Thatta Kedona

Culture is a Basic Need

Living Laboratory

Who could have imagined during the Cold War how wonderful new socialism would be (Fast Food Spray 2002).

Problems facing projects is less-developed countries

One feature of the general approach in development co-operation that is not discussed much is misunderstandings between urban and rural cultures. The diversity between the cultures is ignored -- differences between the urban and rural culture of a country as well as between different cultures, between western and western-orientated cultures.

As a consequence of misunderstandings, processes are augmented, multiplied, compounded by use of scientific and industrial methods to assess the consequences of technology.

When such projects are installed, it is more a question of concealed job creation measures with short-term economic thinking; any kind of "social efficiency is ignored and or is not recognized.


Consequently, project management of the kind taking place at TGD is unknown or at least beyond the realms of conventional thinking in terms of efficiency. Yet, it is precisely this kind of project management that offers opportunities that are interesting in the long term.

The prerequisite for this is cautious approach; the much cited concept of sustainability requires different time parameters!

Integrated approach and diversity of topics

When adopting an integrated approach to a project in a rural area, an outsider is initially beset by a certain feeling of helplessness, an ever growing number of questions arises and the search for answers is dependent on relying on one’s own ideas, openness towards the local population and, in turn, on their willingness to exchange ideas, and on the general environment.

The number and diversity of possibilities in connection with the questions that arise is astounding. This explains the following list and diversity of topics in the TGD project:
Project description

Activities in and in connection with Thatta Ghulamka Dhiroka can best be described as a Pakistani NGO located there and working with other NGOs and institutions in Pakistan and, in addition, co-operating with NGOs at an international level. The results of ethnological research serve as means to achieve improvement of women’s income in rural areas by enabling them to make handicraft products. Training and processing are always linked with marketing -- income depends on products being sold!

Projects and reality

Management of NGO projects can be entirely out of its depth in business terms. To put it in another way, it reflects a completely different culture. Features of these differences are:

Producing goods that no-one has ordered

Selling without any limitations like (a) prices for producers go down to a rock-bottom level, (b) increase in income according to the principle -- who knows how long it will last, so act now, (c) connections between production and sales are not clear in a Western sense i.e. relative lack of balance in so-called budgeting, (d) a complete lack of structures exists in transactions between the cultures, based on lack of experience and knowledge of markets in industrialized countries and (e) while dependence on the extended family provides a framework for business activities, it can also have a negative influence and lead to unwise withdrawals of money particularly when, for example, a marriage is in the offing.

Handicrafts – ecotechnology - CIT

A departure from the across-the-board approach: The Western way of thinking is dominated by an approach that seemingly fundamental solutions have to be implemented as a whole. This can be described as compelling, but also as blinkered, well-worn and insular. What is surprising in South Asia is the meeting of the first, second, third, and fourth worlds; economic developments, social movements, scientific insights, religious interpretations are not seen in terms of fixed parameters:
  1. Environmentally friendly (environmental protection has special significance in places where air pollution is at a high level due to rapid increases in production).
  2. Social (protection provided by families means that large organizations do not have to invest in care facilities).
  3. Greater balance in technological and economic terms (it is less a question of what is feasible from the technological, scientific or economic point of view and more what makes sense from the overall point of view).

Elements of sustainable project development in rural areas
The pillars of a project in a rural space:
Family and work in the fields are to be seen as wealth; work in connection with a project as no more than a source of extra income. This means that dependence is limited and traditional values are not destroyed. A negative example would be the carpet knotting that takes place in urban centers with the resulting child labor, exploitation by city dwellers, neglect of family and work in the fields.

Further development in rural areas on the basis of careful and circumspect management

In the context of the project, handicrafts, ecotechnology, and communication and information technology seem to be particularly important in rural areas -- a further tripartite model.

In contrast with urban culture, which trains its next generation in industrial design with the result that the West tends to serve as a role model, handicrafts represent the wealth of a region. Providing that Western methods of production are avoided, there are good future prospects on a Western market that is saturated with industrial design.

The means of ecotechnology enable the rural population to become independent of city-dwellers while also making it possible for them to benefit from technological developments, for example, by using e-mails or a mobile telephone to execute orders beyond village level.

Ecotechnology (solar cooker, solar cooler, windmills, solar collectors, photovoltaic, etc.) is of significance as its use diminishes dependence on urban culture. Development of infrastructure in the cities that is often called for is based on obsolete models. These are preferred as they provide producers with a wide distribution network with good economic opportunities, but do nothing to help the masses living in the countryside.

Information and communication technology in rural areas may appear to be completely absurd, but this is the very factor that enables people in such areas to participate in major markets, even if this has cost the time of millions of developers and billions of investment dollars in Western countries.

Domestic co-operation with

A tendency towards a certain isolation does not only exist in Western civilization but also in traditional cultures. Knowledge of the wider world is not necessarily compatible with what is experienced in the microcosm. Nevertheless, it is a question of combining both aspects in a way that makes sense. An attempt to achieve this is being made in Thatta Ghulamka Dhiroka (TGD) in the form of invitations to professors and students to visit the village.

In the context of making handicraft products, collaboration with other NGOs is necessary, without space being given to fears about losing existing assets: traditional culture is rich in comparison with industrial culture.

Work at an NGO has nothing to do with charity but Ð it could almost be said Ð demands a greater sense of business acumen. It is a question of prevailing against the mass-produced articles of industry, which has comparatively vast amounts of money at its disposal.

Overseas co-operation with

The technological resources of the industrialized countries mean that for the first time it is possible for insignificant NGOs to communicate and co-operate with each other without having to have certificates from training institutions. As far as the NGO of TGD is concerned, first steps towards co-operating with other NGOs have been made, e.g. in the form of exchange of materials.

Networking with projects abroad

The participation of volunteers from abroad has proved to be beneficial with the result that staff of the local NGO participates in events abroad such as the International Dubai Festival, the International Workshop in Iceland, at import fairs in Berlin, etc. In the meantime, the volunteers have gathered experience that is beginning to make an impact in the networked projects.


Summary

In times of sweeping changes the "half life” of pilot projects has been greatly reduced. Although, despite this, project pilots are realized and emulated and the error rate is rising at a phenomenal speed, it is necessary to confine oneself to what is special. The abilities and skills - which are strongly traditional - of people in rural areas constitute the wealth of a region, which need to be recorded as if in a living laboratory.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:00 AM,

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