The 3rd Self-help Report to the German Bundestag by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development covers the years 1995-2000. “Adult Education and Development” No. 46, 1996, pp 161 ff., presented the contribution of the IIZ/DVV to the 2ndßSelf-help Report under the title “Adult Education and the Fight against Poverty”. It discussed the broad range of our project activities as an example of practical assistance for self-help institutions. Our paper for the 3rd Self-help Report examines the stronger links that are to be observed in all IIZ/DVV projects between developmental and educational approaches. Examples of experiences in India, Guinea, Chad and Mexico are described. The IIZ/DVV report was compiled and edited by Henner Hildebrand, one of our staff.

“ The Grass Won’t Grow Any More Quickly if You Pull at it”

African proverb

1. Combating Poverty by Helping People to Help Themselves – the Projects of the IIZ/DVV

The Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association (IIZ/DVV) has been providing support for adult education projects in developing countries for 30 years. The cooperative partnership between the IIZ/DVV and governmental, non-governmental and university institutions is supported by grants from the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung, BMZ) as part of its policy of assisting the development of social institutions.

The IIZ/DVV is an integral part of German adult education. Its promotion of social institutions, and the involvement of the DVV in international professional activities, are hence a practical civil society contribution to German and European development policy.

In the light of the actual social conditions in partner countries, the IIZ/DVV employs a very broad concept of adult education, which embraces formal, nonformal and informal learning.

The IIZ/DVV both acknowledges and influences the very varied circumstances and requirements in its partner countries, and respects and strengthens each country’s uniqueness and cultural identity.

The work of the IIZ/DVV is marked by a clear social orientation and identification with the interests of the poorer, marginalized sections of the population in its partner countries. The IIZ/DVV has developed a concept of development-oriented adult education, which it uses as its leitmotiv.

The IIZ/DVV regards the aim of its cooperation as the direct fight against poverty. If the skills of poorer sections of the population are enhanced, they will have more chance of playing a part in social, economic, political and cultural development, and of being able to organize themselves.

Support is given for flexible activities which meet the needs of adults and generally directly involve those concerned. Participants are encouraged to take responsibility for their own problem-solving behaviour.

2. Organization and Tools

In the period 1995-2000, the IIZ/DVV has both carried out country projects, involving cooperation with more than one partner organization, and provided individual support through special programmes.

The project countries in Africa comprise Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Guinea, Madagascar, South Africa and Uganda; in Asia: India and the Philippines; and in Latin America: Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

Special programmes have been carried out in Argentina, Chile and Nicaragua, in Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ghana and Lesotho, and in Fiji, Indonesia, Nepal, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

The IIZ/DVV’s partners in its partner countries include both ministries and university institutions, committed non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and professional adult education associations.

The programmes cover initial and inservice training for professional staff, practical provision relating to learners’ immediate environments, promotion of self-help, nonformal basic education, community development, environmental education, education for democracy, and production-oriented training. Efforts are also made to achieve political recognition of adult education in order to guarantee the long-term viability of providers.

3. Practical Examples

3.1 Introduction

The promotion of self-help plays a key role in all IIZ/DVV projects since development-oriented adult education, which is aimed at the poor, always seeks to help them to develop and activate their own mental and material resources.

The purpose of the IIZ/DVV projects is the immediate and direct fight against poverty. However, it is not possible in practice to maintain a strict distinction between activities to combat poverty that are based on self-help and other methods of directly combating poverty.

Typical activities relate to immediate needs, and merge into or complement other associated issues. What may start as a “single issue programme” takes on other attributes and interests as a result of the active participation of the target groups. A literacy course, for example, or a course on gender or environmental matters relating to learners’ everyday experience, may lead on to questions of training for agricultural production, nutrition or family size.

Similarly, if a course starts with education about nutrition or family planning, it does not remain purely at the level of technical instruction. Nutrition education may, for instance, raise questions of access to foodstuffs, environmental production methods and soil quality, the right of women (or their lack of a right) to grow and sell particular products, traditional dietary norms and prohibitions, and consequences for health.

In environmental education or women’s participation, for example, the intended effects are not achieved merely by teaching the “right” content and slogans. If women apply their newly acquired skills in practice, this can raise questions about their social and economic roles and rights, and their culturally determined status.

