Updated: Mar 1, 2020
What is International Development (ID) and why “debunk” it, anyways?
Devex states that ID, “lacks a clear definition, but it is often linked with human development and international efforts to reduce poverty and inequality and improve health, education and job opportunities around the world.” It goes further to say that,
“While humanitarian aid and disaster relief are meant to provide short-term fixes to emergencies, ID is meant to be long-term and sustainable.” - Devex
Examples of prominent ID organizations are the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Peace Corps; both founded by John F. Kennedy as an outgrowth of the Cold War “to encourage mutual understanding between Americans and people of other nations and cultures.” According to their website, "USAID leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people progress beyond assistance.”
If you think ID sounds complex, we would wholeheartedly agree with you.
To elicit the intricacies of ID, let’s outline the seemingly basic topic of seeds.
Within ID, much focus is placed on the “best” methods to provide farmers with high-quality seed. Why? Because at the root of agriculture, at the very foundation of subsistence and human existence, is the farmer and the seed.
When one considers the actors involved in seed production practices, the simple seed quickly becomes quite convoluted . Certain nonprofits advocate “food sovereignty” and seed saving for smallholder farmers. Governments tend to strongly influence what crops farmers grow through incentives such as seed subsidies. Some multinational private corporations focus on the genetic modification of seeds to develop pest- and disease-resistant strains. The seeds farmers use worldwide have been shaped by many forces, often without discretion.
From questions of morality…
Is it wrong to restrict farmers from saving seed and require them to repurchase seed each season?
Isn’t it in the best interest of the farmer and the world’s population to focus on genetic modification of commodity crops to increase yields?
Why should large companies profit from seed sales while farmers are undoubtedly among the world’s most impoverished populations?
…to questions of feasibility and execution…
Is it the responsibility of a nation’s government to provide farmers with seed?
Which crops are best for farmers to grow to increase their income while attempting to provide the world with food?
How can we make inputs and supplies more accessible to the world’s poorest and most remote farmers?
… no one can seem to agree. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Even amongst those who agree on specific ID-ologies (see what we did there?), their respective methodologies to achieve their goals can sometimes be in misalignment, or even contradictory.
Ironically, the competition amongst the world’s most well-intentioned philanthropic organizations to “have the best method of fighting poverty” often results in a lack of knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and innovation.
That’s where we come in.
By adopting an objective lens, researching, reporting from the field, and opening the vast doors of conversation with International Development professionals and organizations all around the world, IDGeeks aims to learn. To give a platform to a multitude of voices, knowing that there is no singular path forward in development.
We believe that through sharing knowledge and debunking misconceptions, we can collectively plant the seeds for a truly innovative and impactful development landscape.
- Meg Geddis, Founder
Are you an ID geek? Do you have questions, criticisms, or wish to contribute? Leave us a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and get involved!