Home | TheWaterBlog

TheWaterBlog: If you want to share unique images and observations in this section, or would like to know about syndicating these posts, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

 

The Wider Road to Inclusive Growth 

Posted by Frank van Steenbergen, Crelis Rammelt, Kebede Manjur and Letty Fajardo Vera
May 01, 2017

 

 

Here is a gruesome news item from the Guardian on 31 March 2017. 

“A Kuwaiti woman filmed her Ethiopian maid surviving a suicide attempt and then posted the incident on social media, al-Seyassah newspaper reported. The 12-second video shows the maid hanging outside the building, with one hand tightly gripping the window frame, as she begs for help in an apparent last-minute change of mind. The woman holding the camera is heard telling the hanging maid: “Oh, crazy, come back.” The terrified maid is seen screaming “hold me, hold me”, just before her hand slips and she falls down to hit the awning, which appears to soften the impact. The employer made no reaction as she continued filming." 

The saddest thing of all is that this employment in the Middle East is often the only dream that young people have, as they try to leave behind the life they (maybe do not) have in villages in Ethiopia. 

A combination of not very well-maintained roads, the lack of (intermediate) means of transport, and relatively high fares has a strong effect on young people. Very few young people from rural areas are getting high school education in nearby towns: distance and costs prohibit many from attending. Among those that do attend, many are not able to complete high school.  This leaves them with very few chances to do things differently and have choices in life. In rural Ethiopia, jobs are few and the economy not diverse. 

Lack of education and the meagre local economic opportunities combine into a dangerous brew of profound hopelessness. A respondent in a recent research explained the so-called ‘Middle East Syndrome’ – young rural women and men have no faith in developing a decent livelihood locally and put all their hopes on a job in one of the Arab Countries. This is fuelled by high promises from middlemen, who are supposed to arrange the necessary work permits as they promise lucrative job opportunities and high salaries. 

It is often a case of hope against knowing better. There are several examples of people duped by such middlemen. Despite families paying them a lifetime of savings, they often

do not deliver the required travel documents and simply abscond. Those that go to the Middle East are often thoroughly disappointed, and return to Ethiopia under debt and with mental health issues following a history of exploitation. A most tragic practice is this: many girls marry young and then also divorce quickly. This to protect from the shame of that comes with the expected abuse during the job in the Middle East. 

The alternative dream to the Middle East syndrome is to cross into Europe – again a route often full of abuse during the journey and deep disappointment at the end. Several of those who travel overland to the Mediterranean Coast carry amphetamine and other endurance drugs with them to be able to escape thugs that harass and extort from them, official and unofficial. 

The problem essentially is that local rural economies have very little to offer to young people. There are no jobs – the economy has little diversity and few opportunities. The system is not inclusive – neither for vulnerable people nor for young people at the productive peaks of their life. Instead there is much idling away and empty dreams. 

There is a need to create vibrant rural economies – with diverse jobs that add value, where services are provided from one to the other, where the local economy promotes local specialization in things that individuals are good at and have a talent for, where a strong and level relation exists with the larger world. There is a huge difference between village economies in different part of the world – in terms of liveliness and entrepreneurial opportunities. 

It is important to use any investment as a huge multi-faceted opportunity. Take the development of feeder roads, for example. Feeder roads are typically unpaved roads, connecting rural areas to main roads and urban centres. They have the potential do many things and make an enormous impact on inclusive growth: 

  • they unblock access to rural goods and services, particularly if the development of the feeder road is matched by the promotion of local transport – from wheelbarrows, to bikes and motorbikes, to intermediate means of transport, to small buses and trucks. The development of rural roads and especially rural transport can be ‘the best thing ever’ for local value chains 
  • they create direct labour opportunities – that may be benefit those that are most vulnerable and those who have the largest future potential (young people). With the labour opportunities also come opportunities to build new skills and build small financial reserves. There is a case to view the investment in feeder road development also as a shot in the arm for the local economy 
  • they trigger the development of local businesses – road side stalls, bars, hair dressers for sure, as brought out by numerous studies. We may go further with investing in local retail and business and services by systematically rooting programs through local retail, by providing retail credit and promoting more business development in areas that have just ‘opened up.’ 
  • roads change the physical environment – they have a large imprint on the local surface hydrology, they affect local dust development and accelerate sedimentation process. All those changes now come as threats, but they van be turned around and into assets. Roads can be used to facilitate water harvesting and water management in general. Road-side tree planting will control dust and will also create a lot of other benefits. Trees are sources of timber and fruit, act as wind breaks and provide shade. Besides, employment opportunities can be generated from systematically harvesting sand and gravel along roads. 

