Malians have to reinvent the wheel. They have to do this themselves. The entrepreneurs need to step forward, take their NGO-financed risks, and solve this problem themselves. They’ve been given a solution to every problem, except for how to change their behavior, how to change their culture.
Yes, change their culture. It is their culture that prevents them from washing hands, from using improved stoves, from cooking more nutritiously, etc. Until there’s a cultural change, there’s nothing we can do, and nothing we should do. When we come in with these solutions, we prevent them from enacting this change. Oh, they can’t change their culture! Culture is sacred, it’s what makes them who they are, unique! For a comparison, think about how the US is changing its car culture in response to global climate change. Cultural change is possible, and it isn’t a bad thing. Culture isn’t static. It has to change in order for survival. That will be the subject of my next post, hopefully tomorrow.