In the period covered by this report, greater attention has been given to holistic and multidisciplinary approaches, and to links between development and education, especially in the activities of NGOs. State institutions cannot play as great a role in t”ese flexible, grassroots approaches as NGOs for reasons such as the nature of their remit, traditional government regulations and practices, etc.

Multidimensional approaches can be seen throughout all projects. The work of the National Women’s Association for Social and Educational Advancement (NWASEA) in Uganda may be cited as an example. NWASEA arranges needs-based programmes together with self-organized women’s groups in Iganga District. The priorities stated by the women are a secure supply of foodstuffs, environmental protection, health care, literacy and legal issues. Accordingly, courses are held on the growing of marketable crops such as maize, cotton, vegetables and potatoes, the management of small irrigation plants, improved hygiene and birth control, and family violence. NWASEA supplements this provision with literacy courses since it can be demonstrated that past members of individual learning groups have successfully combined reading and writing skills with new practical skills and improved house-building.

The greatest obstacle to the women’s economic success proves to be the continuing problem that women have no right to own real property. However, it is realized that this superficially legal issue is highly political and cannot be successfully resolved locally by a NGO.

The following four examples from Asia, Africa and Latin America explore more deeply the practical implications of the points raised, and illustrate the varied forms that they can take in different circumstances, and the range of possibilities.

3.2 India – Support for Self-Help Organizations in Kerala

In India, the IIZ/DVV cooperates with a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which have come together to form a network of Regional Support Organizations (RSOs) in the field of adult education. All partners have succeeded in achieving some financial stability by charging for providing services and by obtaining domestic grants.

The IIZ/DVV partners in India adopt a decidedly participatory approach in planning and implementing activities, starting with the actual needs of each grassroots group and involving the group at all stages. The overriding goal is the social, economic and political empowerment of underprivileged target groups which face discrimination (especially women, landless farmers, casteless persons and tribal people). This is achieved by the provision of support for their grassroots organizations, and improvement of their living conditions, e.g. through income-generation. All partners pay particular attention to strengthening democratic local self-government (Panchayati Raj), once again specifically with the participation of socially weaker groups, which are prepared through adult education (especially consciousness-raising and practical training) to carry out the relevant tasks. By providing ongoing activities and ensuring repeated success in the field of political representation (e.g. by influencing politicians and the media, but also by appealing to the courts in cases of dispute), the partners help the target groups to learn to defend their basic rights against resistance which is often fierce.

One of these RSOs, “SAHAYI – Centre for Collective Learning and Action” in Trivandrum, was founded in 1990 by a group of committed leaders of NGOs, and has been supported by the IIZ/DVV since 1993. SAHAYI was established in response to the rapid expansion in the number of development NGOs in the southern Indian state of Kerala, most of which lacked knowledge and experience of participatory approaches and management. SAHAYI was intended to help to fill this gap through adult education activities. It provides services for around 500 NGOs with a total of some 10,000 members in Kerala and some neighbouring states. The NGOs have often been set up as self-help groups, largely by women.

When SAHAYI begins work, it spends six months consulting each NGO, from which it establishes what training is needed. Training is then provided to improve the staff skills of the NGO in question, e.g. in the fields of project planning, book-keeping, reporting, documentation, training of trainers and managers, media and public information. Workshops are also held on topics such as participatory development, NGO management, corruption, equal rights for women, etc. Research and evaluation, and publications, complete SAHAYI’s range of activities. At the political level, attempts are made through lobbying to bring about improvements for underprivileged sections of the population and their organizations.

The main activities of the self-help groups receiving support are savings and loan associations, which aim to put an end to reliance – especially for women – on local money-lenders and to foster income-generating micro projects (e.g. small-scale trading, tailoring, animal husbandry, food processing and coconut fibre production). The credit facilities are also used for community initiatives such as roads, wells, meeting rooms and afforestation. Studies have shown that the socio-economic status of women has been decisively enhanced by such schemes, and that the women are better able to attain their objectives, even at political level.

