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By Maurice L. Albertson

Background[edit]

Because of the success of the Marshall Plan after World War II in rebuilding Europe, it was believed that the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other aid agencies around the world, could bring the remainder of the world out of poverty by providing similar help. The many billions of dollars that these agencies have put into the less developed countries in the past 50 years has increased the GNP of each country and the wealth of the 20% of the population who control the country, but the number of people living in poverty (less than $2 per day) has increased and the gap between the rich and the poor has increased. The question is: What is missing in the programs sponsored by these aid agencies? One search for an answer to this question began with the evolution and development of the Village Earth Model--which began in 1960, during a special study that became the initial design of the U.S. Peace Corps. It was evident, even then, that these large-scale programs were not reaching the poverty-stricken villagers.

Purpose and Objectives of the Village Earth Model[edit]

The Purpose of the Village Earth Model is: To address global poverty by bridging the gulf between the two-thirds of the world’s population that live in poverty and the technical, financial, social and informational resources enjoyed by the remaining one-third of the population. To accomplish this purpose, the Village Earth Model adopts the following specific objectives:

  1. Institutionalize a Participatory Orientation
  2. Make the Necessary Resources Accessible to the Villagers
  3. Build a Bank of Scientific Knowledge about Sustainable Development
  4. Establish Global Communication Networks for Poverty Elimination
  5. Emphasize In-Depth Development of Each Village and Rapid, Systematic Expansion to Other Villages
  6. Facilitate Hard and Soft Technology Generation from Local Knowledge
  7. Attract and Generate Indigenous Technical Ability to Rural Areas
  8. Build a Collaborative NGO Network
  9. Create a Collaborative Global Village Network

These Objectives are explained in detail at http://www.villageearth.org.

Participatory Processes for Sustainable Development[edit]

The VE Model grew out of the experiences of the author--and Ed Shinn who is Vice-President of Village Earth, and his wife Miriam Shinn. As stated earlier, it began in 1960 during the study that became the initial design of the U. S. Peace Corps. During the years after that, the visits with Peace Corps Volunteers in the field, and working with and studying village development programs in every continent, helped to round out and mature the basic components of the VE Model.

The way that the Village Earth Model is implemented is by Participatory Practices for Sustainable Development (PPSD). This approach to development is explained in the web site: www.villageearth.org. It can be applied to the problem of eliminating poverty worldwide, and for addressing many other associated problems. The organizational structure and the processes used in the Village Earth Model are right at the grassroots of humanity where the local people organize and plan their own programs to take themselves out of poverty in a sustainable way by means of a "bottom-up" process. More specifically, the Village Earth Model takes advantage of the innate intelligence and ability of the poverty-stricken people, and guides them in the direction of creating: (1) a vision for the future, (2) identifying problems preventing the achievement of this vision and then (3) finding and implementing solutions to the problems. They do it themselves with the help of the staff of a nearby Service Center, which is a part of the Village Earth Model. The Service Center provides access to information resources, financial resources and other resources.

Once the villagers have gone through this process, they "identify with" and "own" the solutions. This is in sharp contrast to the way most NGOs, USAID, the World Bank and other "development" agencies have been operating.

Resource Access Unit[edit]

The VE Model uses the Resource Access Unit (RAU) as the basic organizational unit for development. The RAU is a critical number of about 50,000 people (this number varies with the density of the population and other factors). This “critical number” makes it possible to command the attention of government and other agencies and yet it is not so large that it is unwieldy. Each RAU has a Service Center to provide access to the resources that are required for sustainable village development, see Figure 1. Included in each Service Center is the Appropriate Technology Library of 150,000 pages on 26 CD computer discs for all kinds of technologies that are needed for these people worldwide. In addition to each individual Service Center for about 50,000 people, there is an International Service Center at the Village Earth Headquarters, which can be accessed at any time to find effective approaches to specialized problems.

Service Center[edit]

The organizational structure for the Village Earth Model, together with the details of the Service Center, is shown in Figure 1. This diagram shows that each Project is composed of a number of RAUs, and each RAU is composed of 20 to 30 villages, a Service Center and NGOs who provide the initial staff and support system until carefully selected villagers are trained to staff and operate the Service Center. The Service Center is a very flexible unit, which can be small and informal initially and then grow into the full staff as required to assist the villages as they gradually evolve in their needs and in their level of development. The Service Center also serves as a Training and Demonstration Center, and as a Meeting Place for villagers from different villages to gather and to interact and discuss development ideas, projects, and programs. The Service Center gradually becomes self-sufficient as it helps the villagers to produce goods and services that can be exported for income, and as carefully-selected villagers are trained and gain experience in financing and operating the Service Center.

