When I joined Seed Change for a 3-month internship last January, I had just finished studying for a master’s in Development Economics – a discipline which seeks to solve such problems as how poor countries can become rich and how they can grow both their economies and their citizen’s incomes. Development Economics may sound like International Development’s less cool, geeky brother, but as Nobel Prize winning Economist Robert Lucas points out, “The consequences for human welfare involved in questions like these are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else”.
At its heart, Development Economics, and International Development more widely for that matter, is concerned with how we can make life better for some of the world’s most disadvantaged people: it asks how we can make positive change.
In theory, and from the comfort of a London lecture hall, it can all seem pretty simple. Positive change can sometimes seem inevitable and natural. However, the realities of making change happen in places like rural Tanzania mean the whole process is quite a lot more complicated. Barriers at a national, organisational and individual level often combine to prolong or even prevent the process of progress. Obstacles such as corruption, poor digital and physical infrastructure and inadequate financial markets, to name just a few, make transformation more difficult at every level.
Change is something Seed Change is passionate about (the clue is in the name) and its theoretical model for change has been tried and tested by Development Economists: give people an asset and teach them how to use it. Yet a sound theoretical model isn’t always enough. It helps that our model is driven by local context, but change here requires a great deal of hard work, dedication and sheer persistence from both our staff and our farmers.
Despite all the difficulties, Seed Change farmers are now able to increase their incomes by as much as 1000%. And so the consequences of our programmes, if perhaps not quite “simply staggering” yet, represent tangible positive change for the people of Kigoma region.