Tag Archives: rural poverty Africa

Book Review: The Idealist

13 Dec

9780385525817In April 2008 I visited a Millennium Village in Senegal called Potou with the idea of doing an article on what a bad idea the whole thing was.

Instead, it surprised me by turning out to very different from everything I had read about Jeffrey Sachs’ anti-poverty enterprise: well thought out, collaborative with local government and NGOs, and, in particular, based in large part on gathering community opinions on the project, or what its director, Omar Diouf, called “awareness raising.” Individual peasant farmers and heads of rural unions told me how sure they were that  by the end of the project’s five-year life span, they would be able to go it on their own. In fact, Mr. Diouf told me that what he had seen in Sachs’ other villages convinced him to greatly alter the MVP modus operandi.

Hence, no article.

But as soon as I got wind of Nina Munk’s book on Sachs and the MVPs, The Idealist, I was immediately curious. While she concentrates on two villages, one in Kenya, called Dertu and another in Uganda, called Ruhiira, the whole MVP set up was already getting a poor marks on the report cards of external evaluators and experts in development. Their main cavil was that Sachs’ claims of massive improvements in the quality of life for people in the poor African communities it had targeted were a) greatly inflated, b) impossible to prove, and c) could not necessarily be attributed to his project. There was no way, they said, to compare what would have happened in those villages had the MVP not come along by without looking at other similar villages that had not received this influx of aid.

And indeed, Ms. Munk’s research only supports their doubts. There were many times when I was reading this fascinating and well-paced book, shaking my head and thinking, ‘No. I can’t believe they did that.’ She describes, for example, the building of a livestock market in the village of Dertu and, in Ruhiira,  the switch from the usual cultivation of matoke bananas to corn and beans, heavily doused with chemical fertilizers — both Sachs’ idea.

The market no one asked for remained largely ignored by the pastoralist community of Dertu, even though their old market was a two-day walk away. And the bumper corn crops in Ruhiira found no buyers, being too far away from anyone who wanted to buy them. Other business ventures — like pineapples and cardamom — ran into similar brick walls.

What stands out in this book, and in the philosophy behind Sachs’ projects, is the way it simply drops its theories and advice into the desperately poor communities that have been chosen. People are persuaded to do things that make sense to Sachs and the experts working at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, only to find that they bring with them too many downsides. Millions of dollars are spent on improving health clinics, schools, and other collective infrastructure, but there is nothing to sustain them. Neither the Ugandan or Kenyan government was exactly eager to take on the expense of running them, and no one was seeing enough growth in revenue to start paying user fees. Education ministries didn’t provide text books, ill-paid teachers still went AWOL, no one cared to clean out the MVP-built latrines, and all the Sony-donated laptops disappeared.

At the same time, Ms. Munk points out, the influx of money in Dertu started attracting new residents to its arid confines, pastoralists who decided to “abandon their nomadic way of life and settle in and around (it).” Trash began to fill the ditches between people’s houses while the money the MVP local director gave  a newly formed “Garbage Committee” to cart it away somewhere vanished. The little local businesses, like Sahlan Bath Hussein’s tea shop, which  sprouted up were inundated by more competitive newcomers.

Yet what we are seeing here, I believe, is not poor people’s unwillingness to embrace progress and think about the collective, but rather a super re-tread of the whole foreign aid paradigm. “That predominant paradigm,” says Gord Cunningham, assistant director of the Coady Institute in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, “has been around fixing what’s wrong with communities. Identifying needs. And then, how we can help fix those deficits.” And while it does represent “a positive and well-meaning evolution from communities not getting much help at all and being completely exploited, the bottom line is that there have been a number of unintended consequences of this approach. One is that leaders in communities really start to look for what can come from outside, versus what they can do for themselves. They also get judged on how many resources they can bring in. That seems to be a measure of success rather than on how good the community becomes dealing with its own issues.”

Aside from the holistic approach identified by Mr. Diouf, the only thing that is new about the MVPs is the concerted push of resources, millions of donor dollars, thrown at one particular micro-region. Like the Millennium Development Goals, as the Earth Institute PR guy told me last year they were “trying to accomplish,” the idea is to demonstrate what the London-based Institute for Environment and Development’s Tom Biggs called the “effectiveness of aid, setting up the hypothetical framework that aid is hugely significant in the delivery of change, when it can only ever be a catalyst, or a significant factor in only a limited number of very poor countries.”

