3.9 The development manager as advocate: making a case against
Advocacy is not just about proposing change. It can also be about opposing change. By way of drawing your look at development management to an active conclusion, the following activity gives you the opportunity to make a case against a real-world development. The Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) Project, a project based in Kenya, is designed to address the issue of food security in Africa using genetically modified (GM) maize.
Read Seife Ayele's (2006) ‘IRMA: a case study of a science- and technology-based intervention to reduce hunger’, linked below.
Imagine you are a campaigning NGO opposing the IRMA project. Using the reading and other material that you can find, think about what kind of case you could build up against this intervention.
As regards the material to use, note that Ayele cites various websites that you should find useful. He also mentions individuals and groups opposed to the IRMA intervention. You might look on the internet for material about them. Beyond this, you should use keywords from the debate presented in the reading to guide your search, noting also the Kenyan (or east African) location of the intervention.
You will need to think about your own position, the perspective from which you are going to challenge the intervention (though note that your perspective may change as you build the case). You will also need to think about whom you will address your case to. One possibility is the Kenyan Government. Another is IRMA itself, any or all of the members of the partnership. And there may be other NGOs, and other agencies, who are potential allies in your campaign and whom you should seek to engage.
This is an activity that could potentially take up a lot of time! I recommend that you spend no more than two hours on it. It is also an activity that is likely to generate different processes and ‘products’. I will not try to anticipate these in the discussion, but present an overview of the key issues that occurred to me when I did the activity.
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Though this is not the ‘real thing’, I hope that you had some sense of the experience Mayer is referring to when she writes that: ‘Finding innovative ways to give voice to concerns not usually heeded by those in power is one of the exciting and enjoyable things to do with evidence’ (Mayer, 2007, p. 274). Certainly, I found it fascinating to look at the kinds of arguments being put forward by, for example, GMWatch, and by people speaking on behalf of poor farmers, and at the complex politics surrounding the introduction of GM crops, not only in Kenya but in other East African countries such as Uganda. I also found it important to try and get ‘into the minds’ of promoters of GMO, such as Syngenta, not least because to make the case against intervention it is crucial to appreciate the case for the intervention.
Having done this I worked through a range of issues. I appreciate that the range of responses to this activity is likely to be great, but when I undertook the activity the following points emerged, which may echo some of your thinking. I developed the activity from the point of view of an (imagined) agency specifically established to oppose IRMA: ExtIRMAnate. This brought together a number of interests, in particular local smallholders, organic farmers and global environmental activists.
What capacities did each of the interests bring to the campaign: these ranged from local knowledge to global knowledge; from the capacity to mobilise smallholders to the capacity to challenge the IRMA partners wherever they were located; and included some funding, some personnel, contacts in government and contacts in the local media.
What would give our campaign public legitimacy and political credibility? Thoughts centred on the threat to indigenous gene pools and the possible elimination of local varieties of seeds. I also wanted to link this to longer histories of struggle to protect rural livelihoods, such as those dating back to the colonial period and heavy state involvement in agriculture.
How might I establish the public illegitimacy of the IRMA project? Possible lines of argument related to foreign domination, possibly corrupt linkages between government and private interests, and the lack of proper regulation.
Who would be the agency's ‘audiences’, or ‘targets’? I certainly had to motivate my own various constituencies. I also had to engage government, and looked for, and found, MPs opposed to GM crops. Should I target the research community? Should I target USAID, which has consistently promoted the development of GM agriculture in Africa?
What might undermine my case? An obvious possibility was that the initial impetus for the campaign came from a ‘foreign’ body, GMWatch. I also needed to demonstrate that I did genuinely represent particular communities of interest.
What could I focus the campaign on? The obvious political opportunity related to the Bio-safety Bill. I also looked to establish a presence of our allies on the National Bio-safety Authority.
How confrontational should I be? This came to be a significant issue, with great potential to divide the agency.