Intimate knowledge of a community is key. Development is an ongoing process. Commonly mistaken as charity to the “third-world” (a term we at Cultivate avoid), development, in fact, occurs in nations of all economic levels. However, across the world, disparities do exist and some communities suffer more than others.
I recently returned from a semester of study in Rabat, Morocco. Morocco liberalized its economy in the decades after it gained independence. This process has raised the living standards of some, but it has also left large groups of people behind. This is particularly evident in the North of Morocco ― the area known as the Rif. The region is inhabited by the Amazigh people.
The Amazigh people have had a contentious relationship with the Monarchy. Rebellion has a deep history in the region, as the Amazigh people have longed ― and to an extent have enjoyed ― for autonomy. In fact, the region is currently in a wave of ‘rebellion.’
The region has been neglected and overlooked by the government for decades. This has created a vacuum of leadership in the realm of community development. Addressing community needs has been left primarily to community members, NGOs, and special interests, such as the EU. Resources and opportunity remain relatively scarce in the region.
Development is at its best when the non-profit, private, and public spheres work together. However, in most of the countries that Cultivate operates and in a lot of the countries in the world, governance and institutions are weak and not well suited to drive community development. That is why it is vital to empower locals who have the ambition and vision to implement solutions to the problems that their communities face, so they do not have to wait for the government to swoop in and improve their position. This is why Cultivate invests in people. It recognizes the power of investing in a person with determination and a vision.
While in Morocco, I talked with people in the Rif region who complained of foreign entities supplying money for conditional projects. Specifically, projects were being funded that would supposedly, but not admittedly, curb international migration (to the EU). These projects, however, are out of tune with the actual needs and visions of the local community. The most successful projects were those done by individuals or groups who knew the region and its people well.
Within a few months of returning from Morocco, I stumbled upon Cultivate. Its approach to community development was precisely the method I had come to support while abroad. Cultivate supports and empowers the vision of a native community member, not the vision or agenda of outsiders who know little about the community. Cultivate is challenging the conventional approach to development. Will you challenge it with us?
-Kaleb Mazurek, Former Intern