If Sub-Saharan people change behavioural patterns, it will make a big change
According to the Oxford Dictionary, behaviour is defined as the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others. Behavioural change in this case I would define as the way in which people, communities react or conduct themselves towards issues affecting them.Historically communities in the Gambia fend for themselves by growing crops, rearing animals, poultry, hunting animals, harvesting wild fruits and honey just to name a few. They do these things in groups and together- either all the family together, or the community (people of the same tribe or different tribes but living together). The more you are the better you can defend yourselves from enemies and also grow more crops, gather more fruits and so on. Hence perhaps the way polygamy became an accepted norm in the society, because the more wives one has, the more children and the bigger the family becomes and hence the ability to feed themselves and act as insurance for each other.
The scenario has been in place ever since and little did not chance until of recent. The colonial system did little to disrupt this system. The people lived in their communities produced the products the colonialists wanted. It was a give and take situation without much influence on each other as long as the communities were able to produce what was required of them – goods and services such as groundnuts, rubber, cocoa, gold, cotton, carrying the goods to places where they could be easily transported by boat or rail etc. These products were sometimes exchanged with rum, cowry cells, and blankets. The goods they produced also served as the taxation. Some of the communities also got services such as medical treatment, western education and religious emancipation from the colonialists. The colonialist provided the schools, clinics, paid the teachers, doctors and nurses, while the locals received the service. They were never taught or given the opportunity to take these institutions as theirs. They were the properties of the masters and as they left the place the hospital or schools or church also fell down.
This same scenario was continued by the new leaders of independent Sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of few leaders like Nkrumah who preached about local ownership and development. Governments have all the powers and they will bring development for all. Within few years after independence these leaders realized that these promises could not be fulfilled so easily and instead of building on local knowledge and colonialist institutions, they went into building autocratic and dictatorship governments which led to coups and civil unrest around the continent. All countries in West African have encountered military coups except Senegal.
How can we change this scenario?
Many governments around SSA have already or are in train of implementing Decentralization policies so as to allow local governance and local economic development by the people themselves. This is a step in the right direction, however, for now many of these policies are just niceties and tools to attract donor monies with little decentralization. In fact, they are not building local ownership by the civil societies using the Human Right Base Approach to development.
As indicated above, communities have been able to fend for themselves and this local knowledge is still within the society, hence if nurtured and adapted can be integrated with the modern economic models to bring about the local economic needs of the given community. The world is so much integrated that with only local knowledge communities can never survive all alone. Hence, the need to help (themselves, government and donors). They do their part in finding what their needs are and how to solve it with local and evidence based knowledge. This will bring about the sustainable part of development which all are aspiring for. If they are not involved and helped with technical knowledge which has proven successful on other places, they will be a lot of ‘development ruins’.
Change can come from within and from outside. Within would be communities adapting themselves driven by external forces such as environment, government policies, social/demographic changes etc. It can also be externally influenced through globalization, environmental factors such as disasters and natural calamities, diseases etc. These factors can engender change.
Education, although long term, is a very successful means to bring about positive change in societies. Communities like Dutabullu and Chamen know that they need development and they want to see that their socio-economic and health situations improve by whatever means possible. However, they still need to know that development can be enhanced and that they need to take up the challenge that development brought them need to be sustained and they have to take up that challenge. The first scenario, that governments or colonialistd provide all and that they sit and watch, is over. This sort of development failed in general, and they come back to zero.
Hence the need to change the tired and bring them outside of this black box. They have to take up development and do it for themselves, Multi-laterals and donors can only support but cannot carry all their development need and these applies to SSA governments too.
Behavioural Change I am sure will come but it’s a slow process.