What is People-Centered Development?
People-Centered Development (PCD) is an approach to international development that focuses on the real needs of local communities for the necessities of life (clean water, health care, income generation) that are often disrupted by conventional development assistance. Conventional development includes military aid, large dams, free trade zones and export economies that bring lots of money to the contractors and aid organizations, but often result in massive deforestation, resettlement of communities, introduction of pollutants and diseases... you get the picture.
Even smaller scale projects such as "adoption" programs generally don't benefit the kids directly, and the ultimate "project" that you fund (chickens, a school) may not last much beyond the end of the funding. I have seen too many instances where once the aid agency moves on, the project collapses and the people sink into greater poverty and despair. No thanks.
We are committed to small, meaningful projects that the community actually wants, and that are sustainable over time without our continued involvement.
So how do we do it?
First of all, we only do projects when asked and invited in by the community, not by the government or some large foreign aid agency. When we visit, we talk to the farmers, women's groups and others about what the biggest problems are in the community. Then we talk priorities - theirs, not ours. It's amazing how in a small village three groups can have such different priorities. In San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, for example, one group of women wanted clean water, another wanted income-generating projects and a third wanted health care training.
We then work directly with the community to design a project that will address their expressed priorities. We try not to bring in outside (or even local) organizations if the people themselves can manage the project. So where does the money come from? It's all from our sales at Dean's Beans. We don't do much advertising and we don't have a sales and marketing staff. I'd rather spend eight thousand dollars creating a revolving loan fund to build wells in Ethiopia than to do some cheesy one-shot ad on radio or t.v. It's amazing how far your coffee dollars can go when put directly into the hands of the people who need them... with a little help from their friends!
We are also in contact with our farmers by email and visits year round. This way, we can offer advice and strategic planning on all sorts of important issues (including baseball).
What are some current projects?
Right now, we are working with our farm communities on the following projects:
Ethiopia - Miriam's Well
Our revolving loan fund to help farmers build needed wells in their communities. Like Miriam, it keeps finding water in the desert.
Nicaragua - Café Ben Linder
We partnered with the Polus Center to create a café/roasterie in Leon, owned and operated by a prosthetics clinic that gives free limbs and therapy to landmine victims and the poor.
Sumatra - Paman Dean
Using water buffalo (the first is "Paman"-Uncle-Dean) for weed control and organic fertilizer in the coffee fields. Don't laugh! This eco-buffalo project saves the farmers time, labor and money - all of which are extraordinarily precious during this long-term coffee pricing crisis. This is but one aspect of our on-going Reclaiming Sumatra project.
In northern Peru we are working with the Lamas Quichua peoples to confront proposed oil and gas development by Burlington Resources of Texas, USA.
Timor - Integrated Rural Development
The description of the great stuff in Timor will be up soon! It includes health care, alternative food security and coffee washing equipment, all as decided by the farmers. See you soon!