Some reviewers have taken issue with The Idealist for seemingly concluding that foreign aid never does any good, and underline Ms. Munk’s lack of knowledge of development. But I don’t see this so much as yet another cautionary tale about the inevitable pitfalls of the way so much foreign aid works. Sometimes, as Potou would seem to indicate, yes, it can work. It can work when there are lots of existing actors on the ground, a stable government that already provides some limited services — like electricity —  local organizations that are able to take advantage of the money and training, and above all, MVP staffers who, as Mr. Diouf said, “re-visited and reworked the concept to adapt it to our reality.” This was not the situation in either Kenya or Uganda — or Mali, where one project had to be shut down after a coup.

But it won’t work when there has been no process of placing the reins of change in the hands of the communities themselves — a long process, no doubt about it, that requires a lot of listening and pondering and cooperation — and when there is no consideration given to the sustainability, to real growth, however modest, in incomes, to at least some kind of serious buy-in on the part of local governments. Indeed, aside from  the Coady Institute, says Mr. Cunningham, “there are a lot of people who are trying a more strength-based, or asset-based, approach, that essentially recognizes the power of a community building assets rather than just relying on outside solutions.”

At the end of the book, as we read about new problems, slashed budgets, and staff fired out of frustration, Ms. Munk interviews “a member of Sachs’ inner circle in New York,” who says, “In hindsight it was like we were set up to fail. It’s not that Jeff’s ideas are wrong– he’s a big, inspiring thinker. It’s that the project’s ambition moved more quickly than capacity.”

But more likely, its problems can be laid at the door of outmoded ways of thinking about aid, one that merely talks the talk of community participation and management. As one complaint went — out of a list of 14 compiled by the owner of Dertu’s drugstore — “The project is supposed to be bottom top approached but it is vice versa.”

Even so, Sachs managed to get enough fresh funding to continue his Millennium Village Project for another five years.

Aside from Potou, however, this book also reminded me of Haiti, where Cantave Jean-Baptiste, the director of Partners in Local Development, would be happy to have even a tenth of what the Earth Institute can afford to spend. When he would go to a poor village, he says, “They ask, ‘what are you bringing us?’ And I say, ‘We’re not bringing anything. We have come to understand where you live what are your challenges and together we will see if there is some means of helping you with some of the obstacles.’”

Repurposing Our International Leftovers

2 Apr

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Yesterday Owen Barder of the Center for Global Development’s U.K. office sent around one of his usual announcements having to do with what’s happening in the world of development aid. Usually these have to do with some of interesting podcasts he hosts called Development Drums.

This one, however, described a new program that would see thousands of tons of otherwise wasted food from our First World supermarkets be sent to hungry people in the so-called Third World. After all, we throw out or otherwise waste an estimated 1.2 billion metric tons of food annually, wrote Mr. Barder –“because of losses in harvesting, storage, transportation and poor labelling.  This is between 30-50% of all food produced: yet at the same time, about 900 million people will go to bed tonight hungry.”

As a result, he said, “(a) consortium of donors, NGOs, supermarkets and agro-businesses are working on plans to use surplus food, currently wasted in industrialised countries, to the developing world to tackle hunger.”

Well, it did take a few seconds but then I realized that it was April 1st — and that Mr. Barder was just kidding us. He even concocted a rather brilliant acronym for this “plan” – the Africa Pilot for Repurposing International Leftovers (APRIL).

Nonetheless, the tongue-in-cheek message did offer some, ahem, food for thought.

How many of us were told , as youngsters refusing to eat something we didn’t like, “to think of the starving children in Africa,” and eat up? Most of us I imagine. Yet as the absurdity of Mr. Barder’s April Fools Day message makes clear, there is something awry in a system where so many people waste food and so many others don’t have enough to eat.

It is pretty clear by now that the reasons for this is not because there isn’t enough food in the world to feed us all. It is because millions of people in the Global South don’t have the money to buy it. Their incomes are so small — either from working, farming or running some kind of small informal business — that the percentage of income available for food is as negligible as our concerns about throwing away a third to a half of what we buy.

What’s more, we are not talking here about the wilted lettuce in your crisper, but the vast amounts that gets lost in the food chain before it even gets to our fridge.

Why is food so expensive in countries where so many people live on one to two dollars a day?

