I work in the conservation and development fields, although I rather hope the projects I work on avoid the pitfalls of conceptually-flawed, traditional Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (which often deliver neither conservation nor development). I work near the bottom of the development-aid food chain, and this blog is about my perspective from on the ground. Imho too many development projects are put together and run by people who spend far too little time in the field, and are thus rarely exposed to all the myriad challenges of actually delivering conservation and development benefits. I fully admit that my view of matters from my own remote outpost is necessarily narrow, and that I may be missing important information only visible from the national level or higher. But I believe that this is an important story to be told and heard, without which conservation and development is, for too many people, nothing more than a bunch of empty political discourses and often misleading statistics, or carefully selected, but entirely unrepresentative anecdotes.
It would be easy to surmise from the above that I am some dyed-in-the-wool cynic about aid and development, and it is true a strong streak of aid cynicism runs through me, but only because I have seen so much waste and incompetence. But I am also an optimist, and not just about my own projects, in which I passionately believe. I believe that despite the thick fog of broken promises, gross errors and dismal failures, committed individuals and institutions that are open to listening and learning from their mistakes can make a real difference to peoples’ futures in the ‘developing’ world. Thus I hope to keep a positive mind-set as I write this blog, and give praise where praise is due. Development aid has turned out to be far, far harder than anyone could possibly have imagined when the industry first spawned in the wake of the break-up of colonial-era empires, so when seen in that context, the large number of project failures becomes rather more understandable. I also know there are a lot of really good, dedicated, hard-working, talented people in conservation and development who are swamped by a system of perverse incentives and constantly shifting priorities. My blog is dedicated to those people, and the people they are trying to help.
ps. If you are new to this blog and want to get a taster for my main themes then check out my list of top posts.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be something of a conversation. Sometimes I may take positions just to stir up some debate. I also reserve the right to change my mind at any time, especially if you make a piercing or insightful comment on a post. Thus the opinions I voice on this blog may not even be by own opinions let alone those of my employer or any of our donors or partners. I hope to be entertaining and from time to time I shall make liberal use of sarcasm; if you are offended please give some thought to not shooting the messenger. I very rarely have the benefit of the complete picture, but I always aim to be honest and authentic. Thus while I may often be wrong, my perspective is genuine; if I ever appear to be disrespectful then it is probably because the subject of my ire has given insufficient thought to how its actions may be perceived by people working at the coal face. This blog is subtitled the ‘Ugly Side of Conservation & Development’ for a reason!