3.3 Guinea – From Support for Women’s Self-help to Community Development and Local Self-government

In Guinea, the IIZ/DVV project has gained significant initial experience from cooperation with NGOs and self-help groups of women and farmers.

The starting point for development in Guinea is particularly difficult. The NGOs are still very new and inexperienced, and have a considerable need of advice in organizational development and planning. There are as yet few self-help organizations or agencies representing the interests of specific groups, but they are expanding at a remarkable pace, as the following example will demonstrate.

In the Fouta Djalon region, the women play a particularly important role in the villages since the men are frequently away working in the mines or cities. The region is inhabited by the Fulbe, a herding people among whom agriculture has been the concern of the women since time immemorial. Cooperation between the IIZ/DVV and the Guinean NGO CENAFOD (Centre Africain de Formation pour le Développement) began in 1995. A group of 40 women had approached CENAFOD with a request for a literacy programme. This was the Guilintiko group in Gongoré, which was awarded the Self-help Prize of the Forum of African Women Teachers in 1997 for exemplary initiative.

The aims of CENAFOD are to assist the development of self-help groups, especially women, by providing training and advice, and to promote local self-government. CENAFOD’s approach to teaching is based on enabling target groups to take their own decisions and to help themselves, and the principle that groups should develop and take responsibility for their own initiatives is strictly observed. Advice is given in the following areas: organization, planning and implementation of projects, problem analysis, training of trainers, design, production and testing of teaching materials, evaluation, management and financial administration, planning methods, etc.

Having started with literacy for the Guilintiko group, the project moved on to address the women’s fundamental economic activities such as soap production, vegetable-growing and marketing, and the establishment of a self-managed savings and loan fund. Guilintiko inspired many other women to set up their own organizations. At the end of 1999, there were 20 women’s groups with a total of 500 members, and a Union of women’s groups. This body arranges joint purchase of production resources, seed and fertilizer, and sometimes the joint sale of the harvest, and supports the establishment of further savings and loan groups.

The Union has now entered into negotiations with various development projects and technical support services. Most of the literacy education centres in Gongoré are now run by the women’s groups and the Union. The involvement of men in new projects has caused the project to move on from support for women’s self-help to community development. Almost all the 4000 adults in the target area have already been reached directly or indirectly by the various promotional activities. The fundamental innovations brought about by the community development programme in the sub-prefecture are the introduction of a culture of reading and writing, the local production of soap, a self-organized savings and loan scheme, vegetable-growing and marketing, improvements in small-animal husbandry and marketing, new horticultural methods, use of fertilizer, pest control, tree nurseries, erosion prevention, afforestation and joint storage of grain for periods of drought. The programme has incorporated local government planning a·d has collaborated in this field with the IIZ/DVV project to strengthen the structure of local government in the prefecture of Dabola, which is partly funded by the European Union.

The main aim in Dabola has been the provision of information and skills training for the population and their elected representatives in the context of the local self-government scheme introduced in 1992. It has proved indispensable to build a strong literacy component into the project as well, and to prepare numerous booklets about aspects of local government. One very significant outcome has been the establishment of eight local development plans, the first in the region. These are based on surveys by the project team and were drawn up in consultation with all governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned.

Since 1999, the programme has been extended to the neighbouring sub-prefecture of Koba, a particularly marginalized area with poor transport links. In the light of previous experience, a broader approach covering all aspects of life was adopted in the sub-prefecture of Koba from the outset. After a long stage of preliminary investigation and awareness-raising, a combination of the previous types of support is being offered, i.e. literacy for women’s groups as the basis for the introduction of joint economic activities, involvement of elected local representatives, drafting of local development plans, and coordination of local activities with government services. A start has already been made on implementing a local government development plan. Self-help groups have started addressing fields such as road maintenance, digging and maintenance of wells, and mobilization of additional outside and local resources.

It is largely thanks to these projects that self-help groups are gradually being recognised by state agencies in Guinea as equal partners in the development process. Given the centralized, socialist tradition of Guinea, this demonstration that the marginalized population can help itself is particularly instructive.

3.4 Chad – The Process of Growth – Self-help by Women’s Groups in N’Djamena

In recent years, the partner organization Université Populaire (UP) in N’Djamena has developed an effective scheme to support women’s groups. The women’s desire to organize themselves rests on their common economic interests as fish-sellers, market traders and vegetable growers.