Self-Sustaining Villages[edit]

Using the VE Model, sets the stage for a village to become financially independent and self-sustaining in a relatively short time. Villages will vary in this regard, but the experience thus far indicates that, on the average, most villages can be self-sustaining in about 5 years. This means they are out of poverty and are producing goods and services that they can export and then, in just a few years, they are in a position to buy goods and services to take back into the village. They are consumers of outside goods and services!!

Micro-Credit[edit]

A very important component of the Service Center is the advisory and support system for a Micro-Credit program. This program can help the villagers to create goods and services that they can sell outside the village. Then they are able to buy and bring in goods and services into the village from outside. It is this part of the Village Earth Model that enables the villagers to become a part of an enormous producer and consumer market (at least 4 times the size of the present worldwide producer and consumer market) to benefit themselves and others throughout the world.

Service Motive[edit]

Business throughout the world is now motivated primarily by the profit motive. However, business needs to shift to putting equal emphasis on the "service motive" in addition to the "profit motive" for planning and conducting business. Business that is based entirely upon the profit motive (greed) is destined to have the disastrous boom and bust cycles on into the distant future—with very damaging side effects. The VE Model is the ideal framework for including the service motive because it begins small and then grows. If the Service Motive is an integral part of the Micro-credit component, then it can incorporate this concept into all businesses, as they increase in number and they grow larger and larger in the future. Initially, today's existing big and small, national and international business can incorporate the service motive into their support for the development of poverty programs to bring 4 billion people out of poverty. In this way the Service Motive permeates business throughout the world right from the start, and it is a win-win-win situation for everybody. Each issue of the magazines In Business and Business Ethics discusses these factors and gives examples of businesses that have already adopted the Service Motive and how successful they have become.

The Lead NGO[edit]

To obtain funding and carry out the VE model, NGOs are needed who have a track record of successfully carrying out large contracts worldwide--such as the Mercy Corps, the International Rescue Committee, CARE, Save the Children and the Community Housing Foundation. Such an NGO could have the prime contract and serve in an overall “ lead organization” capacity--then have subcontracts with individual, single-sector NGOs to provide specific services related to their special interests and abilities. Unfortunately, most NGOs have been operating in a "top down" method, which is in sharp contrast to the VE method of operation.

This was demonstrated rather dramatically when the data were obtained from two studies of the long-term results of the United Nations Decade for Water Supply and Sanitation. During this decade from 1980 to 1990, pure water supplies were built for many thousands of villages throughout the world by many of the Aid Agencies. In 1995 and again in 2000, evaluations were made of some of the USA projects and it was found that only 30% of the systems were still in operation in 1995 and only 12% in 2000. The reason is that the villagers did not "identify with" and "own" these new water systems. The villagers felt that the Americans owned them and should repair and maintain them. In contrast, the village earth approach is to mainly ask questions (to guide the villagers in finding and carrying out their own solutions to problems) and provide resources and services through the Service Center (only when requested by the villagers who are developing plans). Most NGOs carry out only single sector programs and projects. The village development program must be built up gradually, by adding one sector after another as rapidly as the villagers feel comfortable and confident in doing so. This process will gradually create a multi-sector system that will lead the villages out of poverty in a comprehensive and sustainable manner. The Village Earth organization conducts training programs for NGO personnel on the Village Earth Model, together with step-by-step how to implement it. The existing larger local government must be kept informed through a Coordinating Council, but they must not be in control.

Cost of Eliminating Poverty Worldwide[edit]

Cost estimates can be made based on the way the VE Model is now operating in India, Nepal, Azerbaijan and Indonesia. This past experience indicates that the Village Earth Model could be carried out for about $5 per person per year, and it would take about 5 years for each village to become independent of the initial outside support. This means that for a single project of 20 RAUs (one million people) $5 million per year is needed for about 5 years. Using these estimates of unit costs, and assuming that 4 billion people could be reached during a 20-year period, poverty in the world could be eliminated for a total of about $100 billion spread over 15 to 20 years-- a small fraction of the present American military expenditures. The existing aid agencies and NGOs worldwide, could easily fund this program over about a 20-year period. The ideal arrangement would be to have this program as a part of the UN Millennium Declaration to eradicate poverty, hunger and disease.