A road connectivity map prepared by a rural community in Kobo district, northern Ethiopia

All this amounts to a new vision on rural roads: as development vectors, as breakthroughs for change, as instruments for inclusive growth, and for green growth. It is important to see roads as more than transport lines. It is important to see them as bringers of change and local development – as alternatives to idling away and having dreams of faraway places that, in reality, are disillusionment postponed.  Roads can bring much change, facilitate opportunities at the doorsteps, especially when investments are made in opportunities that they hold: transport, credit, water and trees, capacities, business skills and life visions.

                                             

  • Resolving the Drought Puzzle in Northern Kenya

    Resolving the Drought Puzzle in Northern KenyaPosted by Elly Arukulem YalukApril 28, 2017Drought haunts pastoral livelihoods in Masol, West Pokot county, Kenya Letter from West Pokot: the silent droughtFor many years the pastoralist Pokot people of Nyangaita, a tiny village in Masol area, have endured serious water and food scarcity situations that have gone unreported. Because of the unforgivin...

    Read more

  • Postcard from Harla: erosion, the full brunt

    Postcard from Harla: erosion, the full bruntPosted by Lakew Desta and Frank van SteenbergenApril 26, 2017Here is Harla in Eastern Ethiopia and here is its ancient ficus tree – a reminder of the vegetation that once was. In the last century the area changed beyond recognition. Its steep hills were in rapid time transformed into farm land – at slopes so steep that erosion was a given. Soil rapid...

    Read more

  • The Maize Trap

    The Maize Trap “Maize is not food - food is maize”Posted by Luwieke Bosma, Theophilus Kioko, and Michaeel NzukiApril 14, 2017Postcard from Ukambani, Kenya and greetings from madam Katuku Kioko, who has been farming maize, beans and coffee for nearly 40 years, and her son.“I have been growing maize, ever since I started the farm since 1977. We used it mainly used for domestic consumption and...

    Read more

  • Watershed improvement: The upstream – downstream question

    Watershed improvement: The upstream – downstream questionFrank van Steenbergen, Tesfa-alem Gebreegziabher Embaye and Eyasu Hagos April 14, 2017If we utilize our water better upstream, what will happen downstream? Will water availability decrease? Is watershed improvement a zero-sum game with the gains upstream deducted from the situation downstream, or is it an overall system improvement? Or if...

    Read more

  • Coastal Bangladesh: Roads to the Rescue?

    Roads to the RescuePosted by Cecilia BorgiaFebruray 8, 2017Coastal Bangladesh is a vast area. It encompasses 19 of the 64 Districts, 133 of the 484 Upazilas (sub-District), represents 32% of the country’s surface and hosts 28% of the national population. With its 1000 pp/km square, it is a very densely populated area. Despite the high risks of flooding, cyclones, and salinity intrusion making th...

    Read more

  • Getting a stronger rural economy

    Getting a stronger rural economyBy Frank van Steenbergen, Edris Hussien, Fredu Nega Tegebu and Letty Fajardo VeraMarch 23, 2017 It is a sign of an economy that is thin on the ground and not diversified – the number and composition of shops in rural Ethiopia or for that matter in many parts of Sub Saharan Africa. Non-farm business is limited in number and is ‘much of the same’.There are only...

    Read more

  • Somaliland: the camelback is broken

    Somaliland: the camelback is brokenBy James Firebrace and Frank van SteenbergenMarch 16, 2017  Famished camels cross barren landscape near Ballanbaal, late Nov 2016In an area dependent on thin and fragile rainfall disaster has arrived: drought, massive loss of livestock, just a straw away from famine. In the canon of the United Nations arid Somaliland officially does not exist. It is a self-decl...

    Read more

  • Life Skills – the missing foundation to improving socio-economic growth

    Life Skills – the missing foundation to improving socio-economic growthPosted by Otto HoffmanFebruary 15, 2017Image courtesy Wikimedia“Harvest to Poverty”The agricultural sector in many developing countries is facing innumerable challenges, thus requiring effective and vibrant extension services to improve agricultural productivity. Their economies depend on agriculture and employing a high ...

    Read more

  • A picture is worth a thousand words (although smell describes a thousand words, too)

    A picture is worth a thousand words (although smell describes a thousand words, too)Posted by Otto HoffmanFebruary 10, 2017The Bagmati River, which flows through the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal is regarded as a lifeline and as a source of Nepalese civilization and urbanization. The river flows through one of the holiest places in the country. Innumerable people from across South Asia, especially Ind...

    Read more

  • The largest battle for resilience

    The largest battle for resiliencePosted by Marta AgujetasFebruary 09, 2017The development army in Albuco Woreda, Amhara region, EthiopiaA battle takes place every year in Amhara, Ethiopia. The battle involves five million people, wielding shovels, axes and agricultural tools. Luckily, in this case people are not fighting each other, they are fighting their common enemy: land degradation. This five...

    Read more