VISIT TO AWASSA
Realizing the great potentialities of co-operative community action in national progress and development, We established the Ministry of National Community Development as early as 1957. Our chief concern has been to improve life and living conditions of Our people, especially the weaker section of Our society like nomads, who live in under-developed regions of Our Empire.
In the world of today, community development is universally recognized as “A process designed to create conditions of economic and social progress for the whole community with active participation and largely dependent upon the initiative of the community.”
Accordingly when people have the ability and means, their partnership with the Government in development plans strengthens both the people and the Government. It is therefore with this belief that We have undertaken extensive educational plans throughout the nation.
Community development, thus, comprises two important elements:
(1) the participation of the people themselves in efforts to improve their level of living with as much reliance as possible on their own initiative, and (2) the provision of technical and other related services in ways which encourage initiative, self-help and mutual aid and make these more effective.
Self-help thus is the quintessence of community development programmes. It is, therefore, essential that initiative and desire for improvement should emanate from the people and not be superimposed from outside. It is of course the primary task of community development workers to motivate and stimulate the people to cross barriers of apathy and helplessness.
It is quite possible that weaker communities in backward areas display neither interest nor enthusiasm for their welfare, and may even expect an outright handout from the Government for their welfare. On the other hand, more progressive and alert agricultural and pastoral communities may display keen determination to improve their lot relying on their community’s own genius and resources. While it is important to give attention to both these types of situation, it should be remembered that any help given to the first category of community should always aim at making them stand on their own legs and to support the self-help potential of the second group to accomplish higher objectives each time, thus serving as a model and inspiration to others.
Community development is a unique programme, differing from other governmental departments in that it is in the truest sense a partnership between the government and the people. It devolves on the people to manage their own affairs making the best use of technical and other resources of the Administration.
There are a number of essential public services which have to be managed entirely by the Government such as large scale and key industries, Transport and Communications, Education, Health, Defence, Public Security, Law and order and Administration of Justice and the like.
These nation-building activities naturally claim a major portion of governmental resources both in terms of finance and personnel. In the eternal tussel for national priority, small village problems often are relegated to the background and are subjected to long delays before they are attended to. In Amharic there is a proverb saying “Fifty lemons can serve as decoration for fifty men but constitute a load for a single person.” Similarly in our local communities, if people co-operate to undertake small improvements it could make a vast difference in our level of living and also conserve national efforts and resources for other equally important purposes.
One can think of a vast and unending catalogue of self-help projects which can be tackled by energetic community action. Feeder and link roads in the countryside; small bridges, improvement of water supply, housing, sanitation, construction of community institutions like, schools, clinics, community centres, or the undertaking of economic improvement projects for better agriculture, handicraft, cattle breeding, poultry, fish culture and the like, on the basis of their own initiative.
We are deeply impressed and encouraged to see our people assuming social responsibility and making substantial contributions towards community betterment through hundreds of self-help projects in all walks of life. All the same, in our fight against poverty, disease, and ignorance, Our people will have to put in greater efforts and sacrifices so that we may attain Our cherished goal of a higher and more satisfying level of life and living. In this noble task each one of Our people, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, able and disabled, has a role to play and We are sure Our Empire will march ahead towards prosperity and progress through united efforts of all Our citizens. In order to hasten this process, numerous projects have been launched both with local community support as well as international assistance.
Let us be very clear that the Ministry of National Community Development by itself cannot tackle this gigantic nation building task unless it is assured the fullest and whole-hearted co-operation of all other Ministries of our Government especially the Ministries of Education, Agriculture, Public Health, and Interior.
These ministries ought to support community development projects by assigning their respective workers and also make available adequate programme funds on a priority basis. The Ministry of Community Development is responsible for training and assigning district and village workers to guide and organize the people for their development. Similarly, the Ministry of Interior could instruct its officials to assist the project through their provincial and district administrators. As this co-ordination and team work has already been established, it would avoid duplication of efforts and waste of time and money. These Ministries should always assist all projects launched by the community in all possible ways through technical assistance as well as material aid. All Our fourteen provinces, should therefore be thinking and working out their regional development plans. The sum total of these efforts and experiences would assure a general improvement and progress of the whole Empire. The example of developed countries amply proves the truth of the proverb “Unity is strength.” Today it is the duty of all Africans to preserve and strengthen the already established African unity. Our best contribution to the ideal will be to work for and achieve co-operation and development within Our own country.
A Great Role
In this co-operative venture between the people and the government, voluntary organizations like the National Literacy Campaign committee and other welfare agencies have a great role to play and indeed they have been doing good work in the past and We hope they will continue to do so.
