vocabulary (cf. "gate" 3/85). This is also necessary and meaningful for the other aspect of NGO work - their local activities. A saying from Papua New-Guinea which was quoted during this week of intensive and fruitful exchange of information sums up this part of the discussion:
Go in search of your people,
learn from them, serve them.
Begin with what they have,
build on what they know.
But of the best leaders,
when their task is accomplished,
the people all remark:
"We have done it ourselves."
Cooperation Partner Programme To Be Extended
Beate Wörner, chief editor of "gate", talked about the results of the Berlin conference to Dr. Peter Baz, Head of Section 211, who is also responsible for the Cooperation Partner Programme.
gate: One of the aims, Dr. Baz, was to obtain an impression of the value of AT solutions to problems within the framework of Technical Cooperation at the present time and, more importantly, in the future. Have you now achieved this aim?
Dr. Baz: I believe that one especially important result of this conference is that the so-called "Hardware Approach", that is to say the employment and supply of machines and equipment is no longer in the foreground. The main objective now is to work out suggestions for AT solutions and to treat the equipment and machines merely as a means to solve the problem concerned within the framework of the suggested solutions. Recently, in particular, the only possible course of action for developing countries has been to look for such AT solutions to their problems, especially in view of the already existing high rate of foreign indebtedness in these countries.
gate: Are you now quite certain of how to proceed, of how to go about solving such problems, or are you still sounding out other possible solution methods?
Dr. Baz: I think that the most important thing at the moment is to make a start disseminating AT solutions of this kind on as decentralized a basis as possible in a large number of places. And the best way to do this is to put on-the-spot organizations in a position to work out such AT solutions on the spot with our support via so-called mediatory organizations or our cooperation partners. This would, at the same time, also mean that thousands of projects or small embryo projects could be run simultaneously in all developing countries.
gate: Dr. Baz, you have just mentioned the key word: cooperation partners. At the Berlin conference you succeeded in gathering all the partner organizations with which you cooperate around the same table. You managed to get them to talk things over among themselves. But what you didn't quite manage to do was to get the representatives of the German institutions which are also active in this field to sit down at the same table. Could this be interpreted as a sign of disinterest on the pea of the German institutions?
Dr. Baz: I don't think it is disinterest but simply the fact that we over here in Germany cannot offer that AT solutions which are necessary to developing countries, that the techniques and processes needed are not available here in Germany. The kind of so-called High-Tech solutions that will be found here in Germany simply cannot be transferred to, let alone financed by or applied in developing countries. These solutions can only be applied if enough experts, a well-developed infrastructure and the corresponding markets are available. In most developing countries, these three parameters do not exist in the forms necessary for such solutions, and this is probably the reason why few companies, institutions and groups were interested in this conference
gate: One question, Dr. Baz, which people are bound to ask after this meeting in Berlin is what are the next concrete steps to take? Do you wish to continue this type of fairly comprehensive dialogue? Have you given this any thought?
Dr. Baz: During discussions with our partners in Berlin it became abundantly clear that linking up these individual groups into networks is extremely important So the transfer of knowledge between developing countries, too, is a decisive parameter in the improvement of the situation, i.e. towards improving methods of finding solutions to problems. This applies not only to the international but also to the regional plane, which means that the meetings need not always be international - they can be African, Asian or Latin American meetings. We do, however, feel that a meeting with all our partners should also take place approximately every two years.
gate: Dr. Baz, you've already briefly mentioned that the existing problems can only really be solved if even more partners are brought in to cooperate. Does this mean, as far as GATE's work is concerned, that you are trying to extend the number of partnerships you have already established?
Dr. Baz: Over the past five years we have discovered that this is a very efficient way to produce highly-effective problem solutions at relatively low cost. At the present time we are trying to expand this cooperation partner programme from the present 15 to a future 100 cooperation partners, as this is the only possibility to tackle the existing problems in a more extensive and comprehensive way.
List of Participants at the Conference.