International Peace Corps[edit]

An International (Worldwide) Peace Corps, patterned after the US Peace Corps, but under the United Nations, would provide capable, inexpensive personnel to serve as part of the initial staff for the Service Centers and to work in the villages. At the same time, this would provide a positive and constructive outlet for idealistic youth world wide to be of service to humanity. (This is distinctly different from the International Service Corps presently under the UN—which would also be needed, but used in a different way—as consultants. Since the International Peace Corps and the U.S. Peace Corps, using the Village Earth Model, would obviously be addressing the world's most serious problems, there would be significantly less incentive for violence and terror. This program should be funded through a special budget under the United Nations and volunteers from all countries of the world should be accepted for training and service in any country that requests them.

Other Global Problems[edit]

Most of the "20 Global Problems" that J. F. Rischard identifies in his book: "High Noon--20 Global Problems, 20 years to Solve Them" could be solved at the same time, as a part of the development activities of the VE model. The VE Model provides a framework--organizational structure, interactive processes and motivational techniques-- for addressing these problems--including poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, violence, environmental destruction and pollution, deforestation, migration, education, profound ignorance and delusion, population, renewable energy, disempowerment, intolerance and integrative medicine. In the implementation of the Village Earth Model, each of these problems can be gradually incorporated step-by-step using the multi-sector approach of the VE model. In this way the villagers will “own” the solution to each problem. The single-sector NGOs, and the other Aid Agencies who wish to support single sectors, can make their contributions in coordination with the lead NGO.

Hostility Toward the USA[edit]

Even though most of the world’s people admire and envy Americans for their high standard of living, there is hostility toward Americans because they live in such lavish, arrogant luxury while most of the world lives in poverty and hunger-- and we seem to have no concern about it!!. If the USA would take the initiative, through the United Nations Millennium Declaration, and in cooperation with other more-developed countries, to eliminate world poverty and aggressively attack the other crucial problems of the world, by the processes described herein, this world hostility toward the USA would be converted to admiration. Edwin Markham gives us an answer:

“He drew a circle that shut me out—Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
 But love and I had the wit to win----We drew a circle that took him in.”

The terrorists think we are “Heretics, rebels and things to flout”. The challenge therefore, is to draw a circle that could include potential followers of bin Laden in an International Peace Corps with a dynamic program to eliminate poverty and other world problems.

Renewable Energy[edit]

Renewable Energy can reduce or eliminate the dependence of the world on petroleum as a primary source of energy. This current world dependence on petroleum is causing many complications and difficulties worldwide. Fortunately, this energy problem could be solved worldwide in just a few years by using renewable energy (wind, solar and ocean energy) and hydrogen. Also, the millions of tons of organic waste worldwide, for which disposal is very difficult, could be used to produce energy. All of this organic waste could be digested anaerobically to produce methane (natural gas) and fertilizer. This would stretch the world’s limited supply of natural gas much further. Natural gas is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels and the anaerobic digestion of organic waste makes methane a renewable source of energy. This methane, and the remaining natural gas, could also be used to produce pharmaceuticals, plastics and other badly needed products for a much higher rate of return than using it as a fuel. At the same time, methane could be used (by pyrolysis) to produce hydrogen and carbon.

Unlimited Supply of Energy[edit]

This unlimited supply of renewable energy is readily available and, with the rising prices of petroleum and natural gas, all of these sources will soon be economically competitive. The renewable energy from the wind and sun can be captured locally to provide electricity for individual homes, businesses and industries. This is called distributed energy and its use means that the very expensive nation-wide grid for electricity does not need to be expanded. Today, wind energy is already economically competitive with gas and coal for generating electricity. Within a few years, sun energy using photovoltaic (PV) cells will be economically competitive for producing electricity. PV is already competitive if the user of electricity is as much as a mile from the grid. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado is developing these renewable sources of energy. An energy revolution is at hand--today! Using renewable energy in the villages of the world would help enormously to reduce the destruction of forests, the watersheds, the environment and the pollution of the atmosphere.

Hydrogen[edit]

Hydrogen is the fuel of the future for mobile units (such as vehicles) and to gradually replace natural gas as natural gas becomes more and more scarce and expensive. It can be made with electricity by electrolysis of water or it can be made from water by using concentrated heat—such as from the sun with parabolic dishes. It can also be made by heating hydrocarbons to separate the hydrogen from the carbon. The carbon can be used to make automobile tires and carbon fiber. Additional information about hydrogen can be obtained from the web site: www.hydrogennow.org.

