What leads to migration and non-migration in rural areas? Can employment creation and increased income reduce inter-communal violence? What is the contribution of forest management to rural development?
These questions were debated among participants of the AGEP-developmental debate “Stabilizing rural areas and preventing long-term migration in the Global South”. The workshop took place at the Gustav-Stresemann-Institut (GSI) in Bonn on March 21-23 2019. Some MSc and PhD students together with Dr. Domke, Dr. Kimengsi and Prof. Pretzsch attended the workshop.
Day 1: Taxi and take off
Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a welcoming coffee. We got to know the other MSc and PhD student participants from various disciplines and universities under the AGEP program, including Universität Hohenheim, Universität Bonn, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, and Leibniz-Universität Hannover.
The workshop was thereafter opened by Dr. Nowak from GSI with introductory remarks. Participants were requested to briefly introduce themselves and their expectations from the workshop. This was followed by an input session by Mr. Rogge, a former GIZ consultant. He presented a project in Plateau State, Nigeria, where rural employment creation contributed to reduce conflicts between ethnic and religious groups in the rural-urban setting.
The second input session was about the contribution of forest management to rural development by Prof. Pretzsch. Various issues were tackled, such as the critical view on how interventions followed the large-scale Marshall Plan experiences. Such external influences tend to create strong dependencies among the rural people. We discussed about the importance to strike a balance between endogenous innovations versus exogenously induced transformation, and the need to integrate local knowledge. Examples of the Socio-economic Field Laboratory applied in the Andes and the future of small farms in rural stabilization were presented and discussed.
This was complemented by examples of success stories presented by our MSc and PhD students. Tran Van Hiep, a PhD student, introduced his research project about the role of small bamboo handicraft enterprises in creating employment for local people in the rural areas in Vietnam. Our MSc students also presented success stories from their experiences. One came from Uganda about rural electrification and local small enterprises producing improved cookstoves. Another one was on the project to add value of Brazil nuts and herbal teas to improve the livelihoods of the Indigenous and Maroon people in Suriname.
Day 2: The Flight
The majority of the second day’s morning session was dedicated to a role-play session. The purpose of this session was to introduce the students to skills associated with finding solutions for problems between different stakeholders. In this case the problem presented was that of the Kilim Ijum Forest, in the Western Highlands of Cameroon, where the lack of economic development opportunities for the local people has resulted in conflicts regarding the use of the nature reserve.
The student participants were divided into actor groups and a moderator. The actor groups range from local pastoralists and farmer groups to a private enterprise, seeking to expand their agricultural land to plant tea. The actor groups actively engaged in discussions and defended their views, which lead to hilarious situations of one student taking on the role of the ‘Minister of Agriculture’ and complaining about the lack of budget, while another disgruntled ‘pastoralist’ didn’t feel his group to be represented not only in the panel discussion, but also among the local community group.
In the end a consensus was reached between the groups that was entirely different than the situation in reality, which was presented afterwards by Dr. Kimengsi. Surprisingly, the solutions that were found by the stakeholders in the presented case resulted not only in the creation of livelihood opportunities for the local people through bee-keeping, but also promoted the expansion of the forested area by the planting of bee-loving trees.
With this positive news fresh in mind, the rest of the second day was devoted to exploring the relationship between the stabilization of rural areas and education. The student presentations of several success stories about the timber and plywood company from Ghana, coffee and timber cooperatives from Ethiopia, and another coffee cooperative from India further inspired us with examples. We also learned very interesting inputs about the effects of migration remittances on the local economy.
The curious thing about these presentations was the fact that education was clearly identified as one of the key components to prevent long-term migration from rural areas (together with, for instance, favorable infrastructure and good medical facilities), though this was not reflected in the success stories, which were all mostly focused on economic activities. This might serve as a lesson learned, that the efforts of rural development should be focused on more than just socio-economic development and maybe for future workshops, such as this one, there will hopefully be more diverse success stories. At the end of the second day the students were given the opportunity to suggest topics which would be elaborated upon on the last day in the so-called “breakthrough groups”.
Day 3: Landing
After enjoying another delightful breakfast, the topics that were chosen yesterday were discussed among the three breakthrough groups in order to elaborate the project ideas. In the group discussion, we followed the handed-out guideline that includes the establishment of a proper project title, a short description including SMART goalsetting (Specific Measurable Achievable Reasonable Time Bound), various other points ranging from the inclusion of project partners to the setting of indicators in measuring the project’s success.
Two hours and one coffee break later, the groups came together again and presented their results. The first group elaborated the project idea on a beekeeping project in rural Suriname that aims to enhance the diversity of the labour force and produce a range of honey products for local consumption as well as international export. The second group focused on the revival of the cotton sector in Egypt and was confronted with the difficulty to spread the positive factors of this once largely successful sector in the minds of politicians as well as local farmers. Last but not least, the third group focused on the establishment of typical Nepalese homestays in a still of the beaten path village with the help of the local community in order to diversify income of villagers. Afterwards, the participants were treated to a last lunch on the premises before concluding the workshop with a panel discussion and a feedback round.
We, the participating MSc students, extend our gratitude for a great experience in a diverse working group! Due to the variety of backgrounds of the participants, we were able to expand our horizons in the topic of stabilizing rural areas in the Global South beyond the forestry sector and learned how it can be possible to successfully integrate a range of stakeholders in small- and large-scale projects.
By Sherry Kyamagero, Florian Thiem and Morena Sanches, with the support of Kendisha S. Hintz