chapter  4
18 Pages

It’s not Size that Matters: Development Projects Re-examined

When members of the public think about international development, their favourite charity, working away at the coal-face of poverty to ‘help people help themselves’, normally springs to mind. It is either that, or a showpiece project selected by international agencies to prove how well our aid is being spent. There were few such projects in the early years of foreign aid (like the Marshall Plan), but now they are the bedrock of the development industry. There are projects for everything: cutting down the civil service, for example, and building it up again; or privatising health and education, and then repairing the damage when poor people no longer have the services they need. That’s the great thing about projects – even if they fail, new ones can always be started to clear up the mess. In the 1980s, Oxfam-UK had a project that de-stocked and then re-stocked the goat population of northern Kenya like a perpetual motion machine. It worked quite well, though not for the goats that were born in a phase when numbers had to be reduced. Do development projects really change anything?