NGOs in a quandary

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By Elliott Siamonga

THE PATRIOT is on record for writing analytical opinion pieces on how NGOs are used as regime change agents by some Western countries hostile to African countries, Zimbabwe included.
However, of late, some of these organisations have been facing stiff resistance from communities they have been operating in, courtesy of programmes initiated by the Government under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Some communities, especially in Binga, feel NGOs are now duplicating programmes that are already being implemented by the Government.
Elders in Binga said initiatives like the smallholder livestock programmes have been replaced by the Command Livestock Programme, while NGOs supplying seeds have been overtaken by the Presidential Input Support Scheme.
Smallholder and nutritional gardens have been taken over by the nationwide borehole drilling and damming programmes in all provinces.
Fishermen, who have been the prime target of NGOs in Binga, are now realising meaningful profits courtesy of the Command Fisheries Programme.
Schools, hospitals and community groups are also benefitting from Government programmes such as the schools feeding scheme, free maternity and cancer screening as well as HIV awareness programmes, all being implemented by the Government.
All these programmes have left NGOs clutching at straws, trying hard to come up with new programmes that are not being implemented by the Government.
In a recent discussion, an official from one NGO that was implementing the Smallholder Livestock Programme admitted they had underestimated the Government and took communities for granted for a long time, but this time, the tune is different as they are now failing to come up with credible programmes.
One of the biggest problems NGOs had over the years was imposing projects on communities.
Previously, it was difficult for many communities, especially the BaTonga, to accept that the majority of NGOs activities in their communities were merely a smokescreen.
The local authorities have often faced challenges in providing employment for their people.
They have not been able to develop infrastructure and build trust in the local system.
These have obviously made many communities, especially those in the rural areas such as Binga, the right target for exploitation by NGOs.
While there is nothing wrong in helping people in need, there is everything wrong in creating a dependency syndrome.
Rural communities do not need to depend on other peoples’ charity.
They need to be empowered in order to plan for themselves.
No doubt NGOs are big multinational business in Africa.
They have a deeply-rooted network in governments.
It’s just like the old system — colonialism.
The colonial masters sent the missionaries to: “…go and prepare the place, let them know that you want to save their souls then we will come.”
Some people might argue NGOs have built hospitals and fed the ‘vulnerable’ communities as they call them, especially in Matabeleland North and South provinces.
That is true; but of the total money raised for the said projects, how much was actually used?
Research shows NGOs are not really helping communities, but helping themselves.
NGOs receive money from big organisations and the organisations are convinced their money is rightly channelled to the needy, yet that is not the case.
A book published on January 28 2010 by a Zambian woman, Dambisa Moyo, best illustrates how NGOs tend to impose projects that are not beneficial to the communities.
Titled, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, the book has triggered many thought-provoking debates.
Writes Moyo: “The notion that aid can alleviate poverty and has done so is a myth.
Millions in Africa today are poorer because of aid; misery and poverty have not ended but have increased.
In the past 50 years, more than
US$1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans?
No.
In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse — much worse.”
Judging from the average awareness of many people in rural communities, Moyo’s analysis shows that, for many years, a lot of communities have become convinced that the social and economic development of their countries depends on the amount of aid rendered by Western nations.
In fact, some African politicians beg for aid even though it is detrimental to their local economic development because all that glitters is not gold.
While it is true that some people do travel thousands of kilometres to ‘help’ people they bareley know, it is equally true that aid comes with strings attached.
No doubt Africans have become means of earnings for some interest-driven individuals, corporates and NGOs.
The catch for NGOs at any international gathering today is the war cry: “Help Africans, they are dying of hunger and disease. Donate to save the lives of poor Africans.”
Surprisingly, Europeans were never the helpers of the African people from the onset.
If anything, slavery and colonialism disadvantaged Africans and the thousands of NGOs in Africa are only fuelling a dependency syndrome among Africans.
NGO programmes, especially in Africa, are charming schemes to exploit people.
Zimbabweans must take heed.

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