UP’s strategy for intervention assumes a support process lasting several years.

After a field study on the economic aims of each self-help group, a process of dialogue is initiated, comprising mutual learning, ongoing support and advice. New groups are given basic initial training for the purpose of strengthening group effectiveness. These address crucial organizational development issues such as group management, democracy within the group, responsibilities and rights, holding of meetings, and decision-making processes. Other fields of learning are planning and evaluation methods and the drafting of annual plans of work. In addition to the structured learning units and the advisory visits made by specialists from the Université Populaire, the timing and content of which are flexible, awareness-raising visits to established groups are also arranged for new groups.

Attention is given to group organization throughout the support process since new challenges arise when joint economic activities are actually implemented. Group interests relate to the marketing of fish and vegetables, small-scale trading, and mutual aid funds based on traditional practices. Other aspects are the establishment of group savings accounts using membership subscriptions, and the planning and funding of micro projects using group savings. Initiatives already launched by more advanced groups are the purchase of a water pump for a communal garden, and of deep-freezes for the joint storage of fish.

Since only 10 % of the women are literate, literacy tuition is provided for them in addition. This proves to be important as the groups develop. This fact is appreciated by some women, though not all, as soon as their group is sufficiently developed to set up joint funds and to keep financial records. The basic course is of a highly functional nature, and includes training in the calculation of income and expenditure, assessment of selling prices, appreciation of the cost-effectiveness of the women’s activities, and monitoring of fund management.

By 1999, advice and support had been given to seven women’s groups, with a total of 164 members. Among the longer-established self-help groups, it can be demonstrated that social and economic improvements have been achieved in the women’s incomes and living conditions. An external evaluation agreed with the assessments made by the partner organization itself of those groups which faced development problems. These related to internal democracy, organizational ability and the motivation to pursue the goals set by the group. Given this situation, it appeared necessary to withdraw support from two groups. At the same time, a start has been made on participatory needs assessments as a preliminary to a decision whether to extend support to new women’s groups.

From experience over a number of years, criteria have been drawn up for the provision of self-help support by the Université Populaire. These criteria relate to the legal status of a group, its elected executive organs, the rules governing its activities as a voluntary association and its democratic management, provisions for financial control, planning procedures, external relations and membership.

In addition to the very committed staff of the Université Populaire and support from the IIZ/DVV, one of the key factors in the trial and successful adoption of this method of providing support for self-help has been the expert input over a number of years from specialists of the German Development Service (DED), which has provided organizational advice to our partner. Given the civil war that has been in existence for 30 years in Chad, and a level of institutional development lower than that of any other state in the Sahel, the work described above can be said to be innovative and to provide a useful model.

3.5 Mexico – Structural Change and Cultural Identity among Indian Communities

In Mexico, the IIZ/DVV has been running an education and training project since 1992 to combat poverty among the Indian population. The aim is to use integrated methods to help to achieve necessary structural change. By means of adult education activities, it is intended to bring about locally determined development, which will also strengthen the cultural identity of the Indian population groups, and open the way to new knowledge and new types of learning.

The project concentrates on five interrelated areas of activity, which will enhance living conditions for the communities and help to create the conditions for democratic participation and opinion-forming. These areas are joint economic development, education and training for Indian women, environmental education, planning and establishment of formal training centres for Indian young people, and intercultural education.

Since rural Indian populations generally live in remote areas of the country, where the quality of the soil is threatened by erosion, water shortage and deforestation, ecological agriculture and gradual soil improvement offer the only real chance of raising the returns from small-scale farming. Examples of success are provided by Zapotec indigo-growers in Juchitán, who have taken up the biological growing of indigo plants as an alternative and a supplement to traditional unprofitable maize-growing, thereby creating a source of income for 40 people, by Maya farmers in Campeche, who have combined to form one of the largest honey-producing organizations, and by Huicholes, who jointly grow vegetables, fruit, oyster mushrooms and fig cacti used in cochineal farming, and jointly produce honey.

Health care, nutritional advice, literacy and basic education are matters of particular relevance for Indian women, who carry the main responsibility in all these areas and have experienced the greatest marginalization.

