By Camilo Jorquera
In Zimbabwe, a unique human process is taking place though the Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), a village-based movement which seeks a return to indigenous values and structures to regain community self-reliance and dignity.
Sithembiso Nyoni, an executive officer and one of the founders of ORAP, visited Australia to speak at the Breaking the Hunger Trap conference sponsored by Freedom from Hunger and held from October 18-22 at the University of New South Wales.
ORAP perspectives are to find solutions to the current problems by going to past ways of existence and organisation, she told Green Left. As Sithembiso Nyoni puts it, "The implanted foreign cultures are decaying. We are beginning to say 'no' to paternalism, Western models of development and gender questions. We are rebuilding our societies on the basis of our own values."
ORAP was developed after Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. It embraces 16 village-based associations with a total membership of half a million people (the national population is 9 million). The associations cover three and a half of the country's five provinces. Their structure mirrors the traditional one that existed before the European invasion.
The underlying philosophy is that development has to take place from within people and from where they are. As Sithembiso Nyoni puts it, "People are encouraged to articulate the connection between development and their lives and needs. They can then build projects that support their ideas and their resources.
"Development is weakened if the day-to-day struggles of people are not strengthened and taken seriously. I feel that no development program has the right to exist unless it helps people stand on their own two feet."
As the national economy is moving towards structural adjustment, there have been price rises and a move toward education and health being paid for. The unemployed and underemployed will be hit severely by these changes, and ORAP is relying on its strength to help ease the situation.