Unexpected Bonuses in Bolivia

If I give money to an organisation, I may simply be expecting the thing they said would happen, to happen. If that was the case, I’d probably be happy enough. However, often when good development activities are carried out, there can be positive ramifications beyond what was expected.

If I may use the example of Irish Methodist funded work in Bolivia. The basic idea was to provide solar ovens (10% of cost was paid for by recipient) for domestic use. The results:

1. As intended, time has been freed up for women to explore other productive activities or even recreational pursuits. As one women has said, “I think I love my oven more than my husband!”

The forests, previously used as the source of firewood, are being conserved. All this was hoped for before things started.

However, there have been other consequences:

2. The involvement of the Methodist Church in Ireland has led to new Bolivian Methodist communities joining the scheme.

3. Because of the ‘extra’ time now available to women, community discussions have been initiated and training delivered around gender roles within the community.

The solar ovens have become less about economics and the environment and more about women’s empowerment.

4. The ‘ovens project’ is happening where a proposed hydroelectric dam may be built. It is risky to do leadership training in such an area as the powerful and wealthy do not wish to be challenged.

However, the ‘ovens project’ provides a cover under which such training can happen less obviously so that local people can understand the issues and mobilise themselves to lobby for their rights.

5. The ovens and their success has been seen by other local NGOs and this has led to an increase in demand. A deal is now being brokered with local commercial enterprises to produce the oven parts locally and the increased demand will mean a reduction in cost.

Also, importantly, it is expected to lead to 800 new jobs.

As was told to me by Emma Donlan, Christian Aid Country Manager for Bolivia, “The Methodist Church in Ireland has been the springboard”. It is great when development throws up unexpected bonuses and very significant bonuses at that.

NB Irish Methodist World Development & Relief co-funds some work with Christian Aid Ireland. In the above case the ‘shared’ partner is the Bolivian NGO, Soluciones Practicas.


In a nutshell: PROJECT

Next in our ‘In a nutshell’ series is PROJECT. Tim Dunwoody (World Development Officer) explains a bit more…

People invariably ask WDR for a “project to support”. WDR avoids using the word ‘project’.

Projects are short-term ‘bursts’ of activity, typically lasting 1-3 years. They suit donors wanting a clear-cut beginning and end, and the chance to move on somewhere else.

There is little evidence that projects bring long-lasting change. Projects give little time for indigenous people to gain skills, capacity building of the partner, forming a genuine relationship with the partner, recognising problems and changing direction if necessary or, importantly, challenging the societal and institutional structures and policies that keep people poor.

Control tends to be with the donor.

For WDR, long-term relational partnerships are the way to have maximum impact. There is much evidence for this.

For WDR it’s about People, not Projects.

Click here to meet some of the people WDR partner with around the world.


Continuing our ‘In a nutshelll’ series, Tim explains the term' ‘DEVELOPMENT & RELIEF’

Charitable donations skyrocket after disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes.

People need the basics just to survive; food, water, clothes and shelter and medical care. This provision is called ‘relief’. It is not a long-term solution.

At the same time, every day, 767 million people are living below the international ‘absolute poverty’ line (living on less than $1.90 per day) and millions of others live in ‘poverty’. 

Long-term projects, programmes and policy changes can transform these communities. This is ‘development’. By all means, let us respond with extra one-off gifts to give relief during emergencies, but WDR urges us to regularly support development which holds real long-term solutions.

One of the most effective ways to support WDR and our long-term commitments to our partners, is through regular giving. If this is something you’d like more information about, please email Laura.