There are times that I wished I studied engineering. And payed closer attention to how my father does things: combine his engineering invention skills with his nose for business. Or perhaps I should have studied business management. Business innovation. Industrial expansion. Or what not. Because right now I’m stuck thinking in circles – donor money for tiny livelihoods – and my brain eats the burnt rubber my father and his vision mate Nonoy Ty leave behind. They’re light years ahead.
Nonoy’s head in factories and production machines for large scale food production. He’s in investments for proper rice mills. And constructions for the production of bio-fuel. And mechanical tools to collect and transport guano by the Manobos. And the design of a framework to harness local enterprises and link them together.
None of these have anything to do with bag-making, pots of small shrimp paste, surfing bed and breakfasts – the initiatives of other local NGOs. These are on the level of livelihoods. And are extremely donor and NGO dependent, not to mention small-scale. What happens after several years if the donor pulls out? Your production collapses like a house of cards – all those years you’ve structured your production around donor income. What happens if the NGO then gets bankrupt? What happens to people employed? Who owns these initiatives? Do not the people become mere subordinates? If you can stand on your own why not become a business and no longer take donor money? Or why not channel donor money for new initiatives instead of the one that already pumps it own profit? These are all issues that question whether NGO projects do more harm than good. And they are certainly issues Pasali deals with as well.
But all NGO tendencies put aside, Ty and my father had long before dreamed of large scale businesses – fishing, rice, cold room techniques, food processing, etc. This is a drastic step away from the problem-based method. Normally, when we want to help people, we look at their problems. Lack of food. Give them sandwiches. Lack of education, give them pencils. That sort of thing. But thinking large-scale business has a different problem: There’s this vast availability of resources – natural materials and people – and no one is doing anything with it. What do we do make use of them? How do we harness and develop nature rather than harm it? How do we consciously phase out the charity and donor dependency – rather, turn them into investors? And when can we say something can stand on its own and when do we release for its own, or the more daring move, become commercial altogether.
Incidentally an approach like this, addresses the problems. Young people who can’t find jobs, have jobs. People who had no food, now produce their own and even sell to commercial partners for further processing. Former migrants who didn’t want to move back because they would have nothing, can choose to invest and build their own stability. Families who didn’t have the money to send their kids to school and get them school books, should be able to do so. And so on.
Its a move away from problem-based action to potential-based action. To move away from small time businessing towards structural, highly professional, industrial, independent enterprises, complete with its mechanical wonders of processing generators, cold rooms, automatic mixers and other contraptions.
Ok. This is our destination. How to get there.