Since we featured Professor Steven Thomas’s Finfinne Diaries, about his recent trip to Ethiopia’s Oromo region, he has written more informative and enlightening articles. Herewith we include a link to of his recent blog posts and an excerpt from the Ethics of Aid in Ethiopia where he delves deep into the Oromo interior and meet the Karayu, an Oromo tribe that inhabits the Awash valley areas of Oromia.
…The Karayu are an Oromo tribe, and traditionally they are pastorlists and move from place to place with their cattle. They govern themselves through the democratic Gadaa system; their religion traditionally has been Waqeffata, though today many are Muslim and some Christian.
For the past half century, their culture and their economy has been severely disrupted by Ethiopia’s economic development, which I discussed earlier in my blog [here] and [here].
The good land is taken by large industrial plantations, and here is the troubling reality that the American media and many American humanitarian organizations often neglect to mention — the poverty in Ethiopia is neither simply a natural disaster caused by drought nor simply the fault of bad governance. It is those things too, but it is also in part a man-made crisis produced by the modern capitalist world system.
…There are a lot of problems with foreign aid to Africa, but I’ll focus on two. First, sometimes the donors think they know what’s best and build projects that aren’t locally sustainable or useful to the people there. They might build a water pump or a school, but then not train enough staff there to maintain it. This kind of aid tends to emphasize building things, so it employes American engineers and uses American products. Ironically, this kind of aid might be better for the donor’s economy than for the recipient’s economy.
Years ago, I made some extra money editing documents for an aid organization, and the shocking discovery I made was that the donor government consciously and deliberately required that much of the funding return to the donor country by using its contractors, technology, and labor. The result is hundreds of defunct projects all over Africa.
As Kelly Kraemer wisely argues in her article Solidarity in Action, “good intentions matter, but by themselves are not sufficient to determine whether or not a particular course of action is appropriate.” Instead, she argues, we must be conscious of our own position of privilege and acknowledge that that privileged position is supported by the same socio-economic structures that might oppress or disempower the very group of people we intend to help. This requires that we be willing to learn from the people we aim to help and take the time to gain their trust.
- Finfinne Diaries 8: Movies in Ethiopia
- Finfinne Diaries 7: Photography
- Finfinne Diaries 6: The Ethics of Aid in EthiopiaFinfinne Diaries 5: Representing Harar, Characterizing Ethiopia
- Finfinne Diaries 4: Khat… Somebody Should Write a Book…
- Finfinne Diaries 3: Construction and Inflation — How to Demystify Ethiopia’s So-Called Economic Development?
- Finfinne Diaries 2: Ethiopia’s Museums, Public Memory, and Us
- Finfinne Diaries 1: Itinerary and (Dis)Orientation