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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Czech experience in development aid: Listen to the locals

Conflicts, poverty and drought have forced hundreds of thousands of Africans to leave their homes. Czechs are among the Europeans who go there to give them a helping hand, which can take the form of seed potatoes, textbooks or even simple advice on how to nurture their children appropriately.There are more than 218 million people living in extreme poverty in Africa. The European Union therefore invests millions of euros to improve the living conditions of Africans and to limit their mass migration to the north. The financial assistance provided to Africa by the EU then turns into real and concrete aid – for example, in the form of sweet potato seedlings, wells or school buildings. This transformation of European funds is based on hours of paperwork, difficult field trips and negotiations with African communities. Jana Toužimská from the People in Need organisation, a Czech NGO which runs projects for example in Ethiopia, has some experience with it. Thanks to one of these projects, local communities learn to cultivate potato varieties rich in vitamin A, which prevents children’s dwarfism. “We have test fields where we teach locals to grow potatoes,” says Toužimská. Ethiopian workers from different organizations, who know the environment best, are involved in working with local communities. In addition to the cultivation itself, they explore what plant varieties are capable of withstanding the harsh conditions in Ethiopia. Local people learn how to cultivate the land and, as a result, they are interested in what crops can be beneficial to their health. However, the emergence of one field or the digging of a well is preceded by negotiations with African governments, municipal authorities and, naturally, with local elders. It is only then that a field trip is taken.

Source: Euractiv