Weird culture and language of development

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Friday, January 31, 2014


THE joke about so-called “development consultants” getting paid to provide knowledge and wisdom long known by villages they are trying to help may well express a weakness in this so-called globalized “culture of development”

A development consultant himself narrated the story. It’s about a materially acquisitive consultant who arrived in his assigned village to look into the progress of a “food security” project supported by the international funding agency which hired him.

Through global positioning system technology, the consultant easily determined the number of cows the village effort has grown into. He then approached to challenge and impress the cow herder, who was dozing off under a huge banyan tree and whom he was meeting for the first time.

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“If I can tell you the exact number of cows you now have, will you be ready to part with one head as my prize?,” he asked the farmer.

The herder agreed and the visitor readily came up with the exact figure. The farmer tied a rope around an animal’s neck and then handed the end of the rope to the development worker.

“If I can tell you what your job is, will you give me back the cow?,” the farmer asked in return.

The consultant agreed and the herder told him he was a consultant. Amazed, the consultant handed back the end of the rope.
“How did you know I’m a consultant,” he asked with urgency.

“Because you came just to tell me what I already know,” the farmer replied. “And by the way, the animal you just returned is not a cow; it’s a goat.”

The story on the wonders of information technology may be apocryphal, but that one about that sophisticated, urban pollution measuring gadget installed at the foot of Session Rd., Baguio’s main street, is true.

Purchased for about P10 to P12 million, it used to measure to the minutest parts-per-million the extent of daily pollution triggered by vehicle exhaust. By all means, it is, rather, was far more exacting and accurate than the cheaper, simpler manual gadget it replaced.

We need fast and accurate measurement of the daily extent of urban smog that is choking us. Accuracy of information results in accuracy in diagnosis. The right diagnosis leads us to the right cure.

Thing is, our layman’s eyes are daily witness to vehicles emitting thick, black smoke long before the modern gadget (that provides us information through its red LED crawler) was installed on that road island fronting the Maharlika Livelihood Center.

Problem is, we hardly can fund the cure until we’ve fully paid the cost of the measuring gadget.

Truth to tell, the expensive gadget had conked out about this time a couple of or three years ago. Its undoing was triggered by a stall set up for the “Session Road in Bloom” trade fair feature of the annual Baguio Flower Festival.

According to an environment official, the booth, or part of it, blocked the gadget’s laser feature that connects to a terminal along Magsaysay Avenue, near the Center Mall.

The source said it would require P900,000 to repair the smog-measuring machine.

That is nothing compared to the cost of maintaining the gadget when it was functional – P300,000 a month. That means the accidental decommissioning of the device is saving the bureaucracy millions of pesos in maintenance costs.

Western technology and development process may be ideal, yet costly for the poor, for us here in the South or Third World, as the developed countries, who tagged themselves the First World and the North, label us.

Paeng Gayaso , an advocate of the cooperativism movement designed to improve the lot of the poor through their pooling of their individual, meager resources , provided an anecdote about development labels on our way home from Manila one rainy night.

Paeng was in an international conference, listening to development speakers from developed countries make geographical references in their presentations. A delegate from India couldn’t help but ask: What gives developed countries the right to label themselves First World and India as Third World?

India’s civilization was already flourishing long before Europe emerged from the age of the vandals, he reminded the resource speakers. (email:mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments.)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 01, 2014.

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