Development: The Dark Side

In the article by Millen, Irwin, and Kim, they address that oftentimes in development projects and aid, the attempts not only fail, but worsen the situation. This is not to say that aid projects are inherently “bad”, but the ways in which most of them are implemented are poor. Many development projects are put together and in place by the west. Thinkers and professionals come together to decide in which way the developing world will be best fixed. They use what Professor Gupta (IDS 100A) calls “scaling up”, which is the process of taking a development project that works in one small area and then applying it to the rest of the developing world. The people living in the affected regions are not truly respected, let alone involved.

If development is to work, the people living in these areas must be consulted extensively. They need to be made the center and most important aspect of the project, as they are those that will have to carry on the potential success. Also, who better to understand the problems of a community than those that live there. People coming from the industrialized world look at these people as the reason they are in the poverty they are in. It is rarely acknowledged that many of the hardships of the third world are vestiges and continuing affects of developed world. The global north sacrificed their global counterparts to achieve success, and then wonder why they haven’t been able to achieve the same in terms of development.

The developing world is ripe with intellectual innovation, that needs to be recognized. As this article shows, people with far less resources are able to come up with solutions to very serious problems. A man from India developed a simple and cheap means of producing sanitary pads.

Another example is of what started as a grassroots development project in Bangladesh. BRAC (Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee) developed a way to dramatically reduce diarrheal disease in children. They went from house to house for over ten years, as there small project became a huge NGO. By developing a way women could use household ingredients to save the lives of the children affected by diarrhea, they revolutionized the health care in the country. Projects like these are far more rewarding than those developed in a meeting room in the west and arbitrarily assigned to other areas of the world.

2 thoughts on “Development: The Dark Side

  1. I just have to say, I loved reading this post. It never crossed my mind that sanitary pads would be unaffordable in India, but the article you posted opened my eyes. Stories like that show the “developed world” that it doesn’t always take tons of manpower and resources to make a big difference. As we’ve discussed in class, the world’s problems can oftentimes seem overwhelming, but that just gives people an excuse not to take action. The Millen/Irwin/Kim article and your post prove that big aid projects are not always necessary and sometimes, they can even be detrimental. Lastly, I appreciated how you used information from another class and professor because it reiterates how interdisciplinary world health is.

    • I agree that this is a profound and intriguing post. It is vital to make the people living in an area the focus of the aid. From an anthropological perspective, Westerners so often believe themselves to have all the answers and solutions. We often tread heartlessly and destructively into foreign territory without ever considering the people themselves. It is crucial to step into peoples shoes in order to understand their way of life and beliefs before imposing ourselves, even when we are attempting to help.

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