Fellow Since 1988
Gono Gobeshona OUnnayan Foundation
This profile was prepared when Mohammad Zakaria was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1988.
The New Idea
Mohammad's long apprenticeship working on and observing rural development has left him convinced that development efforts must rest on analytical foundations built and therefore psychologically owned by the villagers to have any hope of success. He's single-mindedly testing, refining, and beginning to demonstrate an approach that helps villagers build just such foundations. His approach works, and should be widely replicable by others.He begins by encouraging a group of likely future village leaders to ask basic questions. Then he helps these leaders cluster them, starting from any set of roughly 100 common questions, into logical chains of enquiry that will allow the group to pursue its interests effectively. He goes on to help them learn the crucial step of how to gather and analyze the data they need to answer their own questions.Early in this process, for example, he generally encourages the group to map their village, and to do so quantitatively. How much food does the village need? How much did it need in 1972 after independence? How much will it need in 2000? Is rice alone enough for a healthy diet? A week or so later the group will analyze if the land available is sufficient to produce so much food. If, as is usually the case, it isn't, the question becomes: What other alternatives are possible? And so on for six to twelve months until a clear, practical consensus plan of actions emerges.Thereafter, even though the group's focus has shifted to creating, e.g., new sources of income, skill-oriented education, and supporting credit capacity, it continues refining and updating its underlying data and analysis.A new generation of village leaders who understand the facts, have planned their own future, and are organized to pursue it would be a force to reckon with -- especially given the central planning strategies that so characterize the approach of the first generation.