June 10, 2015

In Support of “Searchers”

Kenyan agricultural specialist Haron Wachira with Constantine Chilonga from Zambia and Kondwani Masina from Malawi.

Last month, I spent considerable time in Zambia and Malawi visiting the people and places where the hard work of implementing solutions for rural smallholder farmers is taking place.

On a previous trip to the region I was reading the book The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly. In his book, Easterly describes the difference between what he calls “planners” and “searchers.”

Planners essentially make plans from outside the community where they are hoping to solve problems. Searchers are people in and from the communities where problems and solutions are being identified and addressed.

According to Easterly, the searchers are most critical to successful long-term, sustainable change in communities facing poverty. They are the ones most likely to diagnose problems in the community correctly and come up with community-based solutions that make sense and are sustainable.

What this most recent trip confirmed to me is that the most critical thing we can do to help alleviate poverty is find and support these searchers, wherever they are, so they can do the important work they do most effectively.

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