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STORY SIX Sliding toward Dependency Ada Foa, Ghana, 1985 90 Ben had an hour to kill before John Dogbe would take him to meet the management staff of the Rabbit Project at the Chinese restaurant in Ada Foa. Because the coastal town had no hotel deemed good enough for a foreigner, Ben was to spend the night at the old guest quarters of a defunct road construction project a few kilometers away. After the bumpy three-hour drive from Accra, Ben needed to stretch. He took a walk through the abandoned construction camp, a concrete graveyard of rusted earthmoving equipment. The massive machines— Caterpillar front loaders, Kumatsu road graders, bulldozers—looked as if they had died young; some still had all their “teeth.” The trail of derelict equipment went on for hundreds of yards, down to the edge of the Atlantic. The machinery, paid for by various aid donors, took on a sad presence as dusk fell. These hulks had not expired from overuse or hard work but from lack of parts and maintenance. Mute orphans of development , they had long been forgotten, “written off” by their donors’ accountants in Washington or London. Dinner at the Chinese restaurant was a rare treat for the Ghanaians with Ben. For five years Ghana had been in a state of economic free fall. A few months back, on Ben’s last trip, he had had to bring canned food into the country. The Continental Hotel in Accra (once a proud member of the Intercontinental chain) had had nothing to offer in its restaurant except rice and beer. But things were slowly beginning to pick up. Food was more available. The edges of Ghana’s endemic corruption were being nibbled at. Government was liberalizing the economy. People were hopeful. In Ada Foa the Chinese restaurant was new. It was packed with a mixture of aid workers and local merchants. After dinner, back at the camp, Ben arranged his jacket as a pillow cover, the pillow itself being encrusted with dirt. His jacket wasn’t too clean either, but at least his head would be on familiar dirt. He thought about the Rabbit Project. In 1974 the Ministry of Agriculture had been successful in obtaining USAID funding for the National Rabbit Project (the NRP), and in early 1975 the commissioner of agriculture had asked WorldServe (WS), the American NGO for which Ben worked, to help put the NRP on a more business-like basis. Ben’s NGO specialized in helping to develop what the founder of WS called “community-based enterprises” in rural areas of the third world. Since he had first visited Africa in the early 1960s, the founder of WS had maintained that rural Africans did not need handouts but advice and assistance in getting themselves organized into businesses that could profitably sell what they grew or, even better, process what they grew and then sell it. If this could be done, he fervently believed , then Africa could move forward. WorldServe did a study on rabbit production for the government’s NRP project and sent off its recommendations . There they sat. Meanwhile, WS went on about its other work. Then, in 1980, a group of farmers from the Ada Foa area asked WS for advice. This group was just the sort WS liked to work with: a community-based farmers group which the farmers themselves had formed without outside influence and which had never received (nor was it now asking for) any kind of handout. The farmers wanted to start a business and had several ideas, including constructing a cannery for their excess tomato production or possibly raising rabbits. Some of the farmers had heard the government media promoting rabbits in Ghana since the NRP days as a cheap source of meat, with the potential for cash income from both the meat and the pelts. WorldServe jumped at the prospect. Here was a chance to apply its knowledge of rabbits from five years earlier. Sliding toward Dependency 91 Since its beginnings in the late 1960s, WS had been trying hard to find ways out of the dependency dilemma that it thought was the central problem in most development assistance efforts. In theory, WS leadership had long concluded, giving things directly to poor farmers, or even doing things for them, put both the organization and the farmers on the slippery slope to dependency. To avoid this, WS at first tried to help farmers raise their income by offering them only advice. The...


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