The Greenhouse Effect on Development

Published on 12th January 2010

Glasshouses or "Green houses" as popularly known are used by farmers to regulate temperatures, keep out pests and convert areas that are in-arable into high crop production zones. Unfortunately, Kenya and by extension Africa has invested in "green houses" that yield opposite results. 

At independence the focus was on education as a "greenhouse" to nurture leadership and economic success. From colonial times to date, religion, especially Christianity and Islam occupy a central place of "greenhouse" on attitude molding. The political "greenhouse" promises to deliver heaven on earth. The aid "greenhouse" is the most catastrophic; it argues that no plant can grow outside its environment! The Kenyan citizen, as an innocent "plant", is confused with all this competing environments.  

I took the liberty to talk to an expert on soil and crop production. I had in my mind what I thought was a simple solution; why not just get greenhouses all over the country to improve on food security?! The challenge is not capital investment needed (which you must have wanted to guess so!); it is the need for knowledge about soils and bacteria. Those who thought that all it matters is to have money to establish controlled environment crop production; they erected greenhouses that are now empty tents courtesy

of attacks from soil bacteria and other pests.    

Many development experts, be they from the civil society, business and government will affirm to the existence of a malware in the general populace.  Individuals are willing to communicate one message in Kiswahili and English for the expert's ears and say something else in their mother tongue. For instance, when members of a certain community were asked why they sold all the fertilizer and seed donation they had received, they mumbled some reason to the effect that donors didn't realize just how hungry they were! If one probed further, another reason given will be about a pregnant wife, sick baby, going to attend funeral, and or helping with the fees of siblings.   

Scale this up to national level and seek to know why politicians engage in nepotism, tribalism and corruption. My guess is that the politician will talk about assisting people who will finance their campaigns in future, vote for them and those who will stand out as monuments of political projects. On corruption front, the reason given will be a point to the effect that they have to raise money to keep their voters happy. At international level, one will find the aid "greenhouse" that seeks to mould Kenyans and Africans to certain productive levels.  The reasons for aid will be given us geopolitical dominance, alliance building, natural resource access and helping to check migration.

Investing in "greenhouses" that are not established on sound knowledge principles has led to an education system that churn out unemployment statistics. On religious front it has led to a population that does not use religion to the advantage of Africans but simply focuses on afterlife. Politically, the "greenhouse" effect has led to people believing that a new constitution, new president and new party will deliver manna on earth. The aid "greenhouse" effect has turned dependence into a creed; that without external help a society can not propel itself to greatness.   

Rather than invest in erecting "greenhouses" for their on sake, Kenyans and by extension Africans ought to probe the right conditions and the type of pests they are fighting. An ideal greenhouse for Africa must protect citizens against bad attitude toward wealth creation. Africans must protect themselves against the culture of entitlement. Development "bacteria wilt" awaits all copy paste "greenhouse" projects on the continent.   

By James Shikwati

James Shikwati [email protected] is Director of Inter Region Economic Network (IREN).

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