Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Peter Yeo


  Three ways in which aid personnel can combat climate change:—

1.  Avoid negative demonstration effect

  The activities of expatriate aid personnel too often encourage practices which have a negative effect on climate change.


    —  A Project concerned with village-level education attempted to give equal attention to all parts of Nigeria, which meant spending about 30 per cent of their time travelling by road. It would have been more useful, and less damaging, to work in depth in a single state, and later to spread knowledge based on this local experience.

    —  The same Project used a Land Rover when more fuel-efficient vehicles could have been used.

    —  A Project in Tanzania, also concerned with village-level education, created the implication that mobile teams with Land Rovers and generators were necessary to do the job. Unintentionally, they devalued the work which officers based at District Headquarters could have done in the villages they could reach by public transport, without carrying generators.

2. Communicate local best practice

  In most countries, some local people have already developed sustainable farming practices. Aid personnel can help to spread such good practice by applying communication expertise and by lending their aura as "experts" to peasants who would not otherwise be seen as worth copying.


    —  Along the Southern edge of the Sahel, ordinary farmers sometimes manage to push back the encroaching desert (New Scientist, 27 October 2001, p 44). Aid personnel could help to spread these local good practices to farmers who are less successful.

    —  Aid personnel in Nigeria, whose expertise was not primarily in agriculture, were persuaded to make some five minute "filler" items for radio on such topics as composting. The senior official in the federal agricultural ministry who commissioned the work was asked why he didn't ask his own colleagues to do this work. He said, "none of our agriculture specialists could say anything in five minutes". He needed environmentally conscious communicators more than he needed expatriate agriculturalists.

3.  Changing local bad practice

  It is usually easy to identify practices which damage the environment. Stopping them is the difficult part. Attempting to change public opinion is often more fruitful than punishing offenders.


    —  A woman in Vietnam who admitted that she had misused her loan from a micro-credit scheme to buy equipment for electric fishing. Regulations to ban this type of fishing and the giving of loans for this purpose were already in place. However, coming down heavily on all those who had broken the law in this case would only have ensured that future crimes would be better concealed. The long term solution lay rather in attempting to persuade her fellow members (whose approval was needed for all loans) that destroying fish stocks would be bad for all their futures. The people running the micro-credit scheme recognised that they needed advice on adult education much more than on fishing or law enforcement.

Peter Yeo

(Mr Yeo was employed by the Co-operative College UK for 30 years)

January 2002

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