meaning of "development work"

It all came together today… as i woke up with the thought in my head… of what a farmer earns in the field producing grains and the farmer (who works in the cubicle farm) earns in producing corporate consumer/service products. The disparity in monetary earnings is amazing, of course… but what is amazingly similar is the choices made by each…

Yes, development is about personal choice… and socio-economic situations are outcomes of collective personal choices.

What made the penny drop was when my eyes fell on the jowar I had bought. Jowar – that hardy millet that survives adverse conditions, erratic rainfall, requiring very little farm inputs, and above all having superb nutritional value…. and i asked myself, as i had asked umpteen number of times, why isn’t the farmer growing things like jowar than opting out for killer cash crops? sure, the decision is market/subsidy driven…. but what stops him/her from also growing the stuff enough for personal use so that s/he doesn’t get catapulted into starvation conditions? Nothings stops him/her… and these decisions do not require ‘awareness’ etc. It is a personal decision, and a personal choice – perhaps influence-able at a certain level by external factors – but beyond that – no.

How often have we encountered the frustration at the grassroots of ‘people’ opting for more unsustainable choices… inspite of our constant dirge of information and ‘awareness’ building processes? Sure, one does manage to influence a little bit here and there… but somewhere, somehow most people, irrespective of where they are on the socio-economic-political ladder, do opt out for a monetary bottom line. In contrast, one does come across enough number of people opting for more sustainable choices… sustainable being defined as those options that can ensure the longevity of happiness and maintenance of balance through a choices of food, clothing, shelter, livelihoods, where and how one will spend and expend one’s resources, what social ‘rules’ will one choose to impose and follow… and so on. Development, thus, defined as optimization of choices that go towards building personal happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment, definitely then is a personal choice.

Yet how does one view and reconcile the larger, external conditions – imposed by the juggernauts of conglomerations and tie-ups between decision-makers and power-brokers. Sure one would say it all depends on who we choose to put at the helm… and that person’s/organisation’s psychological and emotional structural strengths and weakness… which again brings us back to what we have chosen. Sure, I personally didn’t choose to put the thugs at the helm… it was after all a collective choice… but it was a collection of personal choices… we inevitably pay for each other’s choices too. Whether i like it or not, whether i believe in it or not, whether i personally choose it or not… i have to pay for my brother’s (and sister’s) choices too…. just as much as somebody else pays for my choices.

The only thing I can, perhaps, do under the circumstances, then, is to be aware of what I choose and why I choose… and hope to make considered choices that can maximise my ‘happiness’ while minimizing the larger damage.

I conclude, for now, with a few thoughts:

1. that perhaps development-work could mean to be an effort to influence choices of the community such that we move – individually and collectively – more and more to the centre of the fulcrum…

2. that development-work is about being at the stern working with the rudder than being at the bow at the wheel…

3. an acceptance of “what-is” as an outcome of personal choice does not mean an end to work towards influencing balance…

4. that though one feels deep sadness, one cannot just cry in futile angst at inequity and injustice – but one has to engage, in whatever way one can, in whatever niche one finds, in influencing the balance…

5. and most importantly it cannot be left only to a few sectors to “do” development-work… but that everyone can engage in “development-work” one way or another…


One thought on “meaning of "development work"

  1. This is a very intelligent and well-considered statement, and it also gives us the information we need to empower our choices. Way to go! I am wondering if you might consider posting it for the Project Genesis Project on Wednesday? A group of bloggers offer what they know to try to spread the word about ways we can help the planet. Your essay here gives some great info…..if you are interested, check out on Reminder and there will be directions there for participating, if you like. I love the way you think! And write! Good work.

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