It is, in fact, the same system that still makes huge profits dumping a ton of misshapen potatoes, or pricing their produce so high it didn’t sell so it gets tossed. Poor countries, moreover, are often highly dependent on food imports — which is crazy when you think about it.

Haiti for example was self-sufficient in food, much as many people barely got by, until the 1980s. Now it must import from abroad about 80 per cent of its food, and when prices spike, as they did, in 2007, even people with jobs simply can’t afford the tax-payer-subsidized rice or pasta from abroad. Meanwhile, the farmers that once grew the rice themselves have long been put out of business by the cheaper subsidized product. Rural poverty not only means that farmers have no storage facilities or roads to transport their produce, but they lack enough land to make a decent living.

Yet the wealthy countries of this world continue to promote poor-nation dependence on our “leftovers.” They continue to say that agri-business is better for food production than small family owned farms. And, of course, they continue to receive billions in subsidies.

APRIL may be a joke, but it’s one that illustrates the upside down world of poverty and food. Let’s hope it hits our governments’ brains, for a change, instead of their funny bones.

The Dangerous Prospect of Protesting Palm Oil

24 Feb
Photo: Lian Pin Koh, Creative Commons

Photo: Lian Pin Koh, Creative Commons

What’s worse than a palm oil company destroying acres of rain forest in Asia to plant palm trees for palm oil?  Those same companies doing the same thing in Africa.

And while they may not get away with threatening the life of someone organizing resistance to their bulldozing the forest and forest dwellers in Indonesia, it appears they are doing so in Nigeria.

The Indonesian Peasants Union, or SPI,  brought attention last week to the death threats and police harassment Odey Oyama is dealing with right now. Mr. Oyama, a barrister by profession, looks like a mild-mannered type of guy. He is the director of the Rainforest Resource Development Centre in Calabar, Cross Rivers state. He has charged one of the largest palm oil companies in the world, Singapore-based Wilmar International, with breaking Nigerian law by grabbing 50,000 hectares of land belonging either to a protected forest reserve or to local farmers for their business. And he has charged the local government for letting them do so.

Working to stem environmental havoc in his country for some 20 years now, Mr. Oyama previously tried to stop a cacao plantation in his state, one that would take over more than 5000 square kilometres of virgin rain forest part of which was under community management.

Wilmar is also going to take over dozens of small farms leased for 25 years to small holders in a poverty-alleviation scheme that allowed them to produce and sell palm oil , although not anywhere near the quantities a multi-million dollar multinational can.

Nigeria has enough problems, both environmental and social, without adding land grabbing to the mix. Despite its vast oil wealth, 80 percent of the population lives in poverty. It is also one of the most corrupt countries on the Transparency International list, with even presidents slicing large chunks of palm-oil pie for themselves on land that is not theirs.

Nigeria is not the only poor — although I hesitate to write that word in an country that earns billion in petroleum revenue, but it is — nation in Africa to have come to the attention of palm oil magnates.

In Liberia, still recovering after years of brutal warfare characterized by drug-fueled child solders and a gleeful predilection for mutilating people,  palm oil companies are grabbing almost  a million hectares of land whilst violating the human rights of local communities.

And in Cameroon, an American company called Herakles Farms is currently clearing land for a 70,000 hectare palm oil plantation that will sit between and partly within two National Parks. Herakles says it is a champion of sustainability with its biofuel business, and claims that a) much of the forest land is already degraded anyway, and b) the local villagers using the forest for its renewable resources would actually prefer to have the employment instead.

It counters the complaints of various environmental organizations like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace by saying that the backing of local chiefs is proof that they have the communities’ support.

But just how democratic was the decision-making process in those communities? Do some people stand to gain more than others within them when a multinational comes to town?

After all, whether national or at the district level, cash-crunched local governments often like to think that these enormous plantations will bring economic growth, but like any gigantic agri-business, they only seem to improve the livelihoods of their CEOs and shareholders. As Silas Siakor, a campaigner for the Liberian NGO Sustainable Development Institute put it, “Allocating large swathes of fertile agricultural land to foreign companies for several decades will push people further into poverty, as local income generating activities are curtailed and peoples’ earning capacities become limited.”

One can only hope that Mr. Oyama does not meet the same fate as Antonio Trejo, another lawyer who took on the biofuel bigwigs. After three years of representing peasant movements fighting land takeovers and palm oil plantations in Bajo Aguan, Honduras, he was gunned down last September.