Mr. Jeremy Ascough
University Technology Forum (UTF)
University of Zimbabwe
P.O. MP 167, Mount Pleasant
Mr. Osei Kwabena Bonsu
Technology Consultancy Center
University of Science and Technology
Dr. Armando Cáceres (Mr.)
Centro de Estudios Mesoamericano
sobre Tecnologia Apropiada
Apartado Postal 1160
1000 Berlin 36/FRO
Mr. Eugenio Gonzales
Engineering Research and
Development Foundation Inc.
University of the Philippines
NEC Building, UP Campus
Diliman, Quezon City/Philippines
Mrs. Maria Isabel Herrera Ruiz
Comision de Cordinacion de
Tecnologia Andina (CCTA)
Mr. Rudolf Heubers
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen
1092 AD Amsterdam/Netherlands
Miss Delia Hynson
Farmers Assistance Board (FAB/SIBAT)
P. O. Box 338
Mr. David Inger
Rural Industries Promotions (RIP)
P. O. Box 2088
Mr. Jean Kana
Association pour la Promotion des
Initiatives Communautaires Africaines
B. P. 5946
Mr. Andrew Kauleni
South Pacific Appropriate Technology
P. O. Box 6937
Boroko/Papua New Guinea
Mr. E.J. Ledebur
Society for Information and Documentation
5300 Bonn 2/FRG
Mr. Juan Carlos Medina
Servicios Multiples de Tecnologia
CasIila 2 04 10
Mrs. Dora Ordonez
Centro de Ingenieria pare
Tecnologias Adecuadas (CITA)
Casilla 10 24
Mr. Paul Osborn
Socially Appropriate Technology
International Information Services
1092 AD Amsterdam/Netherlands
Mr. Prem Bhai
Benwasi Seva Ashram
Dr. Ragini Prem (Mrs.)
Agrindus Institute .
Benwasi Seva Ashram
Mr:. Pascal Sambou
Action dans le Tiers Monde
B. P. 3370
Mr. Y. K. Sharma
Consortium on Rural Technology
E 350, Nirman Vihar
New Delhi - 11 0092/lndia
Mr. Günther Rossmann
Centro de Ingenieria para
Tecnologias Adecuadas (CITA)
Casilla 10 24
First GATE Film
By documenting one project in detail, this 35-minute film shows how Appropriate Technology simplifies the lives of the women in a village in Mali. It presents the production of shea-butter. GATE has copies of^this film in German, English, French and Spanish. The original German title of the film translates as "The Butter Tree of Zambougou".
A slide show and a publication on the same topic are in preparation.
"We Are Using Very Small Stones. . ."
Cooperation with Governmental and/or Non-governmental
by Hannah Schreckenbach
It has been known for quite some time that a large number of technical cooperation projects - those that normally result from bilateral consultations and negotiations between the governments of developing countries on the one hand and the governments of donor nations on the other hand - are based on concepts which, when implemented, very often do not reach the large group of rural and urban poor for whom the aid is meant in the first place, if we are to believe the development aid policies which have been formulated by the various donor countries and which are meant to guide the allocation of aid funds.
Apart from this, one also has to look at the kind of "development" which was the aim of many developing countries after they gained their independence, especially those countries which embarked upon industrialization with a high growth rate. The result of this development in many countries (e.g. Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil) was an uneven growth in terms of their internal society with a widening gap between the towns (which represent economic enclaves, elite thinking and where the planning and decision-making takes place) and the rural areas, and within the towns themselves (e. 9. the squatter settlements, slums, shanty towns, favelas of Nairobi, Lagos, Bombay, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, etc.). This uneven growth is "reflected by the wretchedness and misery of a large proportion of the Third World population compared with the prosperity of isolated sectors" (Samir Amin, Economist, Director of the Strategies for the Future of Afrika programme UNITAC, Dakar, Senegal).
Cooperation with governmental organization in developing countries means for us a long, tedious way of consultations, negotiations and exchanges of notes, before an agreement is signed for the implementation of a programme or project.
