A catch, of sorts.

A catch, of sorts.

While working in the Port of Sao Tomé this week, I happened to witness this unsuccessful attempt by the local Navy to land one of their patrol boats. It was just off-loaded from a freight vessel. With almost 30 men and a Unimog this very heavy, boat couldn’t be pulled up the ramp. The armored Boston Whaler was donated to the Navy by a foreign government or other international body.

The way these donations usually work is that the donating organization procures the equipment in question, while the recipient country makes a committment to maintenance and infrastructure. It can be kind of like giving a puppy to a 6-year-old who promises to feed and walk it. The intention is there, but the capacity?

I though a lot about who really benefits from the expense of making a donation that the recipient gladly accepts, but is hardly ready to meet their end of the committment. Didn’t anyone think this through?

“Son, if you’re going out for the trophy, you’d better think about how your gonna get it in the boat.”

Obviously, one of the valuable lessons of fishing is planning, but planning with someone, is key, while planning for someone gives no guarantees for successful execution. Departing knowledge and know-how is more than just a list of instructions or a tackle box of prized lures.

The alternative would be to say “no, you can’t handle the responsibility.” But doing nothing, changes nothing and thus the important relationship between doing, learning and responsibility, that can ultimately lead to capacity.

I can’t say this justifies how international assistance programs are often poorly managed, but I guess if that 6-year-old is ever going to become a capable adult, he’ll only learn to be responsible by learning from the experience of doing.

Capacity-Building

Capacity-Building

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