Some comments on Kony

11 Mar

Photo by Tommy Tornado

So by now I must be one of the few people on the planet who has not seen the Kony 2012 tape. It’s not because I don’t want to know about Kony, but rather that I already know too much about the man: his weird biblical fervour, his forcing of young children to not only join his army but to kill, maim and rape family members before doing so (smaller, weaker children are often killed on the march), his use of girls as sex slaves for him and his Lord’s Resistance Army gang, and the fact that, for years, thousands of children had to walk every night to safe towns from their outlying villages to avoid being press-ganged. I also know that he has been free to roam from one dysfunctional African nation to another, sowing violence and death among unprotected villages and towns along the way for 26 years.

So, no, I haven’t seen the tape, but I have been following its progress and the growing debate around its usefulness. It is probably one of the most viral videos ever, going from a few hundred hits last Monday to more than 26 million on Friday. Who knows where it’s at today.

The debate has grown apace. I won’t get into all of it — the Guardian does a great job of capturing its depth and breadth on its website. But most of the criticism of Jason Russell’s endeavour has to do with the fact that he doesn’t deal with the complexities of the situation — at all, really — that the situation itself has changed and, mostly, it would seem, that he is calling for an army, preferably that of Uganda, to go in, like the Cavalry in an old western and save the day. And if not them, then the U.S. army.

The NGO Jason Russell heads, Invisible Children, has been working on this issue for several years now, and this is probably the tenth such video it has produced and disseminated. It doesn’t really do humanitarian and/or development work, rather seeing its job as mostly one of advocacy and raising awareness around Kony and his horrific crimes. One thing it has done, according to Hunter Heaney of The Voice Project, has been setting up an early warning system, allowing communities to warn each other of LRA incursions. What’s more, he says, “there are only about 250 fighters at this point, but they’re still displacing half a million people in Congo.”

For me, the point is that this phenomenon is occurring in the void left by governments and policy makers and even, to a certain extent, the mainstream media. Rather than talk about or look for effective measures to counteract or capture Joseph Kony, they have done little if anything to enlighten or assure us. When it comes to the region in general, world leaders, especially those in the United States, have created the empty space into which this film with all its emotional shock value has flowed.

Instead, they have a history of supporting and financing local leaders or governments, regardless of how they treat their people, when it suits their interests and rail against or ignore them when it doesn’t. Along with those kinds of policies go decisions on aid like development assistance, on when to pay attention to a crisis and when not to.

It is a context in which, for example, Canadian general Romeo Dallaire, then head of the United Nations peacekeepers in Rwanda, warned the United Nations in 1994 that Hutus were breaking a peace agreement by stockpiling weapons and was told to forget about it. A context where not only was then-Under-Secretary General for peacekeeping Kofi Annan never held to blame for the resulting massacre of 800,000 Tutsis, but was promoted to head of the U.N. instead.

It is a context where the impact of the complete lack of government accountability and violence on the desperately poor of eastern Africa is forgotten and neglected, but their plight painted as somehow innately cultural and incomprehensible.

Little wonder then that an emotion-spearing film by a small group of people with access to modern technology and mass communication can fill that void with a tremendous onslaught of sound and image, quickly picked up and spread far and wide by millions of shocked youth. (According to YouTube, most viewers are between the ages of 13 and 24.)

I think it is short sighted to find fault with the bearers of a message, however flawed and incomplete, and miss the lack of attention given the message itself by those in power.

But I agree with many of the film’s critics that what the people of northern Uganda, the victims of Kony and the LRA need most now is a chance at new and better lives. That’s why I continue to admire the work done by The Voice Project and any other NGO, like ActionAid, that is looking for ways to help, and compliment the mega-attention Kony’s crimes are now receiving with concrete solidarity. Now is a good time for them to step into the breach with more information and, best of all, the possibility of some indigenous solutions. Kony 2012 may only be part of the story, but it’s up to the rest of us now to look for ways to complete it.

“There are millions and millions of people around this planet who have never heard about Kony and never cared,” says Heaney, “and now they do.”

(And as the debate grows and reactions spread even further, I am going to add a link here to a news item from Al Jazeera, showing those of the people to the film in ( one town at least in ) northern Uganda.)