Hydrogen Fueled Vehicles[edit]

There are two difficult problems in converting vehicles to use hydrogen as a fuel. The problems are with the vehicle manufacturer and its warranty and with the U. S. Government regulations. There are nearly a billion internal combustion engines in existence today worldwide which are polluting the atmosphere with their exhausts. If they are old enough to be out of warranty, they can be converted to hydrogen immediately, but the newer vehicles must have the manufacturer's approval to convert the engine. Furthermore, U. S. Government regulations prevent the necessary modifications to the ignition system for vehicles in the U.S. A way needs to be found to obtain the cooperation of the manufacturers and the U. S. Government to make these conversions.

Carbon Fiber[edit]

Carbon fiber (which can also be made from coal) is inevitably a major structural material of the future since it is 12 times as strong as steel and a fraction of the weight. Civil, Mechanical, Chemical and Materials Engineers have recognized this fact. They are doing research and holding conferences to study all the possibilities. Carbon fiber is already being used to make fishing poles, tennis racquets, golf clubs and car bodies. Engineers are also ready to use carbon fiber for reinforcing in structures and equipment as soon as it is competitive in price with plastic materials--which they are now using for many applications. There is an enormous future market for carbon fiber. Using carbon in this way makes it possible to create hydrogen from organic hydrocarbon material instead of burning the carbon and creating carbon dioxide--which is a greenhouse gas that is now polluting the atmosphere.

Win-Win-Win for Everyone[edit]

The challenge with renewable energy is to move it ahead in such a way that it is a win-win-win for everybody. The petroleum industry is faced with a diminishing supply of oil. What remains should be used for the maximum price--such as for pharmaceuticals and plastics. Renewable energy technologies can provide all the energy that can be used--including hydrogen. Shell Petroleum has created a new company called Shell Hydrogen, and BP/Amoco has taken similar action. They have been advertising that BP now stands for "Beyond Petroleum". Texaco is in the process of setting up a hydrogen division. Eventually, all the petroleum companies will change over. Ways need to be found to work with them and help them, and make it a win-win for everybody. The coal companies need to provide carbon for the carbon fiber to be used in building structures, buildings, machines and equipment to supplement steel.

Conclusions and Recommendations[edit]

  1. From the foregoing information, it can be seen that there is a systematic way to address and solve many of the world's most crucial problems using the basic framework of the Village Earth Model, the U.S. Peace Corps, creating and utilizing an International Peace Corps, and utilizing renewable energy.
  2. Large International NGOs, who have been working successfully with poverty-stricken people in the world, need to be identified and persuaded to work as lead NGOs on comprehensive projects to eliminate poverty and solve many other world problems using the Village Earth Model.
  3. NGOs with single-sector interests and expertise, need to be identified and persuaded to work with lead NGOs in eliminating poverty and many other world problems, using multi-sector development programs.
  4. Funding agencies, such as the World Bank, USAID and many NGOs, need to be persuaded to create and fund projects working at the grass roots using the Village Earth Model to eliminate poverty and solve many other world problems.
  5. Entrepreneurs in the villages need to be heavily supported with micro-credit, funding and advice, to develop small and large-scale industry and business using the service motive together with the profit motive.
  6. National and international business needs to recognize that the largest potential consumer market the world has ever known exists in the poverty-stricken areas of the world and to strongly support the funding of village development programs and simultaneously solve other crucial world problems. This needs to be done with the service motive equal to the profit motive.
  7. The entire world must shift as rapidly as possible from fossil fuels to renewable energy that is immediately available, and economically competitive, in virtually unlimited quantities.
  8. The entire world must adopt and shift to a hydrogen economy immediately for reasons of global pollution and security.
  9. Ways must be found to conveniently and economically convert existing vehicles to using hydrogen fuel instead of fossil fuels.
  10. If a major program were initiated by the nations, the development agencies and the businesses of the world, working through the UN Millennium Declaration, to eliminate poverty and associated crucial problems, it could be the most exciting, productive and profitable period in world history.

Maury Albertson, ERC, CSU, Ft. Collins, CO 80523 (970) 482-4613, alberts@engr.colostate.edu

Figure 1: Village Earth Organization Chart


Attribution: This page includes content by Maurice L. Albertson, licensed as CC-BY-SA (permission) (which allows reuse under Appropedia's CC-by-sa license).