Learning Community Development

A Report on the Institute for G.O.D. East Africa's community Development Course 

At the Institute for G.O.D. Int’l, we teach a course called ‘Third World Development.’ The course primarily deals with the texts ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ by Paulo Freire, and ‘Two Ears of Corn’ by Roland Bunch. This past spring semester, this course was offered at the Institute for G.O.D. East Africa. Only, when a third world development course is taught in the third world, it becomes a community development course, a way not to think about implementing development in someone else’s environment, but in their own. Francis Lubega, East Africa cooperative, was one of the instructors of the course. Here he shares some of his reflections on learning and teaching its content.

Francis Lubega is our land and property manager in Uganda. He plays a vital role in every ecology project that we do. We're also blessed to have him teach at the Institute EA where he is able to help students connect ideological development concerns with their practical outworking in their own community. 

Having been born in a third world country and from a poor family, I know very well what it means to lack the basic necessities of life--food, water, clothing, shelter, health care, education, and sanitation. The most outstanding to me are education (which ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ addresses) and food (which ‘Two Ears of Corn’ addresses). The message in these books is impactful and worthy of learning for both parties--those who are oppressed (i.e. poor farmers in the third world), and those who choose to work with God to help the millions of people who are voiceless, malnourished, and go hungry year after year. Below are some of  the most important points that I taught my students. They get to see these realities play out everyday as we live and work in G.O.D. Intl’s program area for third world development in Uganda.

Critical thinking is necessary for liberation from dehumanizing ideologies. Uneducated people easily become subject to all kinds of oppression due to a lack of knowledge, and oppressors lack the education that makes them realize their fault in dehumanizing the poor. But with critical thinking, the oppressed and oppressors can work together to bring to an end the mentalities that that lead to oppression and the dehumanization of both status groups. A change of mindset can revive people from oppression.

We believe what we are teaching: Food production can help liberate the oppressed! This is why a majority of our development efforts in East Africa have been focused around food production. This is just one portion of their agricultural land, where they are learning to grow more food in less taxing ways. 

Increasing food production can help liberate the oppressed. The strength of a community is determined by its ability to feed its people, and that sustenance is the fullness of life that makes people happy, not just full in their wallets. When God called the children of Israel out from bondage and slavery in Egypt, he promised to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, good things to eat! (Ex 3:8). People who can sustain themselves off of their own land don’t need the wealthy to feed them.

Handouts are temporary, and empowerment is vital. For people who have the ability to help poor people get out of poverty, it can be easiest for them to provide the poor with the material things they lack. Though this brings immediate relief and a smile to everyone’s face, the results are temporary. I remember receiving handouts when we were poorer, and my wife and I would dance for joy, but the joy was short-lived because we would lack until we were given to again. Handouts are detrimental and lead to paternalism, which occurs when people who are in a position to help the poor do for them what they could do for themselves if they were only taught. The ultimate goal isn’t to supply them with all services and goods endlessly, but to empower them to solve their own problems. In our case, we were taught innovations in order to increase our food production. This is what we have today, innovative farming techniques to help us feed our families healthily.

Start slow, start small. It’s not easy to abandon traditional ways of cultivation to adopt new ways of growing crops or doing other things. Teaching new technologies requires a slow start on a small scale, allowing farmers to participate and experiment what they’re learning on their own plots. Many of my students had questions regarding how slowly G.O.D. Int’l starts its activities, but now they understand. We considered the production challenges we’ve encountered, the time it’s taken to learn how to grow crops organically, and the uniqueness of our practices. In the end, everyone was able to appreciate the idea of starting small and slowly, as it gives room for more participation that leads to gaining more confidence.

Lubega Francis teaches Institute students from East Africa and the US how to build a rocket stove--an ongoing household improvement project we do for families in need. This is one example of appropriate technology in that it is easily duplicable to families in the area. 

Technology must be appropriate. An appropriate technology should be able to meet a felt need of the people, be simple to teach and understand, and use resources poor people have access to. The basis of teaching and learning new innovations is by experimentation, so farmers have to be able to have appropriate technology in order to practice on their own land.

Enthusiasm is key. Without enthusiasm, no one participates. Without participation, no one is empowered, and no one succeeds. Therefore, generating enthusiasm is key to the success of any third world development program or project.

They have learned so much throughout the course, much of which they already see playing out in their lives, and some of which we are excited to begin implementing for them, both in and out of the classroom. We are working side by side all day long, as educators, farmers, builders, and friends. We thank God for this opportunity, having been empowered, and now to empower those with whom God has entrusted us.