To Eradicate Poverty


To Eradicate Poverty
By Yossef Ben-Meir
When we think about eradicating poverty on earth, solutions are as old as can be, and at the apex of our most forward-reaching innovation. The pathway forward is the complete blending of ancient knowledge and the most startling of inventions.
It might be difficult to elucidate a human behavior or inclination that is equally compelling across most all times and places. There is at least one, and its utter pervasiveness can be given credence by both the religiously devout and the strict social scientist, since its theme is found in the Biblical story of creation (the sixth day), attesting at least to the millenia dating of this human manner. Here it is: we as people are likely to accept decisions that we are part of making.
We resist external powers determining our own fate, even when those outside forces are prone toward altruism and good deeds. This human tendency and way of being is both intrinsic and practical. Could it ever be that people outside of our locality can appreciate and know to the same degree as the immediate inhabitants of what is most needed and viable and best for its future? The probable answer is nay, and so thus is born the social reality that enduring decisions must involve in the process of making the people who are impacted by them.
The aggregate of knowledge among members of villages and neighborhoods touches upon the relevant dimensions for holistic analysis—cultural, historical, technical, environmental, and others. People’s inclusive engagement in planning change leads to decisions that are considerate and the basis for delivering lasting initiatives that enhance our lives. Thus, even as there are a range of integrated factors that require redressing to eradicate poverty, there is an approach to doing so, rooted in humanity immemorial, that without which, no amount of technology or finance could supplant, and that is the local communities’ planning and action of project after project that uplift every soul in that area.
For this to take place, third party facilitation of dialogue and collective designing are necessary. Finance vitally comes to matter when it is directed toward implementing the development decisions that come out of this local interaction as the people and their associations, who are the beneficiaries, define and manage the development they most want.
Why is this approach found among humanity’s earliest records so difficult to achieve? Because it requires skilled catalysts or assistants of community discussions who live at the locations, their constant immediate presence to secure ongoing momentum is a tall order. Furthermore, when finally this fortunate experience of participatory prioritizing of projects does take place, then its backing with funds to implement is somewhat of a miracle. It is strenuous work, even without the fact that there regularly are individuals and factions within most every community that may not prefer the collective decisions and empowerment, and therefore may—usually discreetly—act to subvert them. All told, many positive occurrences need to happen at the right times to eradicate or reduce poverty.
The COVID pandemic marks a time when public spending to further economic recovery and stimulus is increasingly the norm. When we consider that development along the lines of community control is a sustainable pathway, then government spending should be directed to advance local projects by local people for local beneficiaries. National and international spending, in this regard, should find its way directly into neighborhoods and villages. This strategy accomplishes tens of thousands of micro-projects rather than hundreds of macro ones.
When we create faith-based initiatives, let them be publicly funded, but let us also require them to be interfaith-based, so that their relationships are not like ships passing in the night or designated to the odd intercultural exchange event, but are kept constant through joint human service delivery. Global sustainable development requires this because of the resources that their partnership adds toward securing prosperity.
When it comes to rural start-ups in rural places, where most poverty on our planet is concentrated, let the growers of agricultural products be the processors, and let finances flow even when only the concept and local commitment are what is validated. Let this also mean that as we must plant trees as part of farming communities’ transitions and to forest the earth’s lands, regulations that govern carbon offset credits must be rural-household-centered and that financial returns, which are increasing and will likely grow more vast, be reinvested in their community-determined enterprises. The global community can no longer accept that this important new source of income be inaccessible to the rural people, who are tree caretakers and would otherwise be kept impoverished.
Finally, let’s also not forget that when we plan together, we also bring into those sessions our own inhibitions and doubts that have been fostered throughout our lives. This is to say that, so often, when given the chance to participate, we do so not freely but with emotional shackles and with fear. And so, community  planning, when our social controls are embedded within us, could stand to be preceded by workshops of self-discovery and empowering affirmations, and time allotted to fashioning our own visions for what we see for our best future. It is then when planning as a community is with more clarity as to needs and vigor for manifesting what is in our hearts.
The organic fruit tree nursery managed by the members of the Aguerzrane women’s cooperative in the Toubkal municipality of Morocco (Katie Bercegeay, HAF, 2021)
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is President of the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco.