With new funding and less restrictions, I’ve been running around lately trying to get my project complete before I finish next Wednesday.
Before my grant got rejected, I had a meeting with all of the grandmothers who would be receiving loans. I explained the rules of the loan:
- It had to be used for income-generation
- It had to be paid back with 10% interest
- It could not deal in animal husbandry
They were perfectly fine with the first two rules, but when I explained the third, they groaned. They were frustrated, and understandably so. They knew how to raise animals. They didn’t know how to run a business. And they were quite frank — they weren’t interested in learning. They wanted to tend to their crops and animals. They wanted to do what they were good at.
But we continued, and I guess the meeting was an overall success. We settled on different activities for the grandmothers to pursue and they walked away thankful. However, I could not shake the feeling that they were not in it. Sure, some of it was a lack of confidence, and that could be changed with training. But there was also the fact that they weren’t able to do what they wanted to do.
Then I had my second meeting with them.
Last week, I went out to inform them that the restriction on animals had been lifted. I thought that I’d give them the chance to reconsider their project again, this time with the possibility of practicing animal husbandry. There were fourteen grandmothers there, and fourteen of them changed their minds. They all wanted to raise animals.
Not only that, but the meeting itself had an entirely different feel. In our first meeting, I was struck by how aloof they seemed. In this meeting, they participated in the discussion. They made jokes. They laughed at ours. They stayed around after it was finished to make small-talk.
They were excited!
Their excitement rubbed off on me. It was contagious. We all had our own reasons, but everybody wanted this project to succeed now. We all had something at stake.
What have I learned this trip? The capacity and the expertise can come from outside, but the ideas must come from the people. You cannot storm a country with ideas of your own and hope to make an impact. Someday you will have to leave, and if the people do not feel ownership in the project, they will abandon it.