The wide range of support given by the project to self-sustaining development can be illustrated by the example of the community of Guauitepec in the Tseltal region of the state of Chiapas.

The IIZ/DVV supports the “Sociedad de Productores Rurales El Zapote de Santa Elisia”, which was set up by 90 farmers to improve their environmentally sustainable production of maize, beans, coffee and honey, and their rearing of livestock, to obtain better prices for their produce, and to run a village shop which would sell consumer goods more cheaply. With the support of the IIZ/DVV, our partner is able to provide training courses each year in general business studies, in all fields of production, and in pest control, terrace farming, production and use of organic fertilizers, veterinary care, and marketing of coffee and honey. Ten coordinators have been trained to teach the relevant skills to people taking responsibility for particular areas of activity. A programme of literacy and basic education is provided to compensate for the lack of school education. Over a period of three years, the farmers of Tseltal will have learnt to operate their agricultural cooperative successfully on the basis of high-quality production.

The living conditions for families in Tseltal are also being enhanced through courses on health care and nutrition, aimed largely at the women. Several courses are held every year, each of which trains 15 village health-care workers in topics such as pregnancy, family planning, medicinal plants and balanced nutrition, and these also attract interested women from neighbouring communities. In Altamirano, a number of health-care workers are given three-month placements in hospitals each year in order to enhance their knowledge. Health-care workers are also trained in horticultural facilities. They then have the responsibility of passing on the most important items of health-care knowledge to the other families in the community, of encouraging the building of dry toilets, of producing medicines from traditional plants, and of networking their health-care work with other communities in the Tseltal region. Traditional bread-making in clay ovens is also being revived. Furthermore, a weaving cooperative has ‹een set up to generate income, initially for 15 women, and this produces cloth for the traditional costume that is still generally worn.

By raising awareness of the rights of the Indian population, and defining these more clearly, the project is helping to ensure sustained democratic participation in a multicultural society, in which the Indian population will take control of its own development and will no longer be subjected to decisions taken by others.

4. Conclusions and Future Prospects

From the project work of the IIZ/DVV in recent years it has become ever more apparent that individual programme areas increasingly overlap and complement one another. For example, nonformal basic education acquires a high functional priority in the development of women’s and farmers’ self-help groups. The same can be observed in the case of programmes training elected members and staff of local government. In order to participate on one’s own terms in larger economic projects and local politics, it is necessary to have a command of the written language generally used in commercial transactions and government.

From reports from partners and information received from target groups, it is evident that adult education activities do produce higher incomes among poorer sections of the population, that they achieve a high level of participation among women, and that they strengthen the organizational ability of self-help groups and cooperatives. It is not easy to devise ways of monitoring improved living conditions qualitatively while doing justice to the interests of both the target groups, the project organizers and the external donor. The IIZ/DVV believes it is important that the development of qualitative and quantitative indicators should involve the target groups so that they can reflect on their own objectives with the aid of comprehensible indicators. The task of developing indicators, which has been taken up in some projects, provides new insights and learning opportunities for both those providing support and those who are seeking to organize themselves.

The theme of monitoring is used here merely as an example of what typically occurs in adult education projects. These regard learning from success and setbacks as a two-way process, which takes place in the form of a highly flexible open dialogue. It is a very positive development that the learning process involved in providing support for self-help increasingly incorporates the organized exchange of experience between national and local NGOs, and sometimes between associations of self-help groups.

Similarly, it is necessary to stand back and take a broad view in assessing the sustainability of self-help initiatives. There are already new forms of cooperation between initiatives, such as associations representing the interests of women’s groups at district level in Guinea, those of farmers’ cooperatives at regional level in Cameroon, and those of slum dwellers in Indian cities at national level. This suggests that the support which is generally provided locally for participation may have a wider impact on the development of the civil society. As the civil society is strengthened, however, new needs for initial and further training will come about if participation in the democratic process and economic affairs is to be effective.

On the basis of the reports, the cautious hope can also be expressed that training disadvantaged sections of the population to make greater input into development promotes peaceful coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups. This assumption may seem obvious, but it still needs scientific confirmation.

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