Culture Guides

Guide to NGO’s and Aid

Suzie Capelli explains why it’s not as simple as teaching an African how to fish – You need to sell him the rod first…

Disclaimer: This article contains my opinions on the aid industry and development which have been formed in a large part by time spent as a development volunteer in Africa. They are in no way representative of any entity other than myself. (Although it says a lot about how much I have learned in diplomacy’s role in development work that I find myself compelled to write a disclaimer.)

Much of what is written below can be passed off as generalisations from someone relatively inexperienced in the field. However I believe most of what I have encountered is not atypical either of Africa nor or aid/development in other regions.

Aid and development is a large and complex issue with so many factors, interests and personal, national and supra-nationals compromises being made that no one can keep their hands (or conscious) completely clean. Notwithstanding, the industries are staffed, for the most part by highly dedicated and committed people, many of whom are unwilling or unable to see the effects of their work.

Development Joke (kind of)

Aid Worker #1: What’s the difference between aid and development?

Aid Worker #2: Its like that old saying, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat forever”. Aid is giving a man a fish in an emergency, development is what comes after, teaching the man how to fish.

Development Worker: Well actually its more like when my government has 10 million to spend on fisheries promotion in an underdeveloped country. So they enter into dialogue with the recipient government, having a pre-feasibility study, all costing 1 million. They instigate a committee at a cost of a further half million.

They then fly out an international consultant to do a needs-assessment study involving various stakeholders for 2.5 million. After which a pilot “fisheries and income generation” project is implemented for 3 million, with a further 2 million on training.

After the pilot, the remaining million is spent on assisting local fishermen to find alternative livelihoods as the pilot study has concluded that there is overfishing.

Suzie Capelli