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Sustained Development Differs from the Project Approach


01 / 1999

René SEGBENOU is Head of INADES-FORMATION (Institut Africain pour le Développement Economique et Social - African institute for economic and social development), an NGO which has operated for over 30 years to assist and develop rural development and is established in ten (10)African countries. As Head of this organisation, he is the Chairman of ADEPA (Association Ouest Africaine pour le Développement de la Pêche Artisanale - West-African association for the development of small-scale fishing industries), the group of NGOs that have managed the PPAO (Programme Régional Valorisation des captures de la Pêche Artisanale en Afrique de l’Ouest - Regional Programme for the Exploitation of Non-industrial Fishing Catches in West Africa)since 1994.

Here he explains how the notion of sustainable development adopted by ADEPA differs from the European Union’s "project" approach.

"The experience of development has proved that the "project" approach is limited because in practice it is short-term and specific. In the "project" approach, the financial investors have a rigid standpoint. The project is defined, the means are identified and dedicated to the project.

But development is a global process. Development does not consist in achieving one-shot projects but in promoting an institutional development by helping people solve their problems with the means they need. People must have the possibility of changing the initial objectives if necessary.

We think that the best development approach is to discuss issues, to listen to those who are concerned by this development and to imply them fully into the process so that their ideas and needs are taken into consideration.

So what we are dealing with is no longer a project, it is becoming a long-term, far-reaching project requiring:

* the setting-up of institutional means designed to help people get to know each other and to exchange

* this exchange can even sometimes lead participants to change what was initially planned; it is also possible to stick to what was planned and even go beyond.

It is therefore preferable that the recipients resume the activities they themselves initiated and that the required means arrive subsequently to help them. Thus we can help them develop those actions. And to implement such a process, one needs time.

However, that is not what is happening currently. People appear with a project and defined objectives which are different from those of the recipients. Everything is done to get people to accept these objectives. That’s precisely why the "project" approach is not good for development, at least if one really wants to implement sustainable development.

The PPAO committed the same mistakes in the beginning. We designed a project with its objectives, a book of instructions with all the procedures, etc., without really asking the recipients their advice. And then we actually focused all efforts on trying to fit people into the project. A very limited approach indeed.

Fortunately we have tried to correct these shortcomings by identifying the true recipients and by making room for their authentic representatives in decision-making institutions such as the Monitoring Committee.

But precisely when we are trying to correct the "project" approach and to set up the bases of a sustainable development, we encounter difficulties with the fund investor who declares that he wants this or that result.

So we do not agree with the fund investor on the issue of development approach.

Since we were obviously not on the same wave-length, we decided to stop this "dialogue of the deaf". We wanted to stop it because we did not feel free to adapt our approach to the initial "project" approach. We had noticed that the procedures were so difficult to follow that we lost too much time. We worked more to comply with procedures than to reach our objectives. That’s why we decided to break away and we created another programme, which enables us to be independent. We think that the best way to make the European Union realise what is going on is to become independent."

Palabras claves

desarrollo sostenible


Mettre la coopération européenne au service des acteurs et des processus de développement


Interview given on January 28, 1999 at the Head Office of INADES - FORMATION. By Attikpa Tetegan, Lucie. Contact : INADES FORMATION08 BP 0 Abidjan 08; Tel: (225)44 31 28/29/30 Fax: (225)44 06 41; E-mail:

[[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]



ADEPA (Association Ouest Africaine pour le Développement de la Pêche) - Cité Lobatt Fall. BP 958. Dakar, SÉNÉGAL - Tél/Fax. : (221) 854 98 13 - Senegal - - contact (@)

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