Does Aid Work? The Aid Audit:
Below is a summary of this World Service Podcast from 2015
‘Fifteen years ago, German journalist, Ulli Schauen helped compile a book of the top 500 global aid programmes… they ranged from schools for Maasai nomads to support for organic farming to training for volunteer sexual health workers.
The question is did they succeed or fail? Ulli travels to Kenya to see how the projects in that country fared. Ulli sets out to find if Aid really does make a difference.’
(These projects were all related to the original Millennium Development Goals and the folllow ups are here – one author’s blog – The Aid Audit: Development Projects Revisited After Fifteen Years
International Aid money has helped all of the projects below….
Project One – OSIGILI
in 1995 the Laikipiak Maasai formed an organization called OSILIGI (which means ‘Hope’.)
In one of the first projects OSILIGI organized reading and writing courses geared to the nomadic life. In April, August and December, when the nomadic herdsmen are settled, a teacher comes to the village. During these weeks children have concentrated lessons. This made-to-measure education is considerably cheaper than state elementary school. In 4 years, OSILIGI has reached 380 children with this programme, mainly from poor families.
However, the broader issue OSILIGI campaigns for is to establish land rights – to pasture and watering holes, and here they appear to have lost. The Maasai still have no formal rights and their land, and thus way of life, is under threat from agribusinesses and eco-tourism and in the programme we discover that the Maasai live amongst miles and miles of fences – which fence off private farms – one farm being as large as the island of Malta, which houses shipped-in Rhinos for eco-tourism, but this leaves little room for the Maasai.
Osigili seems now to be focussing on the education aspect, but the land rights issue has been taken up by another organisation – IMPACT. It is possible that more progress will be made in this area in the future.
Project Two – A Voucher System for Health Care
In the far West of Kenya the German Government Trained volunteer health advisers – 20 000 community health workers for 10 years. Unfortunately this terminated in 2006 and so no evaluation or final report can be found, the argument here, however, is that a lasting legacy
The German government now funds a voucher programme for the poor where they can use vouchers to receive free or subsidised contraception, maternal health services and HIV treatment.
Through the voucher programme local (privately run) hospitals receive $50 for maternal treatments and $12 for AIDs screenings (from the German Aid fund, they don’t get state funding) – 3/4s of the money goes on medicine and food, but the rest is available to allow for hospital expansion.
To give an example of how it works – one woman is interviewed who is HIV positive, and giving birth in the hospital meant that the infection was not passed on to her two children.
Despite the above, Kenya still failed to reach two of its MDGs -reducing infant mortality and improving maternal health.
But German Government trying to influence Kenyan health policy into the bargain. Germans wand to promote health insurance, Americans want to promote other issues – donors don’t co-ordinate their programmes.
Project Three – The Matinyani Business Cooperative
This is a cooperative of 4000 women, who initially set up a library, primary school and a health centre. They also established a range of small businesses devoted to weaving, water, candlemaking, bakery.
However, all of this stopped working years ago… 75% of the initial money went into other people’s pockets – so they couldn’t pay workers or for materials to keep the projects going.
However, what these women learnt in the early days of this project allowed them to establish their own businesses, many of which are today successful and export to other countries.
Project Four – Environmental Protection on Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is heavily overfished and polluted.
This projects aims were to build water treatment plants and limiting the spread of the water hyacinth. There are laws in place about catch size (enforced by the mesh size of nets). However, it seems that everyone is happy about breaking the law and the aid-funded environmental organisation doesn’t seem to be enforcing the rules.
The World Bank Project labelled this one as unsatisfactory.
Project Five – A Foot Pump for Water
An Australian company called Kick Start (originally known as Aprotec ) which focussed on developing just one product – a small, foot operated water pump, claims to have lifted almost one million people out of poverty. Aid has been essential in this. The CEO says that it is not profitable to develop such products for people – it’s high risk, low return, and high cost – so it’s a market failure – thus subsidies in the form of International Aid, with this money going mainly into Research and Development and marketing (radio ads).
The pumps themselves are sold for $130 – and they have sold 250 000, which means about 900 000 will have been lifted out of poverty. We visit a tree nursery to see how this works – where an employee is using the foot pump (like a step machine) to pump water to water the young trees – this has allowed the company to grow a lot more trees and it is now much bigger than it used to be.
Question – Has development aid worked in the above five cases?
The programme finishes off by noting that we see all of the classic problems associated with Aid in the above examples, but it is the positive impacts which stick in his mind, especially the fact that when official projects collapse, the people who have gained skills carry on campaigning in different ways.
Find Out More…. There are another two episodes in the series if you wish to listen further!