When negotiating aid programmes or projects the governments of developing countries normally undertake to contribute towards the implementation of the project by providing the necessary physical infrastructure or part of it (site or buildings, electricity, water, telephones, personnel, etc.) and budgeting for recurrent expenditures, that means the provision of funds for administrative overheads, etc. Since many developing countries, especially in Africa, entered a phase of prolonged crisis at the beginning of the 1970's (even before the 1973 oil crisis), our GO partners could very often not, or only to a very limited extent, fulfill their commitments according to the bilateral agreements. Therefore, a considerable number of projects were never completed, i.e. the partner has never taken full responsibility for the management and running of the projects including the provision of the necessary funds for all expenditures. The benefit of some projects turned out to be very limited and, in certain cases, their upkeep was a continuous drain on external aid funds.
In addition, a number of critics point out that development assistance in cooperation with governmental organizations more often than not results in financing an undemocratic government against local populations in "a latter-day equivalent of the slave trade" (Patricia Adams and Larry Solomon: In the Name of Progress; Double-day/Energy Probe 1985, Toronto, Canada).
GATE has, since the beginning of its establishment as a division of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), worked together with non-governmental organizations in developing countries. The concept of our cooperation with partner organizations (AT groups, self-help groups, cooperatives, etc.) is part of the Question-and-Answer Service project of GATE. We are using very small stones to build a structure upon the fact that our target groups (the rural and urban poor) can be motivated to participate in the development process. Our NGO partners are taking up the role of a necessary link with the target groups in order to raise their productive capacities through self-help. In this context it is interesting to note that our concept is also accepted by our own government:
"External aid can only really be effective in the long run when it helps to advance this self-help process" (statement by the Federal German Ministry of Economic Cooperation, April 1985).
Only in some cases have GOs of developing countries reacted negatively to our initiative to assist NGOs.
In such instances a cooperation with parastatal organizations may be the answer. In many countries self-help initiatives (women's clubs, cooperatives, farmers associations, etc.) are not only tolerated but actively assisted by governmental organizations. These GOs have realized the importance of involving their people in the planning and decision-making process and of improving the productivity of the people as a basis for self-sustaining economic growth.
The effectiveness of technical and development cooperation can in our opinion only be reached through an increased cooperation with NGOs. There are a number of reasons for this:
· the development involves those who are to benefit from it, it considers their priorities and needs;
· the scale of projects implemented to meet the needs of the target groups is consistent with the availability of their own resources;
· NGOs are the instrument for promoting self-help and as such can guarantee the participation of the target groups in the development process.
A self-help group of women in Zimbabwe making bricks for building latrines.
Changes in Development Policy
In the Sixties and even at the beginning of the Seventies people assumed that growth resulted in development, and so development policy was also based on this assumption. It is an idea that has proved to be false. The Parliamentary Secretary of State for the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation, Volkmar Köhler, pointed out this trend In "Europa-Archiv" No. 16/1985, before he went into the details of the reorientation and the new proposals for solutions which have developed from this change of approach.
The main features of this reorientation are, according to Köhler, the trend towards projects in agriculture, the health services and education, the political dialogue with the partner countries of the Third World the result of which helps to determine the extent and the programme of the development cooperation. A further feature is that self-help activities and initiatives by the target groups themselves are being encouraged to a greater degree than previously and that the social and cultural conditions of the development country in question are being taken into consideration to a greater extent in the planning and implementation of projects, and that the schemes are being checked for their environmental compatibility.
As Köhler further pointed out, a process of rethinking is necessary in the industrialized and developing countries in order to increase the effectivity of the development aid. For example, the industrialized countries would have to think more intensively about how to prevent their subsidized agricultural surpluses from ousting the rival products of the developing countries from markets in third countries.
The developing countries, for their part, had to realize that, after the period of "nation-building", it was now time to try to bring about the participation of broad classes of the population in the economic and social progress at the cost of the privileged elite, in order to initiate self-reliant development. In the middle of the Eighties one of the main tasks of development policy, cooperation, in Köhler's opinion, is to improve the policy of dialogue.
A self-help group of women in Zimbabwe making bricks for building latrines.
Drawing: Hannah Schreckenbach