When we plunge our hoe into the earth to begin creating a garden what are we hoping to get? Flourishing and nutritious vegetables, or maybe vibrant and colourful flowers. Isn’t that what we would also like to achieve from community development? Flourishing and vibrant communities.
|Image courtesy of picturesflowers.net|
The same is true of community development. We must trust that communities have the willingness to sprout. Those of us wanting to assist the process, to act as community development gardeners, can do so by; adding fertiliser (resources identified by the community itself), ensuring that the growing plants are not crowded out by weeds (negativity, busybodies, red-tape) and that the plants are watered and have access to sufficient sunlight (support, encouragement).
Like a gardener, those wishing to see community development flourish must also accept that the process will take time and that for possibly a considerable period we will see nothing at all at the surface. All the development is taking place underground.
Community development does not nicely fit the annual short-term funding and accountability cycles of bureaucracies and governments. Indeed, many of the issues that community development workers are facing are entrenched, generations old or complex. Sometimes all three at the same time. We need to accept that noticeable signs of development may not appear for 5, 10, 20 years or more.
But when the signs do appear the wait and the faith in the gardening process will have been worthwhile and the outcome more likely to be sustainable.
In our support and work for community development then, let us be as gardeners.
“I believe we must learn to wait as we learn to create. We have to patiently sow the seeds, assiduously water the earth where they are sown and give the plants the time that is their own. One cannot fool a plant any more than one can fool history.”
Václav Havel, playwright, essayist and first President of the Czech Republic (following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia) reflecting on his part in the creation of the new democratic nation.