In my experience studying international development, there has been a common assumption that we (scholars, Westerners, practitioners) know what’s best for the developing world. Of course, we’ve moved beyond blatant colonialism. But what remains is a reliance on the expertise of Western universities, scholars, and organizations. The findings of a large study done by an Ivy League institution, the conclusion from a book written by a famous academic, or a statement from a respected multilateral organization all carry a tremendous amount of weight - as they should. When the World Bank finds that African farmers need better access to technology, we listen. We know and (probably) respect the World Bank, so we can assume the study is accurate without having to do our own vetting. But, all too often, this reliance on information that we can pre-label as trustworthy leads us to neglect the opinions and priorities of people from the developing world.
That’s why this study and workshop, from researchers at Oxford (there’s some brand name trustworthiness), is so interesting. The researchers ASKED Kenyan farmers what their problems, priorities, and challenges are - and how they could be empowered to address them. Then, instead of burying the Kenyans’ responses in a dense study, the researchers made the Kenyans’ opinions the centerpiece of a great photo essay. And, I’m a sucker for photo essays. Check out the photos and find out what Kenyan farmers’ priorities are at The Guardian’s Global Development blog.