An assessment of community participation and empowerment through Non Governmental Organizations' development work among the rural poor. The case of World Vision's intervention in ghe Gwembe Valley, Zambia
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- Institutt for geografi 
If development is to mean anything, it should ultimately translate into positive change in people’s lives. This is because development should not merely be of things but that of things through which people’s lives will be made better. Over time this realisation has taken centre stage in development discourse within most developing countries. While most of these countries were, in the 1950s and early 1960s, motivated by the advancements of the now developed Western countries and sought to westernise as well, their peculiar circumstances made it difficult to achieve this dream. This plunged most of these countries into national economy constraints and passing down the benefits of Independence which most of them had recently attained became difficult. However, although some countries recorded some economic progress, such were interim and marginal as to yield the kind of advancement of the West. Over time this led to state borrowing and implementation of liberalised markets with the hope of resuscitating the dwindling economies. Unfortunately these efforts did not match with the kind and magnitude of problems these countries were facing. They further fell into balance of payment problems and into less and less public spending. Poverty set in and big questions of what had gone wrong with development took the agenda of development discourse. At the helm of all this was the realisation that development should not be about a homogenous path for catching up with the West but rather endogenous and meant for the satisfaction of local people’s needs. This entailed heterogeneity informed by local culture, nature and geopolitics. It hence called for a development approach that would come from below and a multi-sectoral approach requiring concerted efforts from many stakeholders. It is then that National States allowed the existence of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) among other stakeholders in the development process. NGOs became popular among rural communities, known for grassroots based development using bottom-up approaches. In Zambia, World Vision International is one such NGO, undertaking child focussed and community based development in all nine provinces of the country. Based on a regional approach and emphasising devolution of power to the poor, the organization reaches about one fifth of the country’s ten million people and targets those that need development the most; the poorest. Its development interventions are said to be directed at the poor’s basic needs and are empowering because they involve the poor in providing for their own needs. Through this process, the community is further said to be capacitated not only to meet their needs now but even beyond NGO support. With this strand of development; emphasising involvement of civil society, NGOs in particular, there is a great deal of evidence that development is now more directed at people’s needs than before. However, there are also concerns that NGO based development tend to be more of charitable efforts to the poor than those meant to build their capacities to handle their own development affairs. There is tendency to view the poor as mere recipients of charity from broad based and pre-packaged poverty reduction interventions. The contention in this thesis is, however, that while development is a global project, its implementation needs to be particularistic; a local phenomenon that adapts its interventions on the needs of the poor as seen by them and not as perceived by development experts. Only then will development truly change the lives of the people, be locally owned and sustained by those it is intended to save.