By Douglas Baba, 1st year MDP Student
The international version of the Master’s in Development Practice in Indigenous Development field placement has bestowed on me a lot of development experiences working with some development agencies like World Food Programme, UNICEF, Ghana Irrigation Development Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, and indigenous communities around the Wa municipality, Ghana.
Working with the local people of Kperisi in Northern Ghana, in particular, has given me a sense of respect and admiration about the rich knowledge indigenous peoples possess despite their low level of formal education. The local people have a wealth of knowledge of information and ideas about every event happening around them - from traditional healing to climate change. In fact, their knowledge cannot be underestimated. They could tell the number of villages, schools, animals, dams, hospitals etc surrounding their community with which they share common interest and beliefs.
So many good things can happen in local communities where development partners operate if they identify themselves with the people there and develop trust and confidence in them. In this way, local people become not only excited to work but also see the project as theirs and therefore much commitment and dedication can be expected from them. Taking good care of the project as well as ensuring regular maintenance is also something that the people can be trusted to do after the project has been completed and handed over to them.
The kind of commitment and hard work the people of Kperisi - youth, men and women groups exhibited during a short period of construction of a community storage structure was beyond my understanding. It was so beautiful and ‘we feel’ seeing MDP students and Kperisi community members working as a group in different capacities to make sure that the community storage structure was completed on time. It was so amazing to the people seeing us participating in the labour work on the project-ranging from weeding, raking, carrying concrete mixture and cement blocks. This partnership can even make the people forget that they are working under the scorching sun with empty stomach due to the Ramadan fasting.
The commitment of local people in using their labour in a project can make a big difference. They know very well at every stage of a development process when to improvise in order to reduce cost. I couldn’t imagine how with the support of community labour an amount of about $600 could build a community storage structure. This is an indication that governments and other development partners can make a huge difference in local communities if they identify themselves with the people and work together instead of imposing projects on them. The community leaders have the trust of the people and are therefore capable of mobilizing the people at every stage of the development process to ensure success. The local people who have the technical skills such as masonry and carpentry are always ready and cherish rendering services without demanding a penny for their people. It was really amazing to us all when a mason called Iddrisu was able to mobilize all his apprentices to raise the community structure with the help of the rest of us in a day. The people of Kperisi have exhibited motivation and commitment to move their community forward.
Baraka, Baraka (Thank you, Thank you)