Selling Land, Stealing Livelihoods

14 Dec

Today the International Land Coalition released a report they and several other organizations joined together to produce on the buying up of arable land in poor nations for immense personal and corporate profit. Think of a country where protests erupt — like Egypt — or where donors send money to help the poverty stricken — almost everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa — and you will find rural families’ inability to make a living at the root of their poverty. While they own tiny parcels of land that don’t allow them to eat, let alone prosper, either wealthy families or the state itself control extremely large swathes of it.

So the report and its findings make for dire news indeed. In fact, it’s hard to know where to begin. Researchers found purchase or lease deals adding up to 203 million hectares between 2000 and 2010, most of them in Africa. While 78 per cent of those deals they were able to cross-reference went to agriculture, only about a quarter was destined for the cultivation of food. The rest was for revenue-rich bio-fuel production.

Other scary conclusions include the fact the best, most fertile land is usually targeted for lease or purchase; that poor farmers are being dispossessed of both land held by custom and access to water; that rural women are particularly vulnerable; and that extensive areas of natural ecosystems are being felled for bio-fuel, tourism, industrial projects and so on.

“The competition for land is becoming increasingly global and increasingly unequal,” said ILC Director Madiodio Niasse in a press release from the International Institute for Environment and Development. “Weak governance, corruption and a lack of transparency in decision-making, which are key features of the typical environment in which large-scale land acquisitions take place, mean that the poor gain few benefits from these deals but pay high costs.”

I have posted twice already about these ‘new enclosures’ and written about foreign companies coming in to desperately poor nations to make use of their best land. But apparently, national elites – who are often let off the hook for taxes in order to attract investment — are playing a far larger role in land grabbing than previously thought.

What else lies behind this pernicious trend that will only deepen rural poverty in the third world?

It is actually the same political and economic structure that has people protesting from Wall Street to West Africa: the notion that financial elites know what is best for the rest of us. It simply flies in the face of common sense to think we should help the poor of the developing world with meager handouts and let big business convert their land into mega-estates.

But as the IIED’s Lorenzo Cotula (one of the report’s authors) put it, “Part of the problem is … that many policymakers think small-scale farming has no future and that large scale, intensive agriculture is the best way to achieve food security and support national development.”

Personally, I don’t think many policy makers truly believe that. I can’t help but surmise instead that affluent nation governments and the corporations that donate to their legislators think that there are still more ways to squeeze what little they have out of the world’s poorest.

Three Cups of Obfuscation

21 Apr

By now, many will have heard about the precipitous collapse of the reputation of Greg Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute. Mortenson, the author of the mega-bestseller Three Cups of Tea, faces accusations on two fronts – that, among other stories, the seminal tale he tells of stumbling into a poor Pakistani village after an unsuccessful attempt to climb K2 and promising to repay their kindness by building them a school – is fiction, and that some of the money he and CAI have received in donations goes to help him market his already lucrative book-and-speaker venture rather than construct schools.

For me, conflating and confusing the two is an error, and diminishes the most serious aspect of Mortenson’s deceit. It is one thing to learn that so much of Mortenson’s “inspiring” memoir, including being kidnapped by Taliban, is baloney — an unfortunately necessary device, I would say, considering the publishing world’s thirst for memoirs (and one I have never been able to understand or sympathize with). I have only just begun to read Jon Krakauer’s thought provoking debunking of the Mortenson myth – Three Cups of Deceit, available on Byliner.com and, a certain sense of schadenfreude aside, a very interesting read.

But it is the latter issue, I think, that is most egregious. Part of the problem is our affluent-nation tendency to think that anyone who decides to help the poor is some kind of hero or saint. Mortenson has, of course, spent years and efforts feeding that particular beast. At the speaking engagements for which he charges anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000, he plays on the heartstrings of his audience with his epic of personal virtue.

Yet various media have now pointed out that Mortenson actually used money donated to his Institute to pay for traveling his moneymaking lecture circuit. CAI considers this “outreach,” according to a study by charity watchdog American Institute for Philanthropy, which is odd considering that the wide acceptance of the book and attending publicity would already seem to accomplish this. And as the AIP itself points out, money from the speaking tours should then also be funneled back into CAI, but is not.

Nonetheless, for many donors, it is entirely natural that a privileged and wealthy person should manage the development efforts of the severely underprivileged. We see them as incapable of making decisions and managing money and improving their environments and their lives. We are convinced that they need someone like Mortenson – buoyed by our cheques – to set them on the right path to bettering themselves.