The success of community development to a large cation between various government agencies. While departmentalization of government function and parliamentary activity is inevitable in order to cater to specialized interests and problems, once We leave the outskirts of towns and cities all these neat divisions vanish and the totality of the rural problem becomes a vast interrelated complex. When people express their felt needs, these have to be formalized into plans. The chief aim of training village-level workers in this centre is to meet the problems of the community. The only way We can reach them is through a unified approach of community development workers at the village level. The various ministries could support the work of these multi-purpose workers by assigning specialists at the district level and for selected projects.
We have already established a National Board for Community Development consisting of representatives of various developmental ministries apart from the National Ministry of Community development, Agriculture, Education, Health, Public Works and Interior.
In this task the government officials through their dedicated services, disciplined behaviour, humility, helpfulness and efficiency, should present an image of selfless and devoted community workers. They should make every effort to integrate and preserve national culture and promote and strengthen traditional institutions like Shengo, Idir, Debo, Iqub, through administrative and other measures. These mutual-aid institutions can serve as a sure foundation of community development and progress in Ethiopia.
It is the duty of all government officials, religious leaders and local dignitaries who enjoy the trust and confidence of the public to promote, continue and improve all that is healthy in Our community life and discourage harmful practices and attitudes. They should guide, support, and assist the local community workers. Modern governmental activity must transcend old ideas of law and order and embrace and extend welfare of all sections of the people. We hope and trust that Government and Community leaders will become friend, philosophers, and guide of Community Development and eventually themselves become model social workers in the community.
In this task, We shall not do full justice to Our responsibility if We do not use national and international resources duly imported, coupled with Our own hard labour.
Students of today – Teachers of tomorrow
Graduates of this training centre, who graduated two years ago, have already become pioneers in the field of community development and set new traditions and an image that “government servants” are “people’s servants.” They have proved that the government has trained a new type of worker who can handle difficult community problems. Patience, courage, and persistent effort alone can help our workers to bring about social change effectively. You, who have deliberately chosen this missionary vocation, therefore, need to be congratulated. We should follow the example of this type of community service; even those who had the privilege of education abroad should be prepared to dedicate their services in rural surroundings even at the cost of personal inconvenience.
Our nation, with 90% of its people living in rural areas and serving the backbone of Our economy, is desperately looking up to young men of your calibre and training to rise to the occasion.
While you were at this training centre, it is true that you have learned many principles and techniques of community development. To learn these principles and techniques is one thing and to apply them is yet another.
Do you like to serve people? Are you happy to work ask yourselves these questions as often as you can while you are in this noble profession.
The community development worker’s task is unique. We must be prepared to work late at night, on official holidays or any odd hour, if the need arises.
A good community development worker is always as ready to learn as to teach. If you are guided by this principle you will always try to improve, which is good for your own self-improvement and for that of your work.
If you are open-minded and ready to learn, there are many things which you can learn not only from books and instructors but from the very life experience itself. There are definitely many things which you can learn from the people. If you are guided by this principle, you will be surprised how pleasant life can be even under trying conditions.
Finally, We would like to thank the staff members of the training centre and all those who have contributed in one way or another in the implementation of this important programme of training community development workers.
The government has many development programmes intended to raise the standard of living of Our people. The people on their part are keen to participate in these national development programmes, and it is your job to mobilize their human and natural resources in order to effectively tackle our development problems.
In this noble task, may the Almighty grant you faith, courage, tolerance and understanding to crown your efforts with His glory and success.
Our people, realizing the great efforts deployed by Us for their welfare and betterment, have begun, in several areas of their own free will, to assist co-operatively in the execution of Our plans. This has been a source of gratification for Us, and your presence in the districts and villages to assist them in their endeavours by giving them advice in the mobilization of their energies will contribute a great deal in promoting and strengthening Our plans for their well-being. Having provided the opportunities of education for Our youth, to see the young people who have benefited from this education accepting the responsibility to go the various parts of the country to advise Our people in the new techniques that they have acquired, thus enriching the experience of the people – this act being a manifestation of Our desire to raise the living standard of Our people – gives Us peace of mind.
To live a full life and to be thankful for the blessings of God nothing is more rewarding than after having learned to teach your fellow-man, using your talent to teach others. May God guide you in the accomplishment of this task.
We express Our gratitude to the Government of the United States of America for their contribution towards the building of this centre and to its successful functioning.
Oct. 25, 1962.
Selected Speeches of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie - page 512 -