Thursday, May 13, 2010

Picking ideas

Quite some time now I am interested in issues dealing with developing countries. I heard some people saying that reserachers are interested in these geographical areas because there is where the money goes. It might be true that some people are driven more by the vision of high salary rather than the willingness to help. We are different and the normal distribution applies also in here...

As I never crossed the borders of good-old-Europe, I don't have any personal experience about life in developing countries. The interesting thing in this field is that there are very few answers to many questions raised . I have my own: How can a man improve the life of many?

This week I was on a discussion event organized by Centre for Development Research. It was about waste management - not really my topic. But the title was very interesting Picking ideas, which I "borrowed" also for this blog post.

For me the most valuable outcome from this lecture and discussion event were the general remarks of the presenter about the connection of University research and the real need of people in developing countries. He emphasized his message several times. While he was not denying the importance of big projects and "hi scale" ideas (mostly for the industry, as he said) but at the same time called for research solutions driven by real demand. He argued that writing scientific papers is irrelevant for people in developing countries.

In a presentation full of questions a final one came:
How people learn?

There were some hints during the presentation:
- researchers have to reach people on very local level
- there is a difference between project demand, government demand and real demand
- that the researchers should go to a pro-poor leadership rather than poor people to specify the demand

I also remembered a paper (Jean Gradé et al: Building institutions for endogenous development) I read several years ago which was saying: "The success [of the project] may be due partly to the fact that it has been an endogenous movement (from within) rather than exogenous (initiated or led from outside)."

My answer for the question how people learn would be:
People learn from those whom they trust.
Maybe just a partial answer, but this is my best one at the moment. Anybody has a better one?

My original questions still remains however.
How can a man improve the life of many?
I still don't know...

Personally I agree with some points the presenter made about the necessity to know the environment in developing countries from personal experience, not just from the office desk, if you want to do a research or any other kind of project there. What I don't fully agree with is the non-importance of "hi end" research for people in less developed countries.

I have that luck to work in a very international group with people from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Although we work on different topics, I have some insight what they are doing. I am pretty sure that research findings laid down in papers are relevant for us (Europeans) as well as for our colleagues from all over the World. Maybe this is because we are working in animal breeding and given the importance of this field in the developing world. A few of my colleagues are doing community based breeding programs, but at the same time highly  interested in genomic selection (i.e. selecting animals according to DNA information), which is the hottest topic nowadays in animal breeding.

These I left out from the main text in order not to disturb its flow.

 The term "developing country"
As one of our EM ABG students said, the term "developing country" is flawed. All countries are developing in a sense that they want to be better and better with each year. This has a point! After a short search I found out that the definition of a "developing country" is not a straightforward one, and that it is decided mostly according to income per person, or some similar measurement unit.

I was living in a developing country
 I just noticed that my home country (Slovakia) is considered to be developed just from 2009, probably because of the introduction of Euro. Other neighboring countries like Poland and Hungary are still in the emerging group. Strange... (Source via Wikipedia)

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