So there is actually no one from those communities of the poor in Pakistan and Afghanistan who play any decision-making role in the CAI and its budget. Rather, their role is to be passive and grateful for ‘our’ largesse, and to see a school established for them or not. This, of course, reminds me of the recent debacle of pop singer Madonna’s similarly protagonistic attempts to improve education in Malawi, one that saw an appalling $3.8 million go down the drain and not a single structure built. Here, rather than local Malawians—whose average annual per capita income is $200 — it was the boyfriend of her personal trainer given the keys to the giant cashbox. Rather than build a hundred small schools that might be more useful to local communities (although who knows because they are never consulted) Madonna’s foundation decided to build one expensive elite girls school.

Once again, “helping” the poor is just a hobby for the wealthy, and easy to do. No kind of dialogue, relationship or partnership is required with those they supposedly want to empower through education. Giving them control over either the process or the resources would be absurd, but giving it to the friend of a millionaire is entirely normal.

Indeed what strikes me most about Mortenson’s project is this: according to Krakauer, Mortenson originally received $12,000 back in the mid-90s from a donor and with that, believed he could build one simple five-room school. The CBS 60 Minutes report said that by fiscal year 2009, CAI claimed to have built 54 schools (some of which were in fact donated by someone else.)

Putting that detail aside, however, let’s say a school costs $15,000 to build. Would this not allow CAI – which has apparently received donations of at least $60 million by now – to construct not 54, but 4000 schools?

That shortfall underlines the truly egregious nature of Mortenson’s fraud, not the fanciful embroidering of his experiences, but the terrible and real cost of his control of the purse strings: the more than 3500 schools that simply don’t exist.

And for some odd reason, that issue doesn’t seem to be garnering much attention.

Saving los 33 – More Than a Miracle

15 Oct

Watching the reaction last night to the gripping finale of the Chilean miners’ saga, I was struck by how many people kept referring to the successful extraction from their underground prison “a miracle.”

Clearly, though, rather than magic, it was an extraordinary feat of engineering that saved their lives – much as some of the miners credit their faith in God with managing to stick out 69 days in a collapsed mine 700 metres below ground.

Yet the amazing work of those engineers who worked quickly to not only find the miners, but communicate with them and eventually bring all of them to safety, reminds me of an organization a lot of people might not know much about: Engineers Without Borders.

Admittedly, I don’t usually think of engineers as a — shall we say  — particularly altruistic lot. Their skills allow them to do a great deal of good, but also harm. And while it are politicians, not engineers, who decide to do it in the first place, they are the ones who find ways to build dams in the Amazon and run freeways through underprivileged urban neighbourhoods or places like the Frederick Law Olmstead-designed park in Buffalo.

Meanwhile, male engineering students have a reputation for being little more than a macho and irresponsible bunch of guys, the phrase “Engineers Rule the World’ a sort of mantra for them. 

So the amazing work of Engineers Without Borders is a refreshing antidote to that view.  According to EWB’s Kyle Baptista, their various chapters throughout North America counter ERTW with ESTW –Engineers Serve the World — “and that’s really gone head to head with the ERTW mantra,” he says.

Co-founded in 2000 by two University of Waterloo engineering grads, Parker Mitchell and George Roter, this non-profit currently unites some 50,000 professionals and students to combat the root causes of poverty in Africa through development projects. They all believe, according to their website “that the next generation of rural Africans should have the same opportunities to improve their lives, that we have right here at home. To help make this a reality, our members and volunteers apply all the creativity, technical skills and problem-solving approach for which engineers are known.”

In fact,  says Kyle, one factor that led to the establishment of EWB was Roter and Mitchell’s recognition of the under-utilization of the engineering profession in poverty reduction.

Now EWB volunteers spend anywhere from four months to three years in rural African communities, he says, “really understanding the needs before they start working on the ‘soft skills’ and capacity building with other partner organizations. So, a fairly different model and fairly different perspective for engineers.”

And with its focus primarily on the university campus, and chapters developing “on their own” in a host of schools, Engineers Without Borders, he says, “has really sort of polarized the perspective on engineers in Canada.”

Check out their website (Rapper/songwriter K’naan will be performing at their 10th Anniversary gala next Janurary